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Clean tech momentum will shift paradigms

Clean 15 Series

Author Thom Hartmann wrote, “When enough people change the way they view things, solutions become evident, often in ways we couldn’t even imagine”.
While I may not agree with everything that Hartmann has to say, this quote captures a shift that is starting in the business world. Many of the Global 1000 are refocusing their mission statements around an inescapable question that stalks the future of all large companies, as they anticipate a future with 9 billion people and 2 billion new middle class consumers (currently depending on who you ask there are 700 to 800 million middle class consumers today).

Can we achieve infinite economic growth with finite resources?

The short term seduction of much higher profits based on the new expansion in the coming consumer market is very exciting, however “you can’t keep drinking the water until the well runs dry,” or for the purpose of this article “you can’t keep pumping oil until the well runs dry.” Our business paradigms are based on the premise of limitless resources; however this premise is flawed and we are becoming increasingly aware of it. According to the International Energy Agency’s chief economist, Dr. Fatih Birol:

“The public and many governments appeared to be oblivious to the fact that the oil on which modern civilization depends is running out far faster than previously predicted and that global production is likely to peak in about 10 years.”

 This quote was made in 2008, however the IEA’s first detailed assessment of more than 800 top oil fields in the world (This represents about 75 per cent of global reserves) have found that the biggest fields have already peaked and the rate of decline is faster than previously thought. The late Matthew Simmons believed that production peaked in 2005 and he went on record to say that the world would need approximately four Saudi Arabias worth of oil to keep pace with the predicted demand. The exact moment that we experience this peak is obviously up for debate, however this is concerning because all of our economic and social systems are based on oil. From our consumer products to our food, to our transportation and our energy with its aging infrastructure and from our  viewpoint many of the world’s giant companies are taking notice. We know that we extract more resources than we replenish and it appears we will need a very focused global effort to shift our relationship between resources and business. The future of “business as usual” may very well depend on the unusual business of sustainability, to create better models with new clean technology and sustainable practices. To paradoxically do more with less. “Sustainability is the new black,” that will keep larger companies out of the red.

The Canadian Business Journal has teamed up with Clean 15 to contribute to this focus, but how do we change global systems that support our economy and our day to day lives? It seems to be the equivalent of changing the wings of a plane, while it is flying, just before it refuels in mid air. It turns out that momentum shifts paradigms. According to the Diffusion of Innovation Theory, a theory of the how, why and at what rate new ideas and technology spread through cultures, it takes approximately a 15 per cent adoption of an innovation to reach critical mass and start a shift towards the total uptake of the new innovation or model. Innovation diffusion however is not just about technology. It is about technology placed in the right areas with the right opinion leaders.  

It is also about behavior and attitudes toward business and resources. Recently the vice president of the WWF, Jason Clay talked about this very point. He asserted that “if we could convince just 100 key companies to embrace sustainability the markets would shift to protect our planet from the consumption that it has already outgrown.” Critical mass then is attainable and quite possible. Already there is a plethora of Global 1000, mid-sized and small companies that have embraced sustainability and clean technology adoption, however many do not have an idea of what a “common north toward critical mass” could be collectively.

Albert Einstein once said “We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.”

Perhaps a focus on the critical mass of a 15 per cent adoption of new clean technologies and sustainable practices in the right areas with the right opinion leaders could develop enough momentum to create the shift and new opportunities for future prosperity. Think of the effects of WalMart and P&G mentioned in previous Clean 15 Series articles and even though impressive, it is not enough. We will need more strategically placed organizations large, small and everything in between to become serious about the challenge of moving to the first clean 15 per cent. It is becoming very clear to large companies that this is not just a matter of competitive advantage, whereby they can acquire large amounts of market share from companies that are too slow to respond, it  is also a matter survival for them as well because all of their inputs are based on oil and natural resources. With this in mind we introduce The Canadian Business Journal, Clean 15 clean technology competition winner for 2010.

CLEAN 15 2010 WINNER

CBJ and Clean 15, along with its strategic partners Fogler, Rubinoff LLP, Yet2.com and OCETA are pleased to announce ATI-Composites as the 2010 Clean 15 clean technology competition winner. ATI-Composites is a company dedicated to the research, development, production and code approvals of unique building products, systems and (fire retardant) components.  This company has developed a lightweight, insulating “Mineral Foam Concrete” using salt water, recycled water, desert sand without the use of Portland cement. Being able to use salt water as part of a process like this with a solid third party verification is a world’s first.

The emerging world is being built at a speed never before seen in human history. Thirty years ago 18 per cent of China’s 1.5 billion people lived in cities and towns. In 2010 that number is 50 per cent. The world is witnessing the development of its first mega regions. The Hong Kong-Shenzen-Guangzhou region in China is home to approximately 120 million people. The Rio de Janeiro-Sao Paulo region has just over 43 million people and there are areas in West Africa, India and Asia that are growing at even faster speeds. While massive urbanization has the potential to be a positive trend in neo-environmental speak, we will need to build all of this new development with less carbon intensive materials that use much less potable water and produce significantly less GHG emissions.

ATI-Composites’ technology is significant because it reduces the emissions of building materials, it uses waste materials such as rice hulls, straw, shells and husks  as binders and can use salt and recycled water (Concrete requires a tremendous amount of fresh water). The first application of the technology involved the creation of structural panels, which offer lighter weight and greater flexibility than conventional precast concrete panels common in the market today. The fact that ATI-Composites’ binders offer compressive strength up to 9000 PSI means that incorporating lightweight fillers and foaming agents will not rob the finished panels of the compressive strength required to perform the function of the panel. The application can very cost-effectively replace autoclaved aerated concrete at a fraction of the capital cost of an ACC production facility. The mix can be designed to offer significant improvements in productivity at two to three times that of concrete. The company has run two third party fire resistance tests and succeeded on achieving a two hour fire rating and because of its thermal efficiency and light weight, it reduces the need for heating and cooling as well as a reduction in transportation. Better, Stronger, Faster and Cheaper. The potential impact of this technology placed in the right distribution channels is staggering.  In the coming years ATI-Composites’ technology platform has the potential to change the way we build our urban world. The company is already being consulted on a major stealth development that will use its technology and is in talks with a $400 million dollar revenue international company.  

The Clean 15 competition prize valued at over $80,000 will give direct access to top targeted direct market demand from Global 1000 companies, trade commissions and mid-sized companies at the ultra exclusive Clean 15 One on One Meeting to be held at Fogler, Rubinoff LLP on November 9th and 10th.  Access includes a unique presentation luncheon, as well as the opportunity to present directly one on one to executives and representatives seeking ATI-Composites unique nano technologies.  ATI-Composites will also receive product commercialization and channel development services from Drayton Weissenfels Inc, the parent company of the Clean 15, with a strong focus on connecting ATI-Composites to sophisticated clients and buyers internationally, as well as legal consultation from Fogler Rubinoff LLP and unique strategic marketing from Yet2.com.

Tracey Dodenhoff, Vice Presdent of yet2.com, expressed her excitement about ATI-Composites business potential;  “ATI-Composites is a great example of how clean tech advances are not just won through big alternative energy projects, but also at the ground level.  ATI-Composites’ technology is a demonstrated, viable platform that addresses environmental sustainability issues as well as presenting a financially compelling business model, providing an exciting platform for entrepreneurial growth. yet2.com is looking forward to assisting ATI-Composites in manifesting that growth though our global business network.”

NOT JUST A COMPETITION

In the coming months as part of the CBJ Clean 15 Series, we will feature companies that are moving toward being part of the first clean 15%, ideas around clean tech and open innovation. Companies big and small that will change the way we produce food, release emissions into the air, use water, use resources, generate and manage power. We will find examples of momentum building as it relates to clean technology and sustainable practices with the focus remaining on paradigmatic critical mass.

 On September 21st, CBJ will also present the Clean 15 Breakfast session. A free event that takes a look at clean technology companies getting access to international markets and leveraging established government programs to access capital. On November 9th and 10th, The Canadian Business Journal will host the Clean 15 One on One Meeting. The first of its kind in Canada, this event will facilitate a series of individual meetings that take place between technology companies and key decision makers representing the demand side. Participants will take part in up to 12 focused, strategic and personalized meetings.  All technologies and key demand-side representatives will be strategically paired up to maximize deal potential and opportunities. The Clean 15 One on One will leverage the global reach of the largest technology scout for the Global 1000.

The company’s president, Ben duPont had this to say “The unique information we obtain through our global marketplace about the demands of the most sophisticated, established companies, provides us a way to identify hundreds of promising deals and investment opportunities. In some cases we even help to create these opportunities. This is a great value to Canadian clean technology companies.”

There is a tremendous amount of excess manufacturing capability in Canada and we believe that this can play a major role in developing jobs and creating meaningful opportunities for growing the Canadian economy and contributing to solutions that help us to deal with declining resources and a changing climate.

Whether you believe in Global Warming or not, we know that we will have to deal with a changing climate and prepare for adaptation, whether your business can draw a direct line to oil or not, we know that we will have to tackle a decline in oil production and oil’s strategically vulnerable importance to our economy and livelihoods. Whether or not your business can identify its water footprint across the entire supply chain, the planet’s fresh water supply is being used faster than it is being replenished and we will have to transform the way we use water. In 1907 former leader of the Republican party and US President Theodore Roosevelt said
“We have become great because of the lavish use of our resources and we have just reason to be proud of our growth. But the time has come to inquire seriously what will happen when our forests are gone, when the coal, the iron, the oil, and the gas are exhausted, when the soils shall have still further impoverished and washed into the streams, polluting the rivers, denuding the fields, and obstructing navigation, the minerals do not renew themselves. Therefore in dealing with the coal, the oil, the iron, metals generally, all that we can do is try to see that they wisely used”

We do not plan just to record observations of a removed “hopefully objective” observer, but to actively uncover technologies like ATI-Composites’ that can revolutionize the way we build our world, to talk about large companies like P&G that are seriously taking a look at how they can provide their products in a more sustainable way, and people like Interface Inc’s  Ray Anderson, who was once known as the CEO of one of the world’s most destructive companies, however is now referred to as the “Green CEO” because of his forward thinking vision and action toward a carbon zero, industry leading, Fortune 500 company. There is a strong competitive advantage for businesses that are moving to what we call the first clean 15 per cent. Will your business be one of the Clean 15?

Dwayne Matthews is the Managing Director of the Clean 15. For more information visit www.clean15.com