GreenXchange Global Marketplace Conference: Attendee Reviews Are In

Attendees of the GreenXchange Global Marketplace Conference—leaders from business, finance, government, research, and environmental NGOs—were asked by Conference organizers to evaluate the value of this first-of-its-kind global cross-section gathering of clean and green technology market-makers. The following is a representative selection of reviews of the event from some of the conference’s 1000 distinguished attendees.

What is the value of an event like the GreenXchange Global Marketplace Conference, which brought together a global cross-section of the leading buyers, sellers, financiers, and regulators of the emerging green economy?

Robyn Beavers, Director of Sustainability, Google Inc.: I think the quality of the content has really surpassed what most conferences have to offer. A lot of conferences are at a very basic level, assuming the audience is completely uneducated about the topic. This conference has functioned at a very high level. They know we can understand. I find that more valuable, and it gives us a better picture of how all the different industries or players are working, as opposed to an individual technology or an individual policy measure. It’s kind of a bird’s eye view of everything that’s happening right now.

Glen Blacet, Portfolio Manager, CalSTRS: I think the cross-section of ideas is key to finding new investment strategies. You have private equity, venture capital, engineers, and the major players in the sciences all together in one place to exchange ideas. That has been very helpful.

Norman Mineta, former Secretary of Transportation: First of all, because of the different interests people bring here, it’s really great. This way, any one of us doesn’t have to go to different places to listen to people who are experts in various fields. We can come to one place, check out the breakout sessions that we have interest in, go to listen to these folks, and it’s tremendous. We’d have to spend a lot of valuable time to search out what you can hear in a two-day session. With all the ideas that are percolating around here, I think this kind of conference really jells people’s thoughts about the direction we ought to be taking.This has been a great, very exciting effort.

Winston Hickox, former Chair of CalEPA: As I mentioned in my public remarks here at the conference, I believe it’s very important to bring a broader range of parties of interest together. Typically, you see people from the investor side or the public policy side; you don’t see both in the room around the same agenda. There are also NGOs, legislators, mayors, and people investing capital in this new area of emphasis, green technology. People want some sense of how we can do this together, how we can pull the oars on this boat in the same direction. Nobody needs a guarantee that they’re going to make a profit, but people would like to have some sense that they’re making a profit and, in addition, doing something that needs to be done to prevent the global implications of climate change and peak oil.
I said in my remarks, I think this is a remarkable program. It was very, very good in terms of the broad, diverse points of view about this topic that were brought to bear. Personally, I continue to learn, and the opportunity to listen to other people speak about a topic that I have a lot of interest in, and some knowledge in, is terrific.

Doug Failing, District Director, Caltrans District 7: This is fantastic because this is a very horizontal group. You’re not just dealing with strictly the environmental groups; you’ve brought in a broad spectrum. We’re taking things that we’re all trying to do, and we’re starting to look across the board to see what everyone else is doing. The solutions will come when we have a commonly understood set of problems, a commonly understood set of possible solutions, and we’re all working toward common goals.
We all have what we think are common goals—clean air, clean water. It all seems good to us. But we’re approaching it from very different manners. We’re not talking to each other well. The fact that we can bring in private sector money and new investments is huge for me. I think this is nice that it’s the first of its kind, and it is a nice introduction to the subject. The conference has piqued a lot of interest for the GreenXchange Xpo next October.

Qingyun Ma, Dean, USC School of Architecture: The value is to check an individual, and therefore limited, view toward the same topic. I think everybody has a depth to their own thoughts, but they’ve come for a breadth of perspective. That, to me, is the most important.
Also, I think ecology and sustainable economy have a lot to do with, just like the business world, networking and crossing fundraising and interaction with other interests. Entrepreneurship is also very crucial for an event like this. For me, particularly, because I am dean of the USC School of Architecture, my primary interest in this event is to connect our research agenda to the fundamental interest from the industry and policymakers.

Nancy Sutley, Deputy Mayor for Energy and Environment, City of Los Angeles: I think it’s that we’re dealing with an issue that cuts across all parts of our economy. Everything we do, everything we are, is related to the issue of climate change. It’s important to understand that it’s not just a narrow environmental issue, like water, air, or waste. When the city of Los Angeles put together its climate plan, we really looked at the breadth of activities the city and community have engaged in. I think the idea of covering a broad horizon and defining “green” broadly is very important, and I think it’s part of raising the consciousness in Los Angeles that we have to take a broader definition of what it means to be green.

Bob Hertzberg, Chairman, G24i: What I saw today from talking to folks was how many people have said, “I didn’t realize how much talent there was working side by side.” It’s really been great. I have yet to find a person who hasn’t been excited about today, and everybody I’ve talked to has a business card. It’s about networking and being in the marketplace. So it’s very successful and there is a lot of potential for change. People are very, very positive.

Fran Pavley, Senior Climate Advisor, Natural Resources Defense Council: It will require a partnership between the private and the public sector to accomplish the goals and visions of AB 32. I’m seeing a tremendous amount of business at this conference. We need California business to really step up to the plate. They are proving that when you put a cap on emissions, it sends a signal to the marketplace. I’m very excited to be here.

Felicia Marcus, Executive Vice President, Trust for Public Land: I think it’s valuable on one level to be inspired by all that’s going on. But on another, very practical level, there are people here who know what the cutting edge is. By investing a couple of days in seeing what the cutting edge is, you save yourself months, if not years, of wasted time being stuck wherever you were, fighting to get onto the cutting edge of each of these things, wanting more. Otherwise, people sort of labor in the knowledge they can amass, having to go in depth. No one can be an expert on all of the issues.
Another thing that is particularly useful about this meeting is that it brings together a bunch of sectors that rarely come together in the same meeting for any time. Generally, government meets with the private sector in meetings, and it meets with environmentalists or community groups in another meeting; it rarely meets with investors. That same lack of connection all together in one place happens so frequently. What you see is people are having these funny, separate conversations, but they don’t actually understand the economics or they don’t understand the sincere community concerns or they don’t really understand the legitimate concerns of government. Just in the energy of the hallway conversation, let alone the panels, you have people from all of those sectors looking at the same issue. This is exactly what we need if we’re going to make progress.

Bob McDonald, Managing Partner, Craton Equity: This conference has been invaluable in terms of networking. It does several things: number one, we get to find out up-to-the-moment information about what is going on in particular industries and the companies in those particular industries. You hear presentations; you know exactly what the shape of ethanol is, community fuels, and the like. Number two, it enables us to interact with our existing investors and potential new investors. There are a number of pension funds here at this conference—some have invested in our fund, some have not. We get to see them again and share information with some funds that may care to invest in our next fund.

Randy Truby, Senior Vice President, Toray Membrane USA: I think it’s interesting to see the whole broad spectrum of what different people are doing in different corporations. We may be taking different tacks, and even working in different arenas like air and water and automobiles and alternative fuels, but most of us have to go through the same hurdles to get where we’re going, even though we’re doing something different. I think that’s beneficial.
I met a couple of executives and companies that are trying to do what we’re doing, and I think that’s also helpful. Networking for me is a real benefit, and I listen to what the other people are talking about and saying, and that gives me a good perspective.

Jack Baylis, West Region Group CEO, AECOM: For AECOM, we’re in most of the markets, from transportation facilities to the environment, and this event captures the issues in all our marketplaces. Green business is affecting all of our built and natural environments. Until now they were separated in stove pipes. What GreenXchange has done is to pull together all those issues and underscore it with what we’re going through now with financing and all of that. That may be the common thread. But before, they were separated. For example: transportation done in a green way; building LEED-certified in a green way; and building a highway with a context-sensitive design. What GreenXchange has done is pulled all those interests under one roof.

Mike Rosenfeld, Vice-Consul, British Consulate: I think a lot of these issues are really intertwined: water issues, renewable energy issues, carbon issues, and climate change cannot be separated. Looking at it holistically is very important. Until now, we have missed the opportunity to look at the nexus between these issues.
The other observation I have is that this is actually mostly a very local group, and that’s a good thing, because we have a very diverse and large community in Los Angeles. This brings together a lot of the stakeholders in the area in Los Angeles, and I think that’s a very good way of looking at solving problems locally.

Gov. Bill Richardson: This is a great conference of renewable energy entrepreneurs.

Blake Simmons, Manager of Systems Department, Sandia National Laboratories: Sandia sees this as an opportunity to partner and identify folks that are relevant to the field of renewable energy. One of the biggest things that we are trying to do right now is transition technology from the research and development laboratory out into the marketplace, because we’re never going to be an energy provider or a for-profit company. Really, this is a necessary and vital networking tool, and also to get a better grasp of what policymakers are thinking in terms of how to incentivize renewable energy research overall.

Rita Robinson, General Manager, L.A. Department of Transportation: I think it’s time for Los Angeles to have this exchange, not only for those of us in government, but also those of us in the public and business sector to come together and realize that it is a moment in time when we need to change ourselves, and we need not be afraid of the change. A conference like this re-energizes us in realizing that there is momentum building, for us not to be afraid of the changes, and to add to the dream that that could be forthcoming. In this city, I think the fear sometimes stops us from doing things that we need to do. Now it’s time.

David Edwards, President, D. Edwards, Inc.: I’m here as a representative of business. I’ve worked for large waste companies in the past. What we need to do, working with municipalities as well as the regulators, is find a way to reach some common goals regarding how business can succeed, how business can work within the regulations to improve the environment but still conduct a good business. I’m excited about that.

Sue Garbowitz, Political and Economic Officer, Canadian Consulate: I was very happy to be a part of this meeting. There is energy in the hallways and in the sessions—a very positive energy. Everybody wants to learn from each other about what local, state, federal, and international communities are doing—from the micro of one session I attended, where they were talking about the community colleges spending $83 million on carpeting to make sure the carpeting is good for the environment, is sustainable, and is produced in a way that’s good for the children at the schools and the communities, to the macro of what’s going on post-Kyoto and the varying views of what people in Bali should be focusing on. •••