23 January 2012
Poor Kodak. You couldn't make it up. A classic brand invents a great new technology (digital photography) but decides it would cannibalise their own products, so they ditch it. Someone else takes up the baton and they get eaten up anyway while desperately trying to claw back a piece of their action.
This isn't a new story - when transistors arrived on the market, the valve manufacturers decided not to embrace the new technology and paid the price - they've all gone. You could argue the same has happened to Zavvi and the struggling HMV - they're suffering at the hands of newer business models. The tragedy for Kodak is they weren't blindsided by someone's innovation, they had the ball and gave it away.
To my mind, Apple is one of the few examples of a major business which had its niche (desktop computers), then rode a wave of innovation and ended up dominating the new markets of mobile computing and digital media. But that took the particularly twisted genius of a certain S Jobs Esq.
So what's the lesson for Green Business in general and clean tech in particular?
Well you can see the same thing happening in the energy market. A while ago Big Oil redefined themselves as Energy Companies, invested in renewables, messed about with them for a while, then ditched them and headed for the familiar grounds of oil and (fracking) gas. They appeared fearful of commercialising technologies which might 'cannibalise' their traditional business, but if they don't do it someone else will. BP's "Beyond Petroleum Generation" of bright young things are almost all working for cleantech start ups now. I'm sure most of them would want to crush their former employer in the energy marketplace.
The only thing that protects the traditional energy sector is the lack of true competition in the market, but, with the UK Government trying to break the near-monopoly of electricity producers and introducing the carbon floor price, those advantages might be starting to slip away. If I were a fossil fuel based company, the Kodak story would make me very worried indeed.
Tags: carbon floor price, clean tech, green business, innovation, oil industry, renewable energy
Posted by Gareth Kane no responses
18 May 2011
Two pieces of news caught my eye yesterday: the big news that UK Energy & Climate Change Minister Chris Huhne announced that the UK Government was committing to a 50% reduction in carbon emissions by 2027 - the toughest target set in the world - and some local news that an aluminium smelter and its coal fired power station - both about 15 miles from where I'm sitting - might close due to the Government's new carbon floor price.
There's a big problem here - the aluminium produced by the smelter (and associated carbon emissions) will still be produced somewhere in the world, just not here. The global climate doesn't care where the emissions come from, so there is a strong possibility that the Government's commitment will simply push more industry and emissions overseas. If you don't believe me, figures from Oxford University show that, despite the official Government line for many years, the UK has not been cutting its carbon emissions, but has simply leaked them to other countries while our overall carbon footprint has continued to grow.
If I was a right-wing commentator I would now start harrumphing about the idiocy of carbon emission restrictions, how they're destroying our Great British Industry and how we should drop the whole bally lot. But that's a stupid argument - first of all it ends with The Tragedy of the Commons (ie we all lose through selfishness) and, secondly, in a globalised economy it is our Western consumption levels that drive global emissions and we can't duck responsibility for that.
What we need to do instead is develop a smarter way of dealing with each country's emissions - considering emissions from our consumption as well as our production. A few years ago I explained this to both the then UK climate minister, David Miliband, and the current one, Chris Huhne. Both listened politely, did some mulling on it and acknowledged my point, but I suspect both filed it in the 'too difficult' tray.
Business is way ahead of Government here. About five years ago many, if not most, major companies only considered emissions from within their factory fence (plus those from power stations producing their electricity). Most have now faced up to the fact that their carbon footprint does include that of the suppliers - it was crazy when say Tesco, whose purchasing power is driven by £1 in every 8 we Brits spend, didn't acknowledge responsibility for supply chain emissions. Now Tesco and the other big retail sheds, along with major consumer goods manufacturers like P&G and Unilever, are actively decarbonising their supply chain wherever that supply chain may be - national boundaries are no restriction. Some are looking the other way along the supply chain too and 'choice editing' for the consumer, such as when B&Q stopped selling patio heaters. I suspect the massive buying power of such powerful companies could have more impact than any Government targets.
(For more, check out our Green Academy session on Greening the Supply Chain on 1st June)
Tags: carbon emissions, carbon floor price, legislation, politics, supply chain, sustainable production and consumption
Posted by Gareth Kane no responses