How Hotshot Oregon Businesses Are Responding To Climate Change

Oct 15, 2013

Leaders from Nike, Intel and the Portland Trail Blazers discussed the how they're responding to climate change at the GoGreen Conference in Portland Tuesday.

They talked about how economics and competition can spur action within the business community and how businesses can prioritize actions that will have the biggest impact.

Ann Radil, a climate scientist and director of Nike's Sustainable Product Team, led the panel discussion titled "Actions Speak Louder: Getting Serious About Climate Change."

The panel included John Harland, Intel Corporation's Design for Environment director, Justin Zeulner, director of sustainability and public affairs for the Portland Trail Blazers, Michael Armstrong of the City of Portland's Bureau of Planning and Sustainability, and Demi Espinoza of the Coalition of Communities of Color.

Harland works with Intel's microchip developers in Oregon to address environmental issues. Since 2008, he said, Intel has spent $60 million on energy conservation and saved $110 million.

"It's been a classic win-win," he said. "There has been good for the environment and good for the bottom line."

To get there, the company included energy conservation goals in a bonus program that applies to everyone "from the CEO to the shop floor," said Harland.

His advice for businesses wanting to take action on climate change? Follow the data.

"Intel is a very numbers-oriented company and we tend to be a lot of engineers," Harland said. "So from my perspective I think we have to have some daylight on the facts and data. What are the numbers? Doing some things that feel good may not really help the climate. The way we can really focus in on major issues is by putting out the data. That's a tool we use a lot at Intel."

Justin Zeulner of the Trail Blazers said there's no shame in using money to motivate people to act on climate change. His team has spent $650,000 on environmental sustainability programs and saved more than $3 million in operations costs.

"That is economics and that makes good business sense," he said. "Lead with economics. It's OK to say that there's an economic reason for this. It doesn't have to just be heartfelt."

Zeulner said it's important for businesses to talk to each other about climate change.

"When you actually start talking to each other, you start to realize that we're all sort of being taxed because of climate change," he said.

The Trail Blazers and Nike are members of a group called Businesses for Innovative Climate and Energy Policy. It's a group of private sector companies that is asking federal policymakers to take action on climate change. The team also had a carbon footprint analysis and has reduce its carbon footprint by more than 50 percent since 2008. But Zeulner said there's still a lot more work that needs to be done.

"I'm seeing organizations and industries saying the time is critically now," Zeulner said. "NorthFace is saying they're afraid they're not going to be able to sell jackets. The canary in the coal mine, the ski industry, is suggesting it's here now. ... And I will tell you we're not moving fast enough, and we need to make significant progress."

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