Monday AM February 25th, 2008

KPMG survey finds energy companies view sustainability as material business risk, but few view their companies as sustainable businesses…Microsoft’s Bill Gates says computer users will increasingly use speech or touch screens rather than keyboards…


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The majority of energy executives regard sustainability as a material business risk, but few view their companies as sustainable businesses, according to a survey by audit, tax and advisory firm KPMG. Bill Kimble is executive director of KPMG’s Global Energy Institute.

“Sixty-nine percent of the companies that we polled really viewed sustainability as a business risk–that if they didn’t do anything, they had a business risk. And let me define, Ed, the kind of the risk that they’re talking about. One is a competitive risk, that if they don’t anything around sustainability, they could either have product performance issues, or let’s say that their products are very energy intensive products, and sustainability catches on like it is in the United States. People are really looking for products that use less energy. If you didn’t adopt it, you could be hurt from a competitive standpoint. You could be hurt from a reputational standpoint, you know, from a regulatory risk standpoint if you haven’t looked at this, if a new energy bill comes in, one that looked at telling utilities that a part of their base load had to come from renewables. So there’s a lot of areas, Ed, that you could get caught on, if this isn’t something you’re looking at.”

The KPMG Sustainability Survey of 81 energy executives found that only 28 percent claim their organizations were currently sustainable. Kimble says key stakeholders will pressure companies to develop sustainability initiatives.

“Ed, if you look back six to nine months ago, what happened in the United States which is related to this is we quit arguing about global warming, and we finally just said … okay, let’s just accept it, okay? And let’s all understand that for the purposes of our next generation, we need to do something, so let’s quit arguing about it.’ And so, a part of one of the three legs of the stool here is the environmental piece of sustainability, that companies need to do something, and items such as their supply chain. You know, do they need to have a carbon-free supply chain now, and reduce the amount of carbon in their supply chain. Those are the types of items that fall kind of within the bandwidth of sustainability.” Ed: “Are stakeholders having an influence?” “Absolutely, and even to the extent that there are funds that only invest in what we would define as sustainable companies. So there are total funds set up that attract this and if you want to invest in companies that are deemed sustainable, then there’s a place you can invest.”

Investment in sustainability would improve perceptions of their companies, according to 94 percent of those surveyed.

Microsoft’s Bill Gates says the days of the computer keyboard may be numbered. He says computer users will increasingly interact with computers using speech or touch screens rather than keyboards. Gates says Microsoft is making a bet on the transition. The comment came during the final stop of a farewell tour before departing Microsoft’s daily operations in July. He told students at Carnegie Mellon University that in five years, Microsoft expects more Internet searches to be done through speech than through typing on a keyboard. Gates also said the software that is proliferating in various branches of science, including biology and astronomy, must become even more advanced.

If you want to be part of Berlin’s fashion in-crowd these days, try dressing like a convict. Drab prisoners’ garb, it turns out, is the new, cool look in the streets of the German capital–or at least that’s what Ahmad Keyaniyan says. The former European head for Fort Worth-based Dickies Street Wear opened a store selling fashion produced, designed and inspired by prisoners. His sparsely furnished store on the eastern side of downtown Berlin is called Prisoner and sells the rough and tough look of the jailhouse. Striped shirts, gray hoodies and dark brown jackets are the mainstay of the men’s collection. Miniskirts made of coarse denim and sweaters with hidden pockets–useful for smuggling drugs past prison guards–make up the ladies’ label. A limited T-shirt edition was designed by inmates in Texas–with prints of voluptuous women similar to the tattoos that adorn some prisoners’ arms and chests. Convicts at prisons all over Germany are involved in the production. Keyanian says they get the equivalent of $2.65 to $3.39 an hour for their work.

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