Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Why You Should Care About Wal-Mart's Greener Biz - LAT OpEd

If you care about green, it's hard not to view these as the worst of times, marked by looming climate, water and energy crises, vanishing fisheries, mile-a-minute deforestation — the list is numbingly endless. In response, we have a largely apathetic public, an environmental lobby rendered toothless by said apathy, a political left and center paralyzed by fear that protecting the planet might hurt the economy, and a political right that's never been more virulently opposed to all things green as job-killing, business-bashing burdens and boondoggles.

But then there's ... Wal-Mart.

Read on at LATimes.com...

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Page 99

Ford Madox Ford once asserted: "Open the book to page ninety-nine and read, and the quality of the whole will be revealed to you."

Marshal Zeringue, author, playwright and head honcho at the Campaign for the American Reader, turned Ford's quip into an actual test. So when Marshal asks if you'd like to run your book through the Page 99 test, a mad scramble ensues to see what accident of typography and layout had put on that particular page, before you email back and say, sure!

Here's the Page 99 test for Force of Nature, which, as it happens, concerns a pivotal moment in 2005 when Wal-Mart, Hurricane Katrina, and a fledgling green initiative at the king of the big box stores  all collided --with surprising results.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Top 10 Eco Lessons from Wal-Mart?

Here' a list of top 10 lessons for going green, based on the world's biggest company's surprising efforts to become more sustainable. It's from my new book, Force of Nature, just up at HuffingtonPost:
Forget all that scary stuff you've heard from politicians about how cutting carbon emissions to stem climate change will kill jobs and destroy American business. Wal-Mart says that's crazy talk. Greening your home or business makes your richer. How? Carbon comes from using energy. Energy costs money. Which means cutting carbon saves the planet and saves you money. So do what Wal-Mart does: use energy-efficient lighting. Plant shady trees near your house or business. Insulate your attic and, if you have a flat roof, paint it white. Clean the filters in your refrigerator, heater and AC. Small businesses who follow Wal-Mart's advice have had their energy bills drop 20 to 60 percent by taking just those steps.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Force of Nature Media

Media Update III: Wal-Mart: Force of Nature or Greenwashing? A discussion at the Commonwealth Club's ClimateOne program in San Francisco.

Media Update II: How Wal-Mart won over a Sierra Club President. Fortune Magazine excerpts Force of Nature.

Media Update: Can Going Green Make Wal-Mart Cool? Kerry A. Dolan writes at Forbes that Force of Nature "spins a compelling tale."

I'm just back from the San Francisco leg of the Force of Nature book tour, following this review in the New York Times. Reviewer Bryan Burrough writes:

The idea that “going green” could actually be profitable, a notion put forth by economists as long as 20 years ago, remains a source of skepticism in some quarters. If you still need convincing, pick up Edward Humes’s excellent new book, “Force of Nature” (Harper Business, 265 pages, $27.99), the story of how the world’s largest retailer, Wal-Mart, came to go green. I’ll wager that you won’t look at sustainability issues quite the same way again. It certainly opened my eyes.

...Mr. Humes does here what the very best business books do. He finds a good story to help illuminate an issue of surpassing importance.... Mr. Humes’s prose is almost flawless, lean and clear, egoless and spare. He doesn’t deify or demonize Wal-Mart or any of the characters; in fact, he says Wal-Mart’s very business model is probably unsustainable. This is first-rate work — both by the author and by Wal-Mart itself.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Out today: Force of Nature

It's official: Force of Nature: The Unlikely Story of Wal-Mart's Green Revolution, is out today.

My book tells the story of how a big company can be convinced that there's a strong business case for green -- and why the realization that sustainability is an asset, not a distraction, is spreading to other businesses and industries. Some are calling it a second industrial revolution. At the very least, it's a hopeful development at a time when we desperately need one.

I'll be kicking off Force of Nature's publication in the Northern California this week: at Kepler's Books in Menlo Park on Thursday May 12, Copperfield's Books in Sebastopol on Saturday May 14, and at the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco on Monday May 16.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Get your free preview of Force of Nature

Excerpts of my new book, Force of Nature, are now up at HarperCollins' Browse Inside site. Before the May 10 pub date, you can take a peak at the full prologue and other chapter excerpts. Maybe it'll whet your appetite for my story of one of the unlikeliest green business revolutions imaginable.

Please also take a look at the reader buzz over at Amazon Vine. For me, here's nothing better than seeing so many readers of my book come away with so many smart, unique and very different takes on the the subject of sustainability and big business. I'd like to share one comment from R. Tompson:
If you don't have a particular bone to pick with Wal-Mart, and you think many in the environmentalist camp are scaremongers, you will find this book mildly left of you. If you think Wal-Mart is Satan's minion, sent to reverse progress and enslave Third World babies, you'll find the book a bit to your right. For those reasons, it must not be too bad ;-)

I'm of the more conservative persuasion, and was a little put off by the stronger rhetorical flourishes. That said, the work Wal-Mart pursued (and pursues) to make money by going green is inspiring.

The story is cleanly told, well written, interesting throughout. A good case study for transforming any large institution, environmentally or any other way.

Wal-Mart Meets the River Guide

When I first met Jib Ellison, I had no inkling I had found my next book. Mainly, I felt skeptical about this former river guide turned sustainability consultant who lived off the grid north of San Francisco and endeavored to persuade big, mainstream companies like Wal-Mart to go green.

Seriously -- Wal-Mart?

But then I learned more about Ellison, an affable forty-something outdoorsman-philosopher whose first venture brought Soviet and American delegations together on wild rivers in both countries -- in the midst of the Cold War. Diplomacy and friendships sprang out of the bonds that inevitably develop when people row together down hair-raising rapids.

Now Ellison engaged in an entirely different kind of diplomacy, bringing corporate titans and environmentalists together so they, too, can focus on their common ground -- and how protecting the planet can actually be the greatest business opportunity of the century.

The river guide can rattle off one example after another of freshly converted business leaders pursuing the least polluting, least wasteful, and least energy-hogging practices.  Why do companies such as Wal-Mart do this? Because they have realized (with Ellison's help) that this isn't just the most planet-friendly way of doing business. It also can be the most profitable way of doing business.

Read synopsis and early reviews of Force of Nature here. Check out reader reviews from Amazon's Vine Program here.

Here’s a prime example of what’s been going on: It began with a toy truck, which Wal-Mart sold by the million.