Greg E. Stine
It was just over 5 years ago, the fall of 2003 in fact, that I met with a group of people in the Bay Area interested in promoting a concept they explained to me was called “green building.” It wasn’t a new concept, but it was new to me and to most people.
We (Polaris) were hired to create a brand and a strategy for the newly formed organization. Our job was to help them promote "green" in a manner that would attract mainstream homeowners to this new building trend. We also connected our efforts to a radical concept - business people would need to make money selling products and services in this greener, building market.
And from this humble beginning, Build It Green was born.
Green Goes Mainstream
Five years later, this non-profit organization has over a dozen staff members, has developed widely-accepted green building standards, has trained and certified over a thousand Green Building Certified Professionals and is managing a residential consumer brand (a green seal), called GreenPoint Rated, which is quickly being adopted by jurisdictions all over the state of California. California is building greener.
This is not a unique story – far from it. One of our other clients, the Organically Grown Company (OGC), has been out in front of a similar trend that started 15-20 years earlier – organic food. OGC was formed in the late ‘80s as a farmers’ co-op. At that time, when OGC presented their product to conventional retailers, they were laughed out of sales meetings. No one will pay more for ugly produce grown locally just because you tell them it’s healthier and better for the planet.
It turns out they were wrong--some people would buy organic. Eventually, as the organic market grew, standards for organic produce were settled by the FDA and organic food gradually moved into mainstream supermarkets. Today, OGC has become the largest organic produce distributor in the northwest, selling to traditional supermarkets and supporting local farmers in the process. Noticing this profitable trend, even Wal-Mart got into the act, becoming the largest retailer of organic produce in the US. The US is eating healthier.
Clean Joins Green
As green continues to migrate into the mainstream, here at Polaris we are continuing to pay attention this trend. To that end, we have been watching technology companies, like our friends at Owens Design, begin to shift their business into alternative energy equipment production. Yes -- clean energy is the wave of the future.
As markets have started turning green and clean, "dirty" industries have begun to stand out in sharp, black relief. Thankfully, people in the US and around the world are finally beginning to confront the problems we have been creating for decades by relying on dirty energy sources. To borrow a phrase from Thomas Freidman, we are entering the Energy-Climate Era (see Hot, Flat and Crowded).
But no one will pay more for energy you call clean, produced locally, you say? It will happen - and for future generations, it must. While still on a relatively small scale, many companies and governments are in the process of collectively developing a "mainstream" market for clean, local energy. A lot of companies will make a lot of money selling the world clean energy in the near future.
The clean energy industry is a lot more than solar panel manufacturers and installers. With photovoltaics (PV), the supply chain starts with raw silicon, and continues through wafer processing and manufacturing, crystalline and thin-film PV production, energy processing devices (inverters and other devices) and contractor/installers on the green homes that we're already so familiar with (see illustration to the right).
There are separate and similarly complex supply chains for other emerging clean energy technologies such as wind, solar thermal, biomass, geothermal, battery technologies, hydrogen cell, etc. Energy production is getting greener and cleaner.
Clean Energy Innovation + Powerful Branding = Market Transformation
So how does Polaris fit into this greener economy? Starting in 2008, we have committed ourselves to stretch our own expertise with green into the alternative energy supply chain and work with companies in this market space.
Leveraging our existing work with Owens Design (a developer of custom PV manufacturing equipment), this past October we began a serious educational ramp up of the solar industry at the Solar Power International trade show. Since then, we’ve committed training time to bring our entire team up to speed on the relevant technologies, trends, and applications of the industry. We’re not out to turn our creative staff into solar power engineers, but we are committed to become fluent and comfortable in the highly technical space within these emerging B2B markets.
At Polaris, we know that for the companies within this market space to be successful, they need to not only engineer and build better widgets - they also need to build better brands than their competition.
Our renewed mission is to lend our communication and marketing expertise to companies trying to establish a successful, profitable niche in this expanding green energy market. It is in this role that we are excited to help build a brighter, greener future for all of us.
Copyright © 2008 by Polaris, Inc. All Rights Reserved.