At HBS, GE's Immelt, Other Big Shots Demand Greener Energy Policy

Posted by: Adam Aston on October 13, 2008

My colleague, Cathy Arnst, is up at a Harvard B-school confab this week and sent in the following snapshot. Big business leaders are clamoring for strong green investment policies from the next administration. In Cathy’s words:

GE CEO Jeffrey Immelt came out of the managed economy closet this morning. In front of some 1,600 business people at Harvard Business School (HBS), the citadel of capitalism, he had this to say about federal government investment in environmental technologies in order to create jobs:

I’ve been a Republican all my life. I believe in free markets. But the notion that the government isn’t a catalyst for change in this country is purely garbage.

The crowd erupted in sustained applause.

Immelt made his remarks at a giant party HBS is throwing itself to mark its 100th birthday. The confab is called the Global Business Summit. Not the best timing for a celebration of business, perhaps, but some a lot of business folk are still spending Oct 13 and 14 listening to the likes of Bill Gates, Immelt, Larry Summers and other illustrious names give their views. And a lot of them view a full court press to develop environmental technologies a good thing.

Monday morning’s panel discussion on leadership sounded like a session at an environmental convention rather than an HBS meeting, given the tone of the remarks. The speakers were Immelt, noted Silicon Valley entrepreneur John Doerr, former EBay CEO and McCain advisor Meg Whitman, Anand Mahindra, Vice Chairman of the huge Indian truck and tractor maker Mahindra and Mahindra, and British financier James Wolfesohn, who headed the World Bank for a decade.

Green technology was one of the main topics of the discussion, with speaker after speaker saying that this is the one sector that could really get the economy moving again. In particular Doerr, who has a lot invested in cleantech startups already, said environmental technologies would be a more powerful engine for growth than Internet or biotech startups, but there isn’t venture capital money around to reach the level of investment need in environmental research as a job creation. That’s when Immelt threw in his two cents.

Reader Comments

Bill Rothschild

October 14, 2008 5:22 PM

It is appropriate that this meeting was held at the HARVARD BUSINESS SCHOOL. I believe that one of the reasons we have this MESS and CRISIS, is that too many of our BUSINESS LEADERS (?) were taught CREATIVE BOOK KEEPING and FINANCIAL INNOVATION at HBS, and maybe some other Business Schools. I have witnessed this "creativity during my career" and it is disturbing, since many bright people has spent more time on the NUMBERS than on the BUSINESS and BEING REAL LEADERS.

Bill Rothschild, author of THE SECRET TO GE's SUCCESS, A company HISTORICAL SUCCESS was based on product, service, management innovation and not CREATIVE BOOK KEEPING..

HBJHU

November 5, 2008 11:34 AM

My hat goes off to Immelt, Gates and Summers for suggesting that the government put in place policies that support Green Energy. Green Tech is not a fad; it represents the future of our plant. With oil running out in the next 30-60 years, we will need to find a new alternative source (or sources) of clean energy to replace it. Our global economies are currently way too reliant on a resource that is running out. Governments need to invest as well provide tax breaks to companies that are leading the charge in this new initiative.

Ang

November 10, 2008 8:39 PM

Bill, I second your thoughts on how disturbing some of these “creative leaders” are when let loose. Many do seem to lose sight of the actual business aspects. Unfortunately, we hear about these cases more often than the good cases. I am still trying to maintain hope that there are good leaders out there.

Bill Rothschild

December 5, 2008 7:31 PM

Ang.. THERE IS HOPE... THERE ARE MANY GOOD POSITIVE, ETHICAL LEADERS..BUT THEY HAVE A PROBLEM ON RISING TO THE TOP. THE JACK AND SUZY WELCH COLUMN IN THE RECENT BUSINESS WEEK DISCUSS ERGES THOSE WHO ARE HESITANT TO SPEAK UP AND BE COUNTED... UNFORTUNATELY IT REQUIRES BEING A RISKTAKER AND LEAVING IF YOU ARE NOT HEARD...I KNOW BECAUSE THIS IS WHAT I DID WHEN I WORKED FOR JACK WELCH. REMEMBER EVERYTHING GOES UP AND COMES DOWN...IT IS NOW THE TIME FOR THOSE WITH HONEST CONVICTIONS TO RISE TO THE TOP. -- BILL ROTHSCHILD.

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BusinessWeek correspondents John Carey and Mark Scott, cover the green scene, keeping on top of the business aspects of energy, the environment and climate change, as well as the technologies, policies, markets and people that are shaping how the earth's resources will be used in the century ahead.

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