Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Brainstorm = Marketplace of Ideas

Many things will be needed to avert a climate change disaster - including lots of new investment and changes in policies and behaviors. But none of that will work without massive innovation. And innovation requires a combination of new ideas, dedicated people, money, and a mechanism to implement and scale up those ideas.

That is why the Fortune Brainstorm Green Conference last week was so compelling. It was more than a brainstorm - it was a marketplace of ideas. The list of attendees was impressive - leaders from corporate American (ranging from Wal-Mart to Coca Cola to Monsanto), the non-profit sector (Environmental Defense, NRDC, Conservation International), the financial sector (Merrill Lynch, Morgan Stanley, and Goldman Sachs), academics, and several government officials.

In my experience, what distinguishes Fortune Brainstorm conferences from many others is that they are really conversations rather than a series of speeches, and this one was no exception. It was really exceptional to see leaders from fields that are often at odds with each other actually talking to each other and collaborating on a solution rather than fighting over who is at fault. Even Greenpeace and McDonald's shared a panel and talked about their collaborative work to reduce deforestation in Brazil.

Hats off to Marc Gunther of Fortune Magazine for creating this conference. You can read a lot more about electric cars, "farming carbon," turning Coke green, and rabble rousing over at his excellent blog.

[And kudos to David Kirkpatrick for creating the Brainstorm Conference series itself.]