Truman Seman, a principal with GreenOrder, a New York-based consulting firm specializing in sustainability, said the "tremendous investment and innovation" happening in the absence of coherent carbon policy is a sliver of the market's potential. "There would be much, much more if we had clear rules," he said. "The biggest barrier to significant economic advancement is securing clear climate policy in the US."
GreenOrder is helping business leaders to re-engage federal policy makers to get climate legislation in place. Seman said he has seen a rigorous resurgence of interest around a climate energy package in the wake of the tumultuous Copenhagen talks. Several consortiums of industry leaders across sectors - including Partnership for Renewable Energy (which includes Bank of America, Google, General Electric), U.S. Climate Action Partnership, or USCAP (Ford, Duke Energy, Pepsi, Shell, among others) and Climate Energy Network (a collection of small and mid-sized companies in every region of the United States) - are "terrifically energetic and committed to their work with U.S. policymakers," he said.
Despite the stalemate and setbacks in Congress, Seman detects an attitudinal shift in favor of stronger climate policy.
"There (are) enough data and real stories to support the need for investment in a green economy," he said. "Policymakers are waking up to the fact that the U.S. is losing competitive ground not only with Europe but, increasingly, with China.... Even some conservative Republicans recognize that we will put the U.S. in a bad competitive position if we do not adapt quickly around cleantech."
There are signs of change. Sectors such as information technology, packaging, green building all have momentum regardless of uncertainty in Copenhagen or Washington, experts say.
For Cisco Systems, the commitment to green is already a done deal. CEO John Chambers vowed in 2008 to reduce Cisco's carbon footprint by 25% by 2012 without invoking carbon offsets. Today, Cisco's focus extends beyond the company's own footprint: They launched a supply chain innovation program to pressure Cisco suppliers to adhere to similar environmental standards.
As Cisco pushes their customer base and supply chains to adopt new standards, it engenders change throughout information technology ecosystem. It's not the only big company transforming a broad swath of businesses.