News Column

In Search of Clean Profits: Hispanic Business Magazine Goes Green

May 19, 2008

Michael Bowker--Managing Editor, Hispanic Business Magazine

Mark this issue down on your calendar because Hispanic Business magazine is going green! We've devoted nearly half of our portfolio this month to cleantech and green investing because we believe Hispanics are poised to take advantage of America's new green wave in a big way. In this issue, you'll find a primer on green investing, a look at some unexpectedly hot alternative vehicles, including a "green" Escalade, and a number of other environmentally-friendly -- and potentially profitable -- products.

We're giving green this kind of ink because we're convinced it's not only here to stay -- it's likely to become the new "black." In the past, green investments were morally fueled in an effort to promote environmental protections or support companies with socially responsible labor practices or products. Today, consumers can't get enough green products, and their sales are shoving many companies' margins into the black.

Investors have been quick to react. At least $14 billion in venture capital dollars are likely to be invested in green products by 2010, according to the Clean Tech Venture Network. Investors going into cleantech in big ways include names like Bill Gates; Ted Turner; Richard Branson; Sun Microsystems co-founder and billionaire Vinod Khosla; one of China's richest men, Zhengrong Shi; and myriad other well-heeled financiers who believe green is the color of the future. Each is backing one or more major projects that will not only generate safer, cleaner fuel products, they stand to reap large profits, as well.

Peter Camejo, who has led a SRI (Socially Responsible Investment) firm for years and once ran as Ralph Nader's running mate for president, told Hispanic Business that alternative energy sources, especially solar, are ready to "explode" in terms of economic activity. Mr. Camejo, who helps operate a Hispanic-owned financial firm that deals only with alternative energy stocks and companies, says Hispanics nationwide are beginning to invest in green, and he predicts much more activity in the near future.

The Real Push Behind Green -- Profits

The numbers surrounding the green tide are impressive. A recent University of Tennessee study found that renewable energy crops will provide more than $700 billion in economic activity and more than 5.1 million jobs by 2025. Within the next seven years, environmental protection and cleanup efforts will create another 6.3 million new jobs and $448 billion in expenditures, according to analysts with Management Information Services Inc.

As you know by the recent onslaught of advertisements touting green products, everyone from Ford and Shell Oil to Wal-Mart and Safeway are painting themselves as friendly to the earth. Just exactly why the green wave finally hit critical mass is up for interpretation, but it's likely that two factors played a major role.

First, it's been a part of the American subconsciousness for several decades that we are not doing ourselves any favors by poisoning the earth and perhaps the very food we eat. Medical reports estimate that in 1960, one out of every 30 Americans could expect to get some form of cancer in their lifetime. Today, that number is one out of every two. Logic says we are probably doing at least part of this to ourselves by adding unnatural items to the environment. Going green is likely to have very real health benefits.

But today, there is an even bigger push behind green -- profits. With consumer demand for green products shooting through the roof, companies are scrambling to produce them. Rising energy costs help fuel the demand. Americans use 375 million gallons of gas per day, and the price of a gallon seems to jump each time we hit the pump. Hybrid and electric cars are getting attention because they save more than the environment. Th ey save money and that gets everybody's interest.

Hispanics' Powerful Connection To The Earth

There is a perception among some that Hispanics, taken as a whole, are not part of the green movement, that the fastest-growing segment of the American population is too busy making a living. We believe nothing could be further from the truth. While it is true that relatively few Hispanic-owned companies are involved directly with things like recycling and solar energy, that is likely to change in the near future. First, some of the employees of these companies are Hispanic, and it is logical to assume a percentage will ultimately form their own companies or rise to management positions. At the same time, increased government money is being allocated for green projects, and Hispanic-owned enterprises can expect to gain a share of those contracts. But, far more important is the fact that the Hispanic culture has always had a powerful connection to the earth. One of the most influential environmentalists is Congresswoman Hilda L. Solis, D-El Monte, California. Ms. Solis, who was California's first Hispanic state senator before being elected to Congress, won the John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award for passing legislation to address "environmental justice" by battling pollution problems that plague minority communities.

She continues to fight to provide protections for threatened wilderness areas throughout the United States. "In the past, there's been a great deal of misconception about the interests of Hispanics," Representative Solis told The San Francisco Chronicle. "But, we do have a cultural trait that we honor and support nature."

Studies consistently show that more than 80 percent of Hispanics in California support forest protection laws and the establishment of more wilderness areas -- a higher percentage than in any other ethnic group. Cleaning up urban environments is another top priority for Hispanics. More than 91 percent of Hispanics live in cities that exceed the federal Clean Air Act's emissions standards for some airborne pollutants, according to the Argonne National Laboratory.

There are a lot of reasons to go green, but it's hard to beat the one-two combination of knowing you can make a profit by doing the right thing. But, just being green doesn't guarantee a profit, any more than being a dot-com meant profitability six years ago. That's why, in launching our green issue, we've included a feature that chronicles the do's and don'ts of investing in green companies. We've also included a look at a host of new, alternative vehicles and a review of how you can benefit by advancements in green housing.

Finally, we've reviewed two Hispanic-operated green projects that are changing their local environment and may have national scalability. We've had some fun putting this together for you; we hope you find some interest here. If you have any comments on our stories, or if you have something "green" that you think we should cover in our upcoming issues, please let us know! We plan extensive coverage of green tech issues in the future, in Hispanic Business Magazine and on our Web site, and we'd like your input. You can write us the conventional way at our Web site and click on "Contact us" and give us your thoughts!

Source: (c) 2008. All rights reserved.

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