It has taken more than six months of work behind the scenes, but today we take the wraps off the all-new BusinessGreen – and we'd love to know what you think.
One of the many changes we've made is to give readers the freedom to comment instantly without recourse to editorial approval (please don't abuse the privilege, it's not big, it's not clever, and we will still pull down any posts that are offensive or just trying to advertise). As a result I will no longer have to deal with comments accusing BusinessGreen of censorship because it took me a few days to check on the latest batch of comments, and it also means you should find it far easier to let us know your views.
For better or worse – and on balance, I'd argue it is for better – online journalism is changing at a breakneck pace and the commercial and editorial models deployed by publishers are increasingly dependent on the ability to build some form of community that connects editors, journalists and readers. As the current film du jour The Social Network makes plain, the internet is reshaping the way we communicate and do business at a frightening speed and those who fail to embrace the concept of online community will be left behind.
This need to build an online community is particularly important in the environmental sector, and tends to characterise all the best green web sites, among which I hope you would number BusinessGreen.
Of course, all sectors would argue that online communities are crucial to their future, but there are a number of factors that make this assertion particularly accurate for the low-carbon economy.
First, the global nature of environmental threats means that the solutions also need to be delivered at a global level. That will require the rapid dissemination of new clean technologies and green business models, and in the history of mankind there is no more effective mechanism for distributing information than the web.
Second, the success of the low-carbon economy depends in large part on the willingness of businesses to reject the "red in tooth and claw" version of über-captialism that has held sway for most of the past 30 years and embrace a more sophisticated model where rival firms are capable of co-operating and collaborating to solve global crises such as climate change and biodiversity loss.
Increasing numbers of businesses understand this, as evidenced by the large number of clean tech partnerships agreed by formerly bitter rivals, the embracing of green technology and management standards, and pioneering initiatives to share patents. In addition, the growing band of sustainability executives working for the world's top blue chips are among the most collegiate senior managers ever to have existed – they still want their firms to beat the other guy, but they are also capable of participating in a remarkably mature debate with their rivals and instinctively understand when co-operation will be more effective than competition.
The provision of a global online community for these businesses and executives – a place to promote, share and debate best practices and new technologies – will be essential if the global low-carbon economy is to grow at the pace that is required.
Third, while all the technologies required to deliver the low-carbon economy already exist, the policies, economic models and business strategies necessary to roll them out most definitely do not. The debate surrounding how to build the green economy and how best to profit from it has to start coming up with some answers, and fast. If that is to happen, the debate must be global in nature, incorporate a wide range of voices and interests, and be constantly kept up to date with the latest opportunities and challenges the global economy faces. Again, the web and online communities are the only way to achieve this.
Finally, online publishing itself holds out the promise of a more sustainable future. There are valid concerns about the huge energy and carbon footprint of the datacentres that run web sites, but ultimately a shift towards renewable energy should serve to decarbonise server farms along with the rest of the economy. Meanwhile, the dematerialisation of newspapers, music and even travel, that has resulted from the internet revolution serves to curb carbon emissions and reduce overall environmental impacts. No one is suggesting we do away with face-to-face interaction altogether, but as a rule online communities are kinder to the environment than real-world communities.
The aim of the new BusinessGreen is to help drive this global debate and foster this online community. The beauty (and from a commercial perspective, the horror) of the internet is that publishers can control neither the debate nor the community – it is free to go where it wants and can do so at the click of a button.
All we can do is provide a forum for this debate to take place and try to deliver as much timely information, analysis and opinion to convince you, the reader, of the importance of this project and the validity of taking part in the discussion.
So please feel free to let us know what you think of the new site, where you feel we can improve and, most importantly, what we should be covering. We won't be able to include everything, but I promise we'll do our best to explore the issues that really matter to those green business leaders tasked with nothing less than saving the world.
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