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2nd February 2006 US firms must go green, says Gore

Article - US firms must go green, says Gore
Corporate America must face up to green and ethical challenges if they are to avoid disaster, former US Vice President Al Gore has told the BBC.

Firms are so focused on delivering quarterly financial figures, he said, they lose sight of long-term trends.

"The quarterly reports might look good for a little while and then they fall off a cliff," he told BBC Radio 4 In Business presenter Peter Day.

The US car industry's problems is an example of consumer power, he said.

"Ford and General Motors are now in a state of crisis in the United States because they have missed the long term shift in consumer preferences and societal preferences toward more efficient automobiles with much less pollution," Mr Gore said.

As such, it is not just US companies that need to change their ways.

Five years ago, a Supreme Court decision put George W Bush in the White House, leaving Mr Gore out in the cold.

He immediately changed direction.

"I went into investment management and very quickly began to notice some rather odd developments that seemed to me out of touch with reality," Mr Gore said.

"So many very significant factors that affect shareholders, that affect the health of the company were being sort of systematically ignored.

"And not only the environment, but also corporate ethics and stakeholder analysis; how're the communities where a company is located being dealt with?"

Mr Gore said he firmly believed the impact a company has on the environment and on society affects both its underlying health and the price of its shares, and he believed ever more US business leaders are waking up to this new reality.

So he is putting his money where his mouth is.

In 2004, he and the former Goldman Sachs investment banker David Blood founded the international investment firm Generation Investment Management, which actively seeks to invest in companies that take a sustainable view of their business.

"David and I met privately with the chief executive of one of the largest companies in America," Mr Gore said.

"He has been a supporter of President Bush and still is, but he said to David and me in confidence: 'Let's face it, 15 minutes after President Bush leaves office the United States will have a new policy on climate change and carbon emissions'.

"I think the significance of that is that many business leaders are now looking at their 'hole cards' as we say in America, and realising America is in a kind of bubble of unreality.

"As soon as the current administration leaves, and perhaps before it leaves incidentally, there will be a change and those companies that get out in front of this curve are going to be better positioned," he predicted.

Mr Gore is also doing his best to spread the word.

He recently criss-crossed America to warn about global warming, at about 1,000 gatherings - a journey documented in the independent film "An Inconvenient Truth", which premiered at the Sundance film festival in Utah last week.

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