by: Joel Makower

Thanks in large part to Al Gore, climate movies are the new black.

There are two out this week with a distinctly business focus -- both making the case that proactive corporate climate initiatives can be a boon for the economy, the environment, and for company competitiveness.

The message isn't exactly new, but the medium might help it reach a broader audience.

First up is Energy Independence and Climate Protection: A Business Perspective, produced by a group called the Climate Protection Campaign, based in rural Sonoma County, California, hardly a hotbed of corporate activity.

But the nine-minute movie, consisting largely of highlights of interviews with six leading climate and business experts, sends a strong, bottom-line message: Business is the driver of change and innovation. Ann Hancock, who heads the Climate Protection Campaign, told me that "Our aim in producing this video is to accelerate business people's realization that independence from fossil fuels will have huge, long-lasting, positive impacts on our nation's economy."

Also out this week is a slick, 12-minute video produced by Sea Studios Foundation, a nonprofit team of filmmakers, scientists, and communications experts seeking to raise awareness on environmental issues. Its video entry, Ahead of the Curve: Business Responds to Climate Change, features such companies as Johnson & Johnson, Dupont, and Pacific Gas & Electric -- all ones with good, profitable stories to tell about their climate initiatives. Dupont, for example, cut its emissions to 72% below 1990 levels, saving $3 billion, while J&J managed to reduce its emissions by 11.5% while sales increased 350%.

"Ahead of the Curve" was the brainchild of program officers at the Rockefeller Brothers Fund "who thought it was time to bring more widespread attention to the trend of more U.S. businesses taking action on climate change," according to P.J. Simmons, one of those program officers, who now is Director for Strategy & Programs at Sea Studios. "We knew top business executives were too busy to read long white papers, so we thought about tapping into the potential power of a short film," he told me. "We thought: if more U.S. business leaders understood the many reasons why peers are developing climate change strategies, they'd begin to devote more resources internally to exploring the issues."

The Internet release is just the beginning of the Sea Studios strategy. In the next few weeks, the group is delivering the film to fifty Fortune 500 CEOs on video iPods (made possible by a gift from Apple). Moreover, says Simmons: "We hope to keep hearing that the film is useful from groups like McKinsey & Co, which called last week requesting a version to share at their annual partners conference this week in Florida."

Perhaps the intended audiences will be persuaded by the words of Peter Darbee, CEO of PG&E (who also appears in the Climate Protection Campaign video). In "Ahead of the Curve," he talks about how he set out two years ago to create "the new PG&E" -- an energy utility with a strong focus on efficiency and renewable energy. He notes: "When I sit down and talk with shareholders -- and these are hedge funds, professional investors -- they like the strategy because they understand that if you really deliver for customers, and you do so in a responsible way, your company's going to fare very well."

That's a positive, empowering, and non-threatening message, if ever there was one.

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