Waya Quiviger, Director of Special Projects, Social Impact Management
IE Business School

John Forgach has been coming to IE for the past four years and every year his session is the most popular Global Affairs lecture. This is partly because the urgency of addressing climate change and the incredible opportunity this represents for business make front page news almost daily. The other reason is John Forgach himself. His thought-provoking and inspiring talk will compel even the most indifferent audience.
The International MBA students were absorbed by Mr. Forgach’s presentation: mixing a cautionary tale about the dire state of our planet and the red-hot business opportunity this actually represents. According to Forgach the Internet 2.0 wave is tapering off while the “green revolution” is only beginning. Indeed, in his words : “the environment represents the largest business opportunity in the years to come given that all the “green commodities” are currently massively undervalued”. Mr. Forgach recommended carbon trading, wind farms, solar farms, renewable energies, timber, carbon sequestration, biodiversity conservation, water quality as business opportunities. The only one he seemed to oppose was ethanol as an alternate source of energy.
Mr. Forgach is currently chairman of ForestRe, a large re-insurer in the timber business and Equator Environmental a carbon and green commodities trading company. His pet project as he calls it is a $300 million venture with the Panama Canal where his company will 1) plant and sell timber around the canal; 2) sell the clean water in the canal; 3) sell the carbon credits he earns through the timber plantation. In his opinion, this is the best way the Panama Canal has to be profitable until it becomes obsolete once large companies start using the polar routes between Asia and Europe in 15 years. These routes will be open only because of climate change and the fact that the polar ice caps are now melting at an alarming rate.
Students had many questions for John, including whether he truly believed the environment was the most profitable business and what prospects for our planet were. He answered candidly that there may be more profitable businesses but none that combined feeling good about yourself, helping the planet AND making money. Regarding prospects for successfully combating climate change, his answer was rather bleak: at this point it was more a question of slowing down the irreversible. Mr. Forgach concluded his talk with a list of business tips for aspiring entrepreneurs in the green business, the most important ones being: “Good management is more important than good ideas; don’t fall in love with your project; show the bad apples in your business plan; show the value proposition; don’t think you will save the planet!”


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