Eighteen months ago, the U.S. Navy announced it would source roughly half of its energy from alternative sources by 2020. Since then, the Navy has launched a number of innovative green projects, such as switching some Marine forward bases in Afghanistan from fossil fuels to solar power.
Navy Secretary Ray Mabus, whom I recently saw speak about his energy program, runs a $150 billion budget and oversees 900,000 "employees." His experience can teach any organization some important lessons about making the case for green and executing the vision.
- Connect green to your core mission and strategy . For the Navy, going green is about security and reducing dangerous reliance on fossil fuels from volatile parts of the world. As Mabus says, "we'd never let these regions produce our ships, but we give them a say in whether our ships sail, planes fly, or ground vehicles operate." Moving away from fossil fuels also saves soldiers' lives. For every 50 convoys of fuel, one Marine is killed or injured (for more on the cost in lives and treasure, see this post). Guarding fuel also takes soldiers away from the real mission. Mabus puts it bluntly: "The big reason we're doing this is to make us better fighters."
It's not just the Navy going green. The whole military is embracing this logic, as I've written about before. But the Navy seems to be in the lead, and has a clear vision as to why green matters.
The recent mythic raid on Osama bin Laden's compound gave us all a powerful demonstration of what the Navy SEALs can do. In talking about energy, Mabus makes a direct connection between the achievements of the military -- the Marines in particular -- and green: "Renewable energy will help us continue to be the most powerful expeditionary fighting force the world has ever known."
This post first appeared at Harvard Business Online.