Profile: Anthony Pratt
What Australia has been waiting for – green business leadership. Anthony Pratt says that environment and green issues will increasingly dictate success in business for the foreseeable future. “Business has a key leadership role to play as it pursues the goal of turning green into gold”. His companies have turned waste into jobs, creating 5500 green-collar jobs in Australia and 3500 in the US.
Anthony Pratt, 49, is executive chairman of Visy and Pratt Industries USA, and works with the Climate Group. Son of the late paper and packaging billionaire Richard Pratt, Anthony is a former McKinsey consultant, who spent almost 20 years running Visy’s U.S. operations.
This week an article written by Anthony Pratt appeared in The Australian. We also reproduce here an extract about his US operation Pratt Industries taken from my book The ABC of Carbon:
By Anthony Pratt in The Australian 12 December 2009:
REGARDLESS of the eventual outcome in Copenhagen, one thing is clear. The environment and green issues will increasingly dictate success in business for the foreseeable future.
The political divergence over the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme legislation notwithstanding, both of Australia’s main political parties are committed to reducing greenhouse emissions. Consumers want action.
The result is that the new curve for businesses and economies is increasingly being cast as a green, low-carbon one. Businesses that stay ahead of the curve can turn green into gold, converting low carbon into new profits.
Global investments in renewable energy companies and projects totalled $US155 billion last year, overtaking similar investments in fossil fuels for the first time. Some estimates have put the global value of green products and services worldwide at more than $US3 trillion and rising. The green component of the recent financial stimulus in Australia alone totalled almost $US10 billion.
Although there are undoubtedly challenges, the growth in low-carbon technologies, services and markets represents one of the best business opportunities for Australia we have seen in years.
Australia is a resource-rich nation. We have been good at exploiting our minerals base and agricultural sector for exports. But we also have enviable natural resources for renewable energy generation. Our abundant sunshine, rich geothermal potential, large biomass-growing land base and extensive coastline could become the bedrock of a golden 21st-century industry that will create thousands of new jobs and a stream of long-term investment.
We have already seen the kind of progress that can be made. By the middle of last year, Germany, a country hardly celebrated for endlessly sunny days, had managed to create 40,000 jobs in its solar industry alone. Israel, a country not long in water resources, enjoys a disproportionate share of the hi-tech water efficiency market.
My company in the US, Pratt Industries USA, has grown from scratch to become a billion-dollar business based on recycling, as well as the largest Australian-owned employer of US citizens. Recently we commissioned a US$60 million plant in Atlanta that gasifies waste from the recycling process and timber construction waste, turning it into clean energy which then drives our recycling mills and reduces our energy costs.
We have plans for similar investments in Australia. Producing clean energy from non-recyclable waste is an important part of my future vision for family company Visy Australia.
Given the right incentives, our agricultural sector also has the potential to flourish in a sustainable way. New carbon sequestration technologies mean that farmers can lock carbon dioxide into our soils, creating carbon credits and opening up a very welcome source of income. As a means of building on the water legacy left by my father, Richard Pratt, I am backing former governor-general Mike Jeffery’s initiative to restore our precious rural landscapes by mainstreaming sustainable farming practices.
These techniques also increase the carbon content, fertility, water retention and productive capacity of our soils, which have eroded through decades of unsustainable practices. There is no reason why Australia cannot lead the world in this technology if we start taking steps to do so now.
If we do, our farmers, our food processors and our consumers will be in much better shape.
Visy has a vested interest in achieving this outcome because 70 per cent of our packaging customers are connected to agriculture in some way, either as growers or food processors.
As the global trade in carbon continues to gather pace, Australia has the opportunity to establish itself as a hub in our region for a trade the World Bank estimated as being worth $US126 billion last year, about 12 times what it was worth just three years earlier.
My faith in the economic potential of the low carbon economy is not an untested prediction. Here and in the US, Visy has built a multibillion-dollar business based around a closed loop of packaging and recycling. In so doing we have turned waste into jobs, creating 5500 green-collar jobs in Australia and 3500 in the US.
But this is just a small part of the global green picture. The international race to win a share of the new green markets and opportunities is already well under way. International non-government organisation the Climate Group recently reported on the extent to which green businesses and technology development have become a mainstream element of China’s growth strategy.
The country is already the world leader in solar energy, supplying 40 per cent of the world’s photovoltaic panels. It is doubling its wind generation capacity every year. Chinese companies are leading the way with electric vehicles, creating the first car that can travel 400km on a single charge, as well as starting mass production of such vehicles.
In the field of carbon trading, South Korea is looking to assert itself in emerging green markets, having spent more than 80 per cent of its stimulus package on green investments. Along with Singapore, it is now a serious contender in the competition to become the Asia-Pacific’s dominant carbon trading centre.
Australia is on the cusp of an exciting economic opportunity but if we are to make the most of it, we have to move with more purpose than we have done so far.
And we should not rely solely on governments. Business has a key leadership role to play as it pursues the goal of turning green into gold.
Extract from “The ABC of Carbon”:
Visy papers US. Australian Anthony Pratt made a USS$1billion commitment towards investment in paper recycling and waste-to-energy infrastructure at the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) meeting in New York 26 September 2007.
The money will enable the construction and operation in the US of at least 3 new paper recycling mills, 4 waste-to-energy plants, and 30 MRFs (materials recovery facilities), as well as ancillary packaging plants to fully integrate the paper mills. It will save hundreds of thousands of tonnes of carbon dioxide from going into the air during the first half of the 10 year commitment period and more than 1 million tonnes per annum by the end of the decade.
Pratt’s company, Pratt Industries USA, is the largest Australian owned employer in the USA with over 3200 American employees. Anthony Pratt said the US was moving towards a zero waste society, so the company’s plan was to increase US recycling rates dramatically by investing in recycling operations and by helping to create a recycling movement. ‘As almost one quarter of all carbon emissions are from landfills and deforestation, every tonne of paper we divert from landfill stops 1.2 tonnes of carbon emission, hence our view that recycling is one of the most important weapons against climate change,’ Pratt said.
Currently Pratt Industries produces 720,000 tonnes of 100% recycled paper annually in the US. The construction of Pratt’s first US waste-to-energy plant, which will convert wood waste (otherwise destined for landfill) into energy to power their existing recycled paper mill in Conyers, Georgia, will be operational by March 2009 at an establishment cost of US$50 million. Pratt Industries USA is a sister company to Visy, Australia’s largest packaging and recycling company.