Two-time INC. 500 CEO Roger Sant was troubled by reports of the greenhouse effect, and not without reason. A former federal energy official, he now runs Applied Energy Services Inc. (AES), which owns and operates power plants. Those facilities, Sant realized, are contributing to the carbon dioxide pollution that is believed to be a factor in global warming. His response: plant trees.
It's an ambitious effort that AES is undertaking with the World Resources Institute, CARE, and other groups. Their first joint project calls for planting 52 million trees in Guatemala, where deforestation is a major problem. That's enough foliage to offset the carbon dioxide pollution produced over the 40-year lifespan of a facility AES is building in southern Connecticut. The company will contribute $2 million to the project. "It's a cost, but not a backbreaking cost," says Sant. "And our $2 million will, in effect, be multiplied seven times by the contributions of the other groups involved." In the future he plans to build the cost of trees into the company's bid for a project.
"When I worked in government, I found that environmental issues were not being dealt with by private enterprise in a responsible manner," says Sant. "In this case, I became convinced that the industry was, for the most part, stonewalling. I just saw the problem getting worse and worse. As an entrepreneur, I like to be one step ahead of government regulation, so we engineered our own solution to the pollution problem." -- Teri Lammers