The Great Recession hit the global economy hard, and shows no real signs of letting up in the United States and Europe. But in the developing world -- the so-called BRIC economies of Brazil, Russia, India and China, growth is far outpacing even the United States' boom years.
At the second panel discussion of the GreenBiz Innovation Forum, Marc Gunther laid out just how much those economies are growing: China at 10 percent per year, Brazil at 8.8 percent per year, India at 7.4 percent per year, compared to just 2 percent in the United States.
Asked for examples of what kinds of businesses are thriving by focusing on the "Base of the Pyramid" (BOP) market, Gunther's panelists -- Pawan Mehra, Aron Cramer and Hunter Lovins -- cited the mobile industry, the mobile industry and the mobile industry.
"In India, the mobile industry has 500 million users, adding the equivalent of a Sprint every six months," said Pawan Mehra, the managing director of cKinetics, a "venture accelerator" focused on sustainable growth. But because the average mobile phone customer in India spends just $3 a year, it has developed a whole host of innovation throughout the ecosystem.
Mehra cited as one of the greener examples the reuse of handsets -- he said that the average handset is reused on average seven times, and that companies have sprung up to meet the demand for cheaper, reused handsets.
Aron Cramer, the CEO of BSR, cited China's mobile phone industry as another example of sustainable innovation. The state-owned telecom China Mobile, he said, is accomplishing good things for its customers as well as accomplishing nation-building in the rural parts of the country.
While China Mobile is building cell towers out in rural China, it is equipping some of its towers with solar panels, and helping to bring new businesses to the region in the process. Cramer compared the initiative to the United States in the 1950s ("When the U.S. used to build things and invest in the future," he opined), and the development of the interstate highway system.