Memo to the CEO: 4 Strategies for the Intersection of Policy & Business

Editor's note: This is the first in a four-part series on navigating the policy world while driving your business toward success.

Approaching your policy agenda from a business point of view -- and vice versa -- can improve your company's environmental innovation and effectiveness. Think about it: Smart environmental innovation uses insights and tools from the business, government and non-profit sectors, and policy weaves through all three.

Based on our experience working at the intersection of business and policy we've put together four key principles that we think can help you and your team be effective:

1. Remember that policy is about revenue and growth, not just defense;
2. Pursue a policy agenda with a team that has balanced knowledge across business, innovation and policy;
3. Apply marketing best practices to policy;
4. Choose wisely when identifying partners on policy matters.

Over the next 4 weeks, we'll post thoughts on each of these principles. This week's post focuses on the first principle.

1. Remember that policy is about revenue and growth, not just defense.

There's a sense of universal truth to prizefighter Jack Dempsey's favorite expression that "the best defense is a good offense." When Washington offices of global businesses focus solely on defense, as they typically do, they miss opportunities to spur innovation, gain a competitive advantage and drive sustainable growth. For this reason, today's government affairs offices need to organize and strategize for offense. Here are a few strategies to keep in mind:

• Re-wire for offense. Government affairs offices are intrinsically wired for defense and caution, and this needs to be addressed frankly to re-wire for greater effectiveness. Particularly in the clean energy/environmental space, the role of an effective government affairs team is as much about identifying new opportunities for revenue and growth as it is about protecting policy interests and fighting regulation -- resulting in a policy strategy that becomes a critical component of the company's growth strategy.

While the DC offices of most large utilities have typified the tendency toward defense, executives at the more innovative utility players have ensured their Washington teams -- as well as their state government affairs teams -- look at policy levers as means to drive growth. PG&E, Exelon and NRG, for example, have actively supported policies and programs which encourage a shift to cleaner energy, a promising source of growth and profitability for their organizations. Consequently, Exelon's recent victory on legislation enabling business models for smart grid technology and energy efficiency is classic "good offense."

• Define the relationship. Central to this theme of re-wiring is asking yourself what the government means to you. Is the government a regulator, customer or collaborator? If you're thinking of government as an integration of all three, you may be better positioned than your peers to take advantage of changing government attitudes and related policies and programs. Last year, Boeing and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) signed a memorandum of understanding to deploy next-generation energy technology and systems for the Department of Defense and the commercial sector. Ultimately, this agreement underscored the unique opportunities available to inventive private and public sector collaborations.

Next week: Build a balanced team to focus on business, innovation and policy.

Capitol building photo via Shutterstock.