VC pioneer John Doerr extends his management tools to address the climate crisis

November 8, 2021, 10:46 AM UTC

Good morning.

Venture capital pioneer John Doerr has made it a late-life mission to evangelize OKRs—Objectives and Key Results—as an effective tool for measuring and managing companies. (He describes why here.) Tomorrow, as the Glasgow climate conference enters week two, he’s publishing a new book laying out OKRs for the climate crisis. It’s a helpful exercise, making the unimaginable task of transforming the world economy to net zero by 2050 more imaginable. 

Taking a lesson from Roosevelt’s pencil notes on the plan for winning World War II, he breaks his climate plan into ten objectives:

1. Electrify transportation
2. Decarbonize the grid
3. Fix food
4. Protect nature
5. Clean up industry
6. Remove carbon

And you accelerate the first six using:

7. Policy & politics
8. Movements
9. Innovation
10. Investment

Behind each objective are a series of measurable key results. They include some daunting challenges. “Fix food,” for instance, embodies a revolution in and of itself. “Investment” needs to total $1.7 trillion a year. And there is a role for everyone; if you can’t help with 1-6, you can certainly take part in 7 and 8.

Why did he do it? I spoke with Doerr about that yesterday:

“This started with me 15 years ago from Al Gore’s movie, ‘An Inconvenient Truth.’  There was an inconvenient youth, my daughter, who said: “Dad, I’m scared and I’m angry. Your generation created this problem. You better fix it.”

I asked how OKRs can work in a case where there is no clear leadership, no governance structure, no one in a position to hold everyone accountable.

“You’ve got to get really clear about the objective and how you are going to measure success. Each is different, but each of these 10 big objectives, in the Andy Grove tradition, has highly specific, measurable, time-bound key results… Our backs are against the wall. We need to do this.”

Doerr said he has reason to be hopeful, citing recent actions by Amazon and Walmart to impose change on their supply chains. What strikes me these days is how many companies are stepping up to play their part. Last week, for instance, I spoke with Jeff Simmons, CEO of Elanco Animal Health, who is working on a product that can reduce methane emissions from cattle by 10%, and another that can capture the gases from decaying manure and turn it into energy (Objectives #3 and #9). Later in the week, I spoke with Mark Newman, CEO of Chemours, who is working on improving ion-exchange membranes that are critical to the development of cost-effective fuel cells (Objectives #1 and #9). 

Add all the activity up, and you can start to envision the end goal. We may not be moving fast enough, but we are moving.

More news below. And apologies to General Catalyst’s Ken Chenault for adding an extra “n” to his name.

Alan Murray


Borders open

The U.S. has finally opened its land borders with Canada and Mexico, and is allowing tourists to come in from Europe too. Land travel into the U.S. requires proof of vaccination, while those arriving by air need both that and a negative COVID-19 test. Fortune

Pfizer effect

Pfizer's big antiviral announcement on Friday—its Paxlovid COVID-19 treatment eliminates the need for hospitalization nine times out of 10—didn't just whack the shares of Merck, whose own COVID pill is less effective. It also hit Asian vaccine makers today, with the stock of China's Cansino and WuXi falling. It seems investors believe the introduction of antiviral pills, which infected people can take shortly after they develop symptoms, will tempt many away from vaccination. Medical experts say that's a bad idea, and vaccination remains necessary. Fortune  

Biden success

President Joe Biden won a much-needed victory Friday, when the House of Representatives voted through the Democrats' $1 trillion infrastructure bill—some Republicans joined in and some Democrats stayed away, so it was even a bipartisan moment of sorts. Less-good news for the President: The U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals has paused Biden's COVID vaccine mandate for private businesses. Fortune

SoftBank loss

SoftBank's Vision Fund unit lost a whopping $7.3 billion in the last quarter, thanks to big drops in the value for holdings such as Didi and Coupang. Redex Research analyst Kirk Boodry: "If you look at the Vision Fund’s performance so far this year, pretty much everything they brought to market so far has lost money since listing. That’s an incredibly poor track record. They have been behind a lot of overpriced IPOs. It makes you wonder whether this whole cycle of investing, taking the companies public and then getting your money back is broken." Bloomberg


Musk stock

Elon Musk made a show of polling his Twitter followers as to whether he should sell 10% of his Tesla stock, so the U.S. government could claim taxes. Yes he should, said his followers, and Musk promised to abide by their call. However, he was already likely to sell a big chunk of his stock, as a 10-year window on his share options is about to close, and he needs the cash to seize the opportunity (and to pay tax on his technical earnings). Fortune

Supply chains

Small businesses are getting squeezed out in the supply chain crisis, with larger rivals such as Walmart and Amazon chartering ships and planes to get their merchandise, and with manufacturer prioritizing larger contracts. Sean Maharaj, a consultant and former Mattel supply-chain analyst: "As a toymaker, once you miss your opportunity with a large outlet or have an out-of-stock, you end up on their black list. That’s enough to sink your business." Washington Post

Starbucks vs unions

Starbucks is trying to convince employees at three of its Buffalo coffee shops not to unionize. This only involves 100 workers or so, but, if they do unionize, it would be a first for the company's stores and would likely become a foothold for organized labor. Meanwhile, Starbucks' opposition to the move does not gel well with its progressive brand. Fortune

Offsetting Bitcoin

How much tree-planting would it take to offset the vast pollution caused by Bitcoin mining? By one count, we're looking at 284 million trees, which is a lot. Fortune's Shawn Tully takes you through the math. Fortune

This edition of CEO Daily was edited by David Meyer.

This is the web version of CEO Daily, a daily newsletter of must-read insights from Fortune CEO Alan Murray. Sign up to get it delivered free to your inbox.

Read More

CEO DailyCFO DailyBroadsheetData SheetTerm Sheet