Perspectives

The Sustainability-Innovation Connection

A Conversation with Alex Taylor,
Executive Vice President
and Chief Operating Officer

Q:

You’re clearly focused on exploring new technologies and investing in innovation. What’s the connection between that strategic emphasis and making Cox Enterprises a more sustainable company?

A:

Technology is all about empowering people to do things differently – and usually more efficiently. If you think about companies such as Open Table, Uber, Google and Amazon, they all rely on technological innovation to disrupt the norm. At Cox, we believe technological innovation is critical not only for business success but also to help solve some of the biggest challenges facing our planet. Clean energy like solar is becoming much more affordable. The sharing economy is conserving resources and reducing congestion. Telemedicine and digital innovations are improving health care. All these trends are being enabled by advances in technology. We see innovation and sustainability as critically linked because we must create a far more efficient world for today and tomorrow.

Technology is all about empowering people to do things differently –
and usually more efficiently.

Q:

The emphasis on innovation is not a new one for Cox, is it?

A:

Gov. James M. Cox, my great-grandfather, was a creative thinker and innovative leader; you’d have to be to create a company that has thrived for generations. His son – Jim Cox Jr. – was focused on new technologies like broadcast radio and TV. Jim Kennedy, our chairman, has grown the company’s revenues by more than 10 times since 1988 by investing in and expanding our cable business and seizing on technological advances such as the rapid adoption of the Internet. Lately, we’ve been focused on new technologies that deliver greater speeds and more capacity in our broadband business. We’ve also placed some bets on new ways to grow audiences and place ads in media. And in automotive, we’re pushing our horizons to international markets. It is an exciting time, and I couldn’t be more grateful for the energy and innovative spirit of the women and men of Cox who have kept the company competitive and on the cutting-edge for more than a century.

Q:

Cox has partnered with Techstars and was instrumental in bringing this startup accelerator to Atlanta. What motivated you to pursue that initiative?

A:

A strong healthy company can’t stand alone in the world. We need strong, vibrant cities, filled with talented employees who are motivated to seek new opportunities and push us forward. I’ve always thought Atlanta, the home of our corporate headquarters, should be one of the nation’s leading startup and new business hubs. We should be developing, attracting and keeping entrepreneurs in our city and region. We have a lot of mature Fortune 500 companies – think Coca-Cola, UPS and the Home Depot – but not a big startup scene like Boulder, Austin or Boston. Our investment in Techstars Atlanta and having a strong presence in the innovative scene at Ponce City Market will hopefully jumpstart a healthier startup economy in the city. It’s good for Atlanta; therefore, it’s good for us.

Q:

In addition to deployment of renewable energy technologies across Cox facilities, Cox created Seven Islands Environmental Solutions to invest in green technology projects. What was the impetus for Seven Islands, and where do you see the most exciting opportunities in that business?

A:

Seven Islands was created to be a holding company for our Cox Conserves clean tech investments. We’ve done a review of the opportunities in the sustainability universe – which is massive – and narrowed likely areas of investment down to energy management, water treatment and sustainable agriculture. If the last decade has taught us anything, it’s that in addition to the clear social responsibility benefits, there is a real revenue upside in emerging green technologies. We’re intent on being a significant player in that business – and for all the right reasons. Stay tuned for more to come on that soon.