Environmental Change Requires Cultural Change

Last week, I had the pleasure of meeting Kathrin Winkler, chief sustainability officer at EMC Corporation.  EMC had participated in EDF’s Climate Corps last summer and I wanted to get Kathrin’s candid take on how the 10-week internship program – designed to help companies find and implement energy savings – had worked for EMC. We quickly agreed that environmental innovation and leadership is all about organizational change.  Whether from the inside, like Kathrin at EMC, or the outside, like EDF’s partnerships, the key to success is building the environment into the core values of the company.  By that, I don’t mean the words that are on the corporate website but the everyday motivations that really make an organization – and the people in it – tick.

Is it all about the bottom line?  Read more

Calling all Corporate Sustainability Experts – please answer a few short questions

As a recent graduate of Wharton business school with some time on my hands before joining Bain & Co as a consultant in January, I’ve had the good fortune to work for EDF’s Corporate Partnerships Group. I chose to do an externship with EDF because I want to learn more about corporate environmental management, which I see as increasingly relevant in the business community.  Judging from all the headlines surrounding green business practices and the momentum behind a groundbreaking climate bill, it seems that businesses and consumers are finally catching on to the urgency of reducing our impact on the environment.  I am also particularly drawn to EDF’s strategy of partnering with companies to enact environmental change while improving the bottom line.  And I know that the lessons I learn at EDF are useful additions to my toolkit that I will take to Bain, where I will work with companies to solve business problems and achieve operational efficiencies.

One of my projects for CPP is to capture environmental best practices and case studies around key topics for companies, such as data center emissions, fleet efficiency, waste, and water use.  Given the breadth and depth of information on corporate sustainability initiatives (from blog posts to green business news reporting to corporate sustainability reports), it is virtually impossible for one person to do an exhaustive survey of all the content around these topics.  So, I need your help. Read more

A Clockwork Green?

By Russell Baruffi, MBA/MS candidate, Erb Institute for Global Sustainable Enterprise, University of Michigan, 2009 Climate Corps fellow at Sony Pictures Entertainment, Member of Net Impact.

Entertainment, which seems like a fairly harmless indulgence from your a movie theatre or your couch, turns out to be remarkably wasteful and resource-intensive industry. Working for Sony Pictures this summer, I got to dig in onto the sets. A movie can make millions or it can flop, so the industry spares no incremental expense or resource to create the marginal extra pizzazz that will spellbind an audience. For the climactic scene of an upcoming big-budget tent-pole movie, I saw film-makers build a fake riverbed of wood, steel and foam block stretching five stories tall, which they sculpted into a downward sloping terrain with a realistic skin of trees, bushes, bamboo and boulders, and proceeded to pump 80 thousand gallons of water over it in a continuous loop to create an actual river on the set. In the biz of show biz, millions of extra dollars spent making a two-minute scene really pop can be good economics, so energy, water and resource throughput is big.

This leaves lots of room for improvement. Read more

Sustainability Professionals: Research Shows You're Not Alone

Sustainability Director, CSR Manager, Chief Innovation Officer, EHS Specialist, Environmental Affairs VP…  The list of titles of experts working on corporate environmental innovation goes on and on.

The good news about this diversity of positions? There’s serious growth opportunity in this sector, and companies are looking for varied skill sets to meet their needs around sustainability.

The tough news? There’s no set roadmap for companies to follow in an effort to design and implement a successful sustainability strategy. In fact, many of us working in this space are hungry for clear, concise information on how to tackle the sustainability challenge in a cost- and time-effective way.

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Environmental Innovation: The Investment that Keeps on Paying

Last week, we teamed up with private equity leader General Atlantic to share our thoughts about the range of returns – cost savings, growth and brand enhancement – that environmental innovation can deliver to companies of all sizes and sectors.  General Atlantic is a leading global growth equity firm providing capital and strategic support for growth companies.  The firm manages $14 billion in capital and since their inception, has invested in more than 200 companies, including Lenovo, Altair, Zagat and dozens of others.

Our article titled “Environmental innovation:  The investment that keeps on paying” is featured as the “CEO Topic” in General Atlantic’s December newsletter (copied below). Read more

Abbott Continues to Reduce Fleet Emissions

It’s been remarkable to watch the development of Abbott Labs as a leader in reducing emissions from its corporate fleet. Fleet Financials profiles Abbott’s efforts in this month’s edition. Environmental Defense Fund began working with Abbott in 2006. They were a client of PHH Arval, with whom we were developing the industry’s first comprehensive greenhouse gas emissions management program.  Abbott was the ideal company to pilot the new project: it has a large fleet of mainly passenger vehicles, an existing corporate-wide commitment to reduce emissions and is seen as a leader in the fleet industry.

Together with PHH, we worked with Abbott to establish a greenhouse gas emissions baseline and a plan for incorporating more efficient vehicles into the company’s fleet. Read more

Innovation: Not Just for Big Businesses

Bestselling non-fiction author Jared Diamond wrote a compelling piece in Sunday's New York Times about the pivotal role that big business can play in helping solve our global environmental challenges. Mentioning the promising work of corporate giants like Walmart (also a partner of EDF), Diamond outlines how businesses that embrace environmental innovation can cut costs, create new markets and markedly improve their reputation.

This all rings true and is core to our work with business here at EDF – with one clarifying point. While market leaders like Walmart can set the stage for industry-wide transformation, environmental innovation comes in all shapes and sizes — from start-up companies to Fortune 100s and everything in between. Read more

The Future of Dealmaking at The Deal Economy 2010 Conference

Economic challenges frequently uncover hidden opportunities for businesses.  While the current economic crisis has created turbulence for the private equity industry, many opportunities remain for the leading players who will emerge from our present chapter and redefine a new era in future dealmaking.

This was the central discussion topic at The Deal Economy 2010 Private Equity Conference which I attended in New York City, on November 18th and 19th. Read more

Corporate Fleets Continue to Innovate for Emission Reductions

Companies have many tools available for them to reduce emissions from their fleet vehicles. The most effective programs for reducing emissions leverage multiple tools and achieve cost and emission reductions.

Novo Nordisk, Poland Springs and Carrier are demonstrating that driving less, selecting more efficient vehicles, and choosing lower-carbon fuel sources are bedrock principles of the greenhouse gas management approach EDF has long advocated for corporate fleets to utilize.

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