SEC calls for public companies to disclose climate risks

On Wednesday, in response to petitions from investor and environmental groups (including Environmental Defense Fund), the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) reached a landmark decision to add climate change to the list of business factors that public companies must disclose. The SEC’s new guidance requires companies to consider the risks and opportunities that climate change may present to their business – from potential legislation to severe weather patterns.

Within EDF's Corporate Partnerships Program, we believe that this type of transparency is critical in our efforts to improve corporate environmental performance. Increased transparency around climate opportunities and risks will help firms make more informed investment decisions, and thus, reward companies that have positioned themselves to be cleaner and more competitive in the years to come.

"Investors have a right to know which companies are planning to be part of the clean energy future and which are lagging behind, " said Environmental Defense Fund President Fred Krupp.

It is vital that investors have this information as they make decisions about how to allocate capital, to ensure that funds are getting to the most efficient and innovative companies.

Tom Murray talks Green Returns at Private Equity Conference

On Tuesday, Tom Murray, the managing director overseeing Environmental Defense Fund’s work in the private equity industry, addressed attendees at one of the most visible and well-attended industry conferences, the Dow Jones PE Analyst Outlook 2010 in New York City. Representing the only NGO at the conference, Tom added a unique environmental perspective to the insights of his fellow panelists.

In his opening remarks, Tom said that he’s seeing a universal acceptance that financial engineering alone isn’t enough anymore and that going forward, multiple tools will be needed to create value, including a growing focus on operational improvement. In fact, an article in last week’s FT online called the growing demand for operations professionals one of the most significant shifts in the PE sector last year. Co-panelist Chuck Brizius, managing director at THL Partners, said his firm had also recognized the trend and would continue to focus on operational management in 2010.

“The reason we’re here today is looking for new ways to create value. That’s where we think the environment comes in. A focus on environmental performance can create a strategic competitive advantage.”

We know the opportunity is real, because we’ve done it – with impressive results – with Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co. L.P. (KKR), which is now taking it to scale across US and international portfolio.

Our work with KKR is just the beginning; Environmental management can play a vital role in value creation across the industry. As a result of our work with KKR, we have developed a flexible approach for capturing environmental and financial benefits called Green Returns and hope that 2010 is the year that other PE firms adapt the Green Returns approach to their portfolios.

Taken to scale across portfolios, a creative approach to environmental issues can create value by improving due diligence, boosting portfolio company performance, presenting new growth and investment opportunities and building stronger relationships with LPs and other stakeholders.

“The opportunities are already there. What Green Returns provides is a new way to look at performance and provide metrics to help them capture environmental improvements.”

EDFix call #4 afterthoughts: Open Data

EDFix Call #4 – Summary (7:48)
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EDFix Call #4 – Full (43:39)
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On January 11 we talked with Greg Norris and Jeff Rice about the open data requirements and effects of Life Cycle Assessment (LCA).

They are working to aggregate data across supply chains that would help anyone calculate specific sustainability footprints: think beyond carbon footprints to other footprints for the carcinogenic, water-consumption, fossil-fuel and biodiversity effects that different products and processes have. You could envision analyses for safety, living wages, child labor and community impact.

Early LCA efforts took a physicist's perspective, assessing what compounds a particular process leaves as by-products, for example. Now, using Linked Open Data methods from the semantic web, analyses can take other perspectives, such as an economist's.

The natural question to ask is: why would a corporation share openly the raw data of its supply chain? Doesn't that reveal state secrets? One of the keys to corporate collaboration is focusing on the impacts of the supply chains. Read more

Focus on operations – including environmental management – key to results in PE world

An article in Wednesday's Financial Times made the following observation about some fundamental changes afoot in the private equity industry:

"During the credit boom, private equity tended to hire financial wizards. Now, operational experts are in demand as private equity houses fix up companies they own rather than wonder about dividend recaps."

We've observed a similar trend in the private equity sector, and it's good news for both the environment and business in a tough economy.

Increasingly, private equity firms are looking for ways to run leaner and more efficient businesses through a focus on company operations. Read more

Climate Corps Poised for Take-Off

Today, EDF announced the first 20 companies that have signed on to our Climate Corps program for summer 2010.  It’s amazing how far this program has come since we launched it two years ago.

We piloted the program in 2008 with just seven MBA students placed in Bay Area companies. Those students didn’t know what exactly they were in for, and frankly, neither did we.  But together, they found $35 million in savings through energy efficiency.  Even more impressive: the companies actually followed their recommendations. To date, projects that account for 97% of those energy savings have either been achieved or are underway.

Last summer we nearly quadrupled the program, placing 26 fellows in organizations throughout the country. Those Climate Corps fellows helped their host companies identify net operating savings of more than $54 million. These projects could also reduce energy use by more than 160 million kWh a year—enough to power 14,000 homes—and avoid more than 100,000 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions every year.

As Gwen Ruta (vice president corporate partnerships) says, “The rapid growth of Climate Corps speaks volumes about the value it delivers to companies and the real reductions in greenhouse gas emissions it achieves.”

Consider these results: Read more

EDF at the Dow Jones Private Equity Analyst Outlook 2010 Conference

Capitalizing on the momentum of Environmental Defense Fund’s groundbreaking Green Portfolio partnership with leading private equity firm Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co (KKR), we are taking our Private Equity show on the road to one of the most visible and well-attended conferences, the Dow Jones PE Analyst Outlook 2010 in New York City, January 25th – 27th.

The event will include perspectives from elite institutional investors, fund managers and advisors about the major PE investing trends for 2010, including a focus on environmental performance.

Environmental Defense Fund will be the first and only NGO to attend the conference, and Tom Murray will speak on a panel about where investors should focus in 2010.  He’ll introduce attendees to our Green Returns program, an innovative and flexible approach designed to create business and environmental value for the private equity sector that was developed as part of EDF’s partnership with KKR.

Tom's panel will also include speakers from top PE funds 3i, THL and Huntsman Gay, all of which take a hands-on approach to investing in their portfolio companies.

I look forward to hearing what role the top representatives of the private equity sector sees for environmental innovation in 2010 and beyond.  Share your ideas and best practices with us here.

Wanted: Fleet with a Marketer's Eye and a Good Sense of Humor

Vehicle aerodynamics is one of many factors that impact fuel economy. At highway speeds, as much as 65 percent of the fuel a car uses goes to overcoming air resistance. Reducing aerodynamic drag has become an important focus for long-haul trucks, including efforts by Peterbilt and EPA Smartway.

What opportunities are there on the passenger vehicle side?

In this month’s Wired magazine, hypermiler Darin Cosgrove demonstrates a 15 percent improvement in MPG from his homemade vehicle boat tail. His prototype is not the prettiest thing ever, as Darin readily admits (you can see a photo of it here). But he claims the MPG savings are real, which got me thinking. This would be a perfect fit for a small fleet that wanted to make a statement and get noticed. Read more

Influencing Environmental Behaviors for the Better

Ever wonder why some people – who seem to know the right thing to do – don’t do the right thing when asked to take action?

Well, it could be that we’re asking them in the wrong way.

For example, it turns out that saving money is not much of an incentive to take action – but losing money is. In a study conducted by UC Santa Cruz, half of a group of homeowners were told how much per day they would save (50 cents per day) if they weatherized. The other half were told what they would lose (50 cents per day) if they did not weatherize. The result: 150% more people weatherized when told what they would lose.

The principle of scarcity – that people want more when there is less to go around, based on the belief that scarce things are more valuable – comes from Dr. Robert Cialdini, a professor at Arizona State University and expert in the fields of persuasion, compliance and negotiation who has written several books on the topics of influence and persuasion. As shown in the Santa Cruz study, focusing on loss is more effective than focusing on gain.

Some of Dr. Cialdini’s other principles that are useful in trying to effect behavior change: Read more

Where You'll Find Us in January

Tom Murray will be a panelist at The Dow Jones Private Equity Analyst Conference on January 26th in New York City along with Kirk Hourdajian, Audrey Davenport and Julie Stofer from our Corporate Partnerships team.

Previously known as "Unconferences," we're launching a series of events known as Solutions Labs. The first of its kind will be the Solutions Lab 2010 at Duke University on January 28th in Durham, NC. Expect to see Dave Witzel, Greg Andeck and Andrew Hutson.

Also, be sure to check out our EDFix Conference Call Series:

  • #4- Open Data Principles for Sustainability: January 11th featuring Dave Witzel and Andrew Hutson.
  • #5- Will take place on January 25th so stay tuned for more information!

You can find more information and listen to podcasts of previous calls here.

On January 20-22nd in Washington, DC, Kirk Hourdajian will be speaking on a panel titled “Investments for a New Green Economy” at the 10th National Conference on Science, Policy and the Environment.

Look for us at these conferences – and let us know if you’ll be there so we can watch for you as well!

You can always see where we’re going to be – and what conferences we’re watching – on the Innovation Exchange Calendar.