EDFix Call #11: Light-duty fleets: The next ten years

Companies have made significant strides over the past several years in reducing greenhouse gas emissions from their vehicle fleets. Most of the reductions we have seen have come from right-sizing efforts, such as moving from a 6 cylinder engine to a 4 cylinder one. Other efforts, such as adopting fuel-smart driving behaviors, are starting to catch on too. Still, there are a lot of emissions left to cut.

Environmental Defense Fund is hosting a call series to explore opportunities to cut greenhouse gas emissions from fleets. Please join us for the next call in our series when we will look out over the coming years and ask: What opportunities remain for fleets to reduce ghg emissions? What are fleets doing today and what strategies are up-and-coming? What barriers to do we need to tear down to reduce ghg emissions?  Leading this discussion will be Jim Motavalli, a regular contributor to the New York Times Wheels blog, BNet, and the Mother Nature Network among many other sites.

The call is on May 3rd at 12pm Eastern time. To join, call:

Phone number: +1 (213) 289-0500

Code: 267-6815 Read more

How can clean energy investment help solve the Greek financial crisis?

Last week, Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou asked to activate a financial lifeline for his struggling country, requesting as much as 45 billion euros ($60 billion) in aide from the European Union and the International Monetary Fund. It will take time for Greece to get back on its financial feet, and the ripple effects of this crisis are being felt in European capitals from London to Berlin.

Beyond the difficult and immediate impacts this will have on the citizens and businesses in Greece and elsewhere, as an environmentalist, I’m also wondering what it will mean for the EU member states’ commitment to cut emissions 80% below 1990 levels by 2050?

A new report – authored by the European Climate Foundation with technical and economic analysis by Imperial College London, KEMA, Oxford Economics, McKinsey & Company, E3G and the Energy Research Centre of the Netherlands – has some surprising answers.  The analysis, called Roadmap 2050, found that in each of the low or no carbon pathways it examined, projected electricity costs are comparable to costs using current carbon-intensive infrastructure.  In other words, we can either cut our carbon footprint and mitigate environmental impacts or not, for the same price! Read more

Solutions Labs 2010: Accelerating Green Innovation at Events Around the Country

Leading-edge businesses such as IBM, GE, KKR, Walmart and many others are tackling environmental sustainability head on. They are finding profit and spurring innovation by looking through the "green lens" of environmental sustainability. Both business and the environment need more of this thinking from more people in more organizations in more sectors.

The Solutions Labs 2010 are to here to help.  This series of one-day events, kicking off on May 21 in New York City (hosted by Bloomberg), will bring together leading thinkers and "doers" from business, academia and a myriad of organizations to explore the next generation of business sustainability – one in which we can grow profits and positive benefits for the planet.

The Solutions Labs are the version 2.0 of last year's "Green Innovation for Business Unconferences" held in Washington DC, Boston, San Jose and Austin. An even more diverse and interesting mix of partners are coming together to produce this year's series:  Ashoka, Dig In, Environmental Defense Fund, GreenBiz.com, Net Impact, the Society for Organizational Learning, and Sony Pictures, among others.

The organizers (this blogger included) have grand aspirations for growing the Solutions Labs into an incubator for big ideas. (Think a TED Conference for innovators in the environmentally-sustainable business space.)  While that vision may take another year to two to come into focus, what we can promise now is a highly interactive and engaging gathering decidedly different from other green business conference. Read more

Private Equity as 'Environmental Crusaders?' The Times They Are a-Changin'

This is a guest post by Ian Bailey, Managing Partner of Capital C Partners, a strategic communications firm.

What do mattress maker Sealy Corp., discount retailer Dollar General and consumer guides publisher PRIMEDIA  all have in common?  They’re all private equity-owned and have adopted new, environmentally sound business practices delivering millions of dollars in annual savings.

Given the turbulent ride the financial services sector has endured over the past few years it seems counter-intuitive that anyone in the sector would be devoting special attention to environmental matters. The private equity industry has been beset with multiple issues, including constrained access to capital, overleveraged portfolio companies, a paucity of public market exits, the tax treatment of carried interest under scrutiny and growing calls by LPs for greater transparency. So it would seem the industry is a particularly unlikely candidate for embracing new thinking on environmental matters. However, that’s precisely what has happened. Read more

Make every day Earth Day

Today is Earth Day, but the idea of living an environmentally-conscious lifestyle doesn’t have to begin and end with what you do today.  Even though the media loves Earth Day, today shouldn't be the only day we think about the environmental impacts of what we do both professionally and personally.

Colin Beavan, aka "No Impact Man," sets a good example – and provides good resources – for all of us.  For those of you familiar with Beavan's documentary No Impact Man, you know about his attempts cut down his family’s environmental footprint to as close to zero as possible (and if you’re not familiar with the film, you can easily get up to speed: watch the trailer or watch it on Netflix instant streaming).  In the film, you see Beavan run through a broad spectrum of environmental experiments from composting to installing solar panels on his roof and everything in between.

The idea of living an environmentally-conscious lifestyle doesn’t have to begin and end with Earth Day. Beavan has lots of ideas for doing this year-round on his frequently-updated No Impact Project site, where you can find a list of iPhone apps that can help you form ‘no impact’ habits (including recycling, carpooling and organic shopping). You can also sign up to receive a “how-to manual” that will send you ideas on how to get through the week by being green, along with other great tips. Read more

The Future of Corporate-NGO Partnerships: Insights from the Fortune 500

Last week, we hosted an intimate lunch at the Fortune Brainstorm Green conference in Laguna Niguel to get the perspective of Fortune 500 firms on the future of Corporate-NGO Partnerships.

Our Vice President of Corporate Partnerships, Gwen Ruta, kicked off the lunchtime conversation with an interesting insight: “20 years ago [when we partnered with McDonald’s], it was heresy that an NGO would partner with a company.  Nowadays, nearly every large business has an NGO engagement strategy.  Could it be that tomorrow’s heresy is that companies share environmental innovations and best practices with each other to solve environmental problems?”

This probing question elicited some really astute ideas from the lunch attendees, and was too rich to include every detail here, but here’s a snapshot of some great comments that emerged on ways that Environmental Defense Fund might scale its impact:

  • “The key is to determine which areas of sustainability are truly competitive and which can be shared openly amongst companies.  For example, if key green technologies are expensive, it’s to the benefit of all companies to work together to bring down those costs.” Read more

Five barriers to energy efficiency savings – and how smart companies can overcome them

Here’s a business conundrum for you: energy efficiency saves serious money, cuts carbon pollution, requires low tech solutions, and is a known quotient, having been around since the 1970s. So why are so many companies still not taking the necessary steps to identify and eliminate these inefficiencies?

“What we learned in Econ 101 doesn’t hold true when it comes to energy efficiency – the notion of perfect markets, where information flows freely and people are maximizing their value,” notes Environmental Defense Fund’s Gwen Ruta. “Instead, it’s as if companies across the globe are walking around with a hole in their pocket with coins dribbling out nonstop.”

How is it that smart companies who are vigilant about monitoring the bottom line, stock price, customer satisfaction and much more let this wasteful “dribbling” occur?  This question launched a robust discussion at a Fortune Brainstorm Green session last week titled “A Trillion Dollar Opportunity: The Hunt for Energy Efficiency.” Gwen Ruta was joined on the panel by Gretchen Hancock, Project Manager for Corporate Environmental Programs at GE; Bill Weihl, Google’s Green Energy Czar and Beth Trask, Deputy Director of EDF’s Innovation Exchange.  GE and Google have made huge strides around energy efficiencies in past years, with still more work to do on the horizon and still some barriers of their own to break down.

So what are the main barriers to energy efficiency and how can companies try to overcome them? Read more

Not just kids' play any more: TSCA reform gets serious

Richard Denison, Ph.D., is a Senior Scientist for Environmental Defense Fund's Health program.

Today, at long last, legislation to reform the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) hit the streets. A bill, the Safe Chemicals Act of 2010, was introduced by Senator Lautenberg in the U.S. Senate. And just to keep things interesting and all of us on our toes, Congressmen Rush and Waxman today released the Toxic Chemicals Safety Act of 2010 that is similar but not identical and is in the form of a discussion draft, rather than a bill.

It’s been a long road to get here, but of course this is only the end of the beginning.

EDF and the Safer Chemicals Healthy Families coalition support the new legislative language and believe it includes most of the elements needed to move our outdated and broken chemical safety system into the 21st century. We also will be seeking improvements in several areas as the bill moves forward.

For our coalition's initial perspective on the positive aspects as well as some of the shortcomings of the legislative proposals, see the news release we issued today. We will also soon be posting an analysis that aligns the bill’s and discussion draft’s provisions with the planks of our platform, and I’ll provide an update with a link here. Read more

The Cost-Saving Potential of Renewable Energy

EDF’s Renewable Energy Specialist Colin Meehan recently examined a scenario about how the mix of wind, coal, and natural gas affects Austin’s energy costs. The post is pretty technical for the lay reader, but it makes the case for investment in renewable energy as a key cost-saving measure:

Whether greenhouse gas regulations from the EPA or Congress, we now know that they are coming within the next year.  This fact makes past and future Austin Energy's investments in renewable energy an important cost-saving measure for Austinites as fossil fuel generation costs continue to increase for a number of reasons. Read more

Use Night-Vision Goggles to Uncover Innovations through Sustainability

This morning, I spoke on a panel called “Driving Innovation Through Sustainability” at the Fortune Brainstorm Green conference.  Given that the panel was held at the eye-popping hour of 8 AM, it’s testament to the topic that the room was overflowing.  Or perhaps the draw was my fellow panelists – Matt Kistler, Senior Vice President of Sustainability for Walmart, Rick Rommel, Senior Vice President for Emerging Business at Best Buy and  Scott Elrod, Vice President of the Hardware Systems Laboratory at the Palo Alto Research Center – and our moderator, Roger Ballentine, President of Green Strategies.

Roger started us off by saying that a sustainability agenda can act like a pair of night-vision goggles, helping corporate managers and executives find innovation where they couldn’t see it before. That certainly resonated with me – I’ve seen that pattern over and over again in the companies with which we work.  In fact, I’m often asked of our partners, “Why did they need you to find an innovation that’s clearly good for their business?”  I think it’s because in many ways Environmental Defense Fund provides those night-vision goggles Roger was talking about, bringing a new green lens to business as usual. Read more