Three Steps to Help Make Energy Efficiency an Institutional Priority

By Stuart DeCew, 2010 EDF Climate Corps fellow at RBS/ Citizens Financial Group, Joint degree MBA/MEM candidate at Yale School of Management and Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies, Yale University, Member of Net Impact


Consider the following scenario: the office building you sit in is a LEED gold certified building and continuously wins awards from state and local agencies for environmental leadership and design. Owners of low emissions vehicles and carpoolers are given preferential parking spots in the garage. Trees are planted in the interior of the building. The facility is a few hundred feet from a train station and bus depot. The cafeteria composts a majority of its food waste, and every workspace is designed to receive as much natural light as possible. Sounds like a nice place to go to work, right?

In my first two weeks as an EDF Climate Corps fellow at RBS/Citizens Financial Group in Stamford, CT, I’ve stepped off a train every morning and walked less than two blocks to a sunny, airy, pleasant workplace which includes all of those features.  So everyday this summer, I will come to work with a smile on my face (enjoying the extra productivity from working in natural light), open up an Excel workbook, pick up the phone and search for the people and ideas that can help make this vision of workplace transformation a reality. In my (albeit brief) experience, three simple ideas have made the process easier. Read more

Creating Change above the Line – A Talk with Peter Senge

EDF’s Corporate Partnerships team was just treated to some mind-expanding thinking at our annual retreat, courtesy of Peter Senge.  Peter is a senior lecturer at MIT, author of the widely-read systems-thinking book, The Fifth Discipline, founding Chairman of the Society for Organizational Learning, and recently the author of The Necessary Revolution, an in-depth study on how individuals and organizations can successfully work together to create a sustainable world.

Peter began by sharing the birth story of the Quality Management Revolution, fathered by W. Edwards Deming in the 1950s. Deming first successfully pushed  his transformational ideas into Japan’s business culture, resulting in the implementation of Japanese quality programs that later were emulated by American car companies.  And while these quality programs had an overall positive effect on car companies, in Deming’s mind these initiatives never led to fundamental change that could truly revolutionize future ways of thinking and operating. They never created change “above the line” – that is, truly fundamental change.

Our discussion with Peter was centered on a two by two matrix that simplifies a way to broadly assess companies’ sustainability efforts. Along the x-axis, efforts are scaled by the level of internal versus external control necessary to make that effort possible. Is the effort an internal one to the company or does it require cooperation from governments, other companies and/or associations? The y-axis rates the timescale of the effort. The upper quadrants imply long-term efforts and those that fall beneath the x-axis imply short term actions. A solution for a more long-term problem will fall higher on the y-axis in contrast to a quick-fix, which would drop below the x-axis.

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Climbing to the Peak of Organizational Efficiency at Cummins

By Margaret Rudolph, 2010 EDF Climate Corps fellow at Cummins, MBA candidate at Mason School of Business, College of William and Mary, Member of Net Impact

In rock climbing, both muscle power and endurance training make up a successful climb. An accomplished climber can climb for extended periods of time without forgoing efficiency. That same level of endurance is needed for a successful climb to a stable, organization-wide energy efficiency program.

Each company that hires an EDF Climate Corps fellow through Environmental Defense Fund is at a different point of its energy efficiency climb. I am currently completing my EDF Climate Corps fellowship at Cummins, an organization that is quite far along in implementing energy efficiency as part of its policies and forward-looking strategy.  The participating companies of EPA’s Climate Leaders program formalized these efforts with a commitment to reduce 25 percent of the greenhouse gas emissions below 2005 levels by 2010.

Over the past few years, Cummins has implemented a solid, self-developed employee training program called “Energy Champions” and created a number of initiatives to promote an energy efficient mindset among its employees. Frequent awareness campaigns target the entire employee population with top leadership presenting ideas on topics from water conservation to DIY building envelope evaluation. There is currently an ongoing process to transfer localized success into the broader scope of company culture. Read more

Do CEOs Care About Energy Efficiency? The C-Level View of Sustainability

By Emily Martin, 2010 EDF Climate Corps fellow at SAP, MBA candidate at Kenan-Flagler School of Business, University of North Carolina and MEM candidate at Nicholas School of the Environment, Duke University, Member of Net Impact

Twenty-five hundred companies report to the Carbon Disclosure Project, 195 have made aggressive sustainability commitments and over 10,000 corporate facilities are in the pipeline for LEED certification.  Given this increased focus on environmental performance, you might expect the C-Suite to work closely with their facilities managers to track progress.  However, 80 percent of facilities professionals report having no formal plan for managing energy use — leaving literally 1 trillion dollars on the table, according to a McKinsey study.

Fortunately the company for which I am working, SAP, does not fall in that camp.  In my first week as an EDF Climate Corps fellow, I attended “The C-Level View of Facilities Management,” a panel discussion hosted by SAP, the Facility Manager Larry Morgan and the International Facilities Management Association.  Speakers were Peter Graf, CSO of SAP; Maisie Greenawalt, VP of Marketing at Bon Appétit; and Scott Pine, CFO of Fenwick & West.  The panel outlined the journey from an early 90s “environmental initiatives as compliance avoidance” attitude to a more modern focus on corporate KPIs (key performance indicators) that are grounded in societal, environmental and financial benefit. Read more

The Green Portfolio Project achieves $160 million in savings after two years

Earlier this month, private equity leader Kohlberg, Kravis and Roberts (KKR) and EDF announced the updated program results for the partnership that Environmental Defense Fund helped jumpstart in 2008 – The Green Portfolio Program – that harnesses environmental management and innovation to improve the financial and environmental performance of KKR’s portfolio companies. The results from the eight reporting portfolio companies– Accellent, Biomet, Dollar General, HCA, PRIMEDIA, Sealy Corp., SunGard and U.S. Foodservice – are impressive; combined, the companies have saved more than $160 million in operating costs and eliminated more than 345,000 metric tons of CO2 emissions, 1.2 million tons of waste and 8,500 tons of paper use.

Launched in 2008 with three pilot companies, U.S. Foodservice, Sealy and PRIMEDIA, the program delivered impressive financial and environmental results in the first year, with combined savings of $16.4 million. This led KKR to include five more portfolio companies in the program in 2009, and the savings outlined below clearly demonstrate the value creation opportunities that can result from better environmental management:

These results even exceeded the most optimistic expectations EDF had for the program.  More importantly, these results illustrate that improving companies’ environmental performance can yield meaningful financial benefits and competitive advantage, in addition to the environmental benefits. Through initiatives ranging from efficient fleet routing to material waste reduction through optimized manufacturing processes, these companies are uncovering opportunities to save money and reduce environmental impact across their value chains. Our website illustrates the specific company initiatives and their plans for expansion. Read more

Tapping into the Next Wave of Start-Ups: The Software Side of Energy Efficiency

By Megan Rast, 2010 EDF Climate Corps fellow at eBay Inc., MBA candidate at Haas School of Business, University of California, Berkeley, Member of Net Impact

While working at eBay Inc. as an EDF Climate Corps fellow, I have taken up the challenge to make the business case for energy efficiency and carbon reduction initiatives within the internet company.  Hence, the reason I was so keen on attending an event last week called “The Software Side of Energy Efficiency,” hosted by MIT/Stanford Venture Lab.

Only in Silicon Valley, can one guarantee that such an event will draw a packed auditorium – a perfect storm of venture capitalists, cleantech enthusiasts, entrepreneurs and software engineers that work and live in one of the greenest energy states in the U.S.  It was a formidable crowd not to be underestimated.

But underestimate, we did.  The panelists were surprised when a quick poll of which audience members had checked their energy usage in the past 6 months yielded 10 times the usual number. Read more

EDFix Call #15: Fuel choices for today’s lower-carbon companies

Mike Millikin

The fuel choice for a vehicle is a critical factor determining its greenhouse gas emissions. The potential of low-carbon fuels has driven a lot of attention to the space over the past several years. As more vehicles that can operate on alternative fuels become available, companies are exploring which ones make sense for their companies. Additionally, much effort is going into making the next generation of these fuels.

For the next call in the Environmental Defense Fund series exploring opportunities to cut greenhouse gas emissions from corporate fleets, we will survey the current and near-term landscape for fuels. Leading this discussion will be Mike Millikin, founder and editor of Green Car Congress (GCC), who was also our guest for Electrifying Corporate Fleets. From his perch at GCC, Mike observes the daily developments of this market.

The call is on June 28th at 12pm ET.  To join, call:

* Phone number: +1 (213) 289-0500
* Code: 267-6815

We look forward to having you join us in this conversation.

Going for the Green: Climate Corps Fellow Aims to Change American Energy Statistics at Verizon

By Ryan Mallett, 2010 EDF Climate Corps fellow at Verizon Communications, MBA candidate at Smeal College of Business, Pennsylvania State University , Member of Net Impact

While millions of people spent the weekend watching PGA golfers go for the green at Pebble Beach, or World Cup players chase a soccer ball across the green in South Africa, I began a search for a different kind of green. You know – the kind of green that you put in your wallet. I recently began my EDF Climate Corps fellowship with Verizon in search of energy efficiency savings that could provide the kind of green we all understand. It is also the kind of green that adds to the planet’s bank account instead of draining it.

After an extensive training from EDF on the best practices of corporate energy efficiency, I approached Verizon’s LEED certified offices in Basking Ridge, NJ ready to make a positive contribution to the bottom line. I knew that my task at hand would not be easy, since Verizon has already made significant energy efficiency improvements over the past decade, earning awards and recognition for their efforts. I found myself looking up at the lighting fixtures, checking to see when the lights were on in conference rooms and looking for occupancy sensors in the bathrooms. Often times, energy savings comes from asking simple questions like “Why do you do it that way?” or “What if we tried a different approach?”

Although energy efficiency represents a huge opportunity, I’m aware that it is not “top of mind” for most businesses and consumers. It does not involve new or exotic forms of energy that require a PhD in physics to decipher. However, energy efficiency represents the largest, cheapest and cleanest energy source for our energy-hungry economy. According to Mckinsey, the potential energy savings from existing energy efficiency measures is estimated at $1.2 trillion through 2020, which translates into 23% of our projected energy demand. As an added benefit, we don’t have to worry about it spilling. Read more

Can we afford sustainability? If the answer is yes, how do we get there?

There is a growing trend among business schools that are turning their attention to the role that the environment plays in corporate strategy. In light of that trend, the Yale School of Management recently published the spring edition of their Magazine, Qn, dedicated entirely to answering the question: “Can we afford Sustainability?”. When Yale shared this question with alumni months ago, I jumped at the opportunity to write about our work in EDF’s Corporate Partnerships Program. Check out the feature that resulted — “Where are the Win-Wins?” — describing our partnership with private equity leader, Kohlberg Kravis & Roberts.

While the entire magazine presents articles and interviews that offer a resounding “yes” to the question posed above – “Can we afford sustainability?” –the distance between where we are now and where we need to go can still feel overwhelming. Joel Makower recently wrote in his environmental blog,, that at the current rate of change we won’t see absolute emissions reductions until 2030. This implies that the private sector’s contributions to-date in addressing climate change have only made a dent in the overall reductions needed to stabilize the climate. What remain illusive are the pathways for the private sector to finance and execute the transition to a more sustainable economy at scale.

We think our work in Corporate Partnerships addresses this challenge head on by creating pathways to help get us to a scale that matters, faster. Our work with Wal-Mart is helping to develop strategies to transform thousands of supply chains around the world. The EDF Climate Corps program is putting in place the infrastructure needed to overcome organizational barriers to capturing energy efficiency by training MBA students and sending them to leading companies around the country. And the Innovation Exchange is focused on developing information platforms to disseminate best practices and thought leadership across the private sector. What all of our projects in the Corporate Partnerships Program have in common is the fact that they are building compelling evidence that we can afford sustainability and that our strategies, if taken to scale, will add up to real change. Read more

The Case of the Bottom Line: EDF Climate Corps fellow investigates energy usage at VivaKi

By Tracy Liu, 2010 EDF Climate Corps Fellow at VivaKi, MBA candidate at Graziadio School of Business and Management, Pepperdine University, Net Impact Chapter President

EDF Climate Corps Fellowship: One week down, nine more exciting weeks to go!

How do I feel after my first week, you ask? To be honest… I feel like Sherlock Holmes.

It has been nearly a month since the Climate Corps training in San Francisco, where I joined 24 of this year’s 51 Climate Corps fellows to get down to the nitty gritty of energy efficiency. I walked away from the training with a sense of excitement, ready to take on energy efficiency at the VivaKi (Publicis Groupe) offices in New York City. Armed with my EDF handbook, I was ready to hit the ground running in the Big Apple.

From training, I learned that lighting retrofits, HVAC upgrades and employee engagement are all important aspects to keep in mind when making the case for energy efficiency. My job was to investigate. Like any good detective, I started asking questions. This initial list of questions with which I broke the ice may prove helpful as a starting point for other companies looking to tackle the curious case of the missing energy budget.

I questioned the lighting.

  • What upgrades have been made to the lighting in the last 3-5 years?
  • Are there any official lighting policies (e.g. are the lights dimmed after a certain time)?
  • Are the lights on when rooms are unoccupied? Read more