Filling Big Shoes at SunGard: A Green Technology Giant

By Rich Tesler, 2010 EDF Climate Corps fellow at SunGard Data Systems Inc., MA candidate at Steinhardt, New York University, Member of Net Impact

In New York City, there is no debating the summer of 2010 is a scorcher.  When the thermometer is forced to use its third digit, it is difficult to think about life without the air conditioner blasting.  As an EDF Climate Corps fellow working at SunGard Data Systems Inc., I have been thinking of nothing else but identifying and building business cases for reducing A/C usage.  In other words, I am on the hunt for energy efficiency projects with a high return on investment at SunGard.


Big Shoes

It was apparent from the beginning that I had some work to do as a Climate Corps fellow at SunGard.  Ryan Whisnant, Climate Corps  – class of 2009, had recently joined SunGard full time as the director of sustainability. Clearly, Ryan had accomplished some impressive things during his fellowship.

Long Strides

In addition, SunGard has not been standing idle on the subject of sustainability.  In 2008, SunGard UK achieved its ISO 14001 certification, an internationally recognized standard providing guidance on good environmental management practice. In 2009, the company’s Swedish datacenter was recognized by Coromatic, a leader in physical IT security, with the Green Data Center of The Year Award.

On the Shoulders of Giants

In addition, SunGard is a private company that is partially owned by Kohlberg, Kravis and Roberts (KKR).  KKR, in partnership with EDF, has created a progressive initiative called the Green Portfolio Program, to “harness innovation and improve financial and environmental performance of KKR’s portfolio companies.”  As part of this program, SunGard has avoided 20,700 metric tons of GHG emissions and $3.8 million of avoided costs.

Following in Ryan’s footsteps and leveraging KKR’s knowledge and best practices have been a huge benefit.  Ryan’s detailed work on SunGard’s office headquarters has proved the value of energy efficiency and paved the way for pushing energy efficiency out further across the entire office portfolio footprint.

KKR’s involvement helps in multiple ways. Perhaps most importantly, it helps clear one of the big hurdles of energy efficiency – return on investment.  As a leading private equity firm, KKR is in the business of creating return on investment, and their commitment to energy efficiency is strong evidence in the potential for high ROI returns for projects in this area.

Here I stand, with big shoes to fill, long strides to follow and giant shoulders on which to perch.


Because of the big strides already made at SunGard and the support from management and KKR, my work plan is both ambitious and diversified.  To wit, I am focused on commercial office space and data center efficiency. While seeking energy efficiency opportunities in these areas, I have taken the following approaches:

  • Using criteria for targeting office spaces

As I mentioned before, I am leveraging the work done last summer to target specific SunGard facilities for energy efficiency projects.  Specific primary screening criteria have helped SunGard narrow the focus from hundreds of facilities and zoom the lens on the 25 most attractive candidates. These criteria will capture:

  1. The largest facilities
  2. The locations paying the highest electricity prices
  3. The leases that detail direct energy meters
  • Laying the ground work, one data center at a time

SunGard is very active in pushing best practice in data centers.  However, the experience of one business unit does not necessarily translate directly to another business unit.  Similar to last summer’s work at a single office facility, which subsequently led to an analysis across the broader office portfolio, I am trying to help prove the energy efficiency concept in data centers.  I am hoping that by focusing on one facility and illustrating the potential of data center energy efficiency, I will be able to set the ground work for broader application.

  • The primary lesson that stands above the rest: Proving the concept

My learning curve this summer has been parabolic. I have learned many things about energy efficiency and its barriers. While evaluating an entire portfolio or system is ideal, there is enormous value in getting started either with a pilot project or at a single facility.   Both my experience and what I have observed about the process at SunGard have shown me that momentum will go a long way to proving the energy efficiency concept and breaking down barriers.


The heat of the summer and the hum of our air conditioners are merely convenient reminders that it takes a lot of energy to make the world go ‘round.  As I delve deeper into my summer work plan, I am amazed by both the opportunities and the hurdles that are associated with energy efficiency projects.  The good news is that the opportunities are wearing big shoes, taking long strides and are standing tall like giants, which seems ideal for clearing hurdles.

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One comment

  • Fantastic project, Rich. Forgive me, but as you know, I've always got an idea or two at hand: Have you thought about ice for AC? Bob Fox, one of the architects of the Bank of America Tower, is very enthusiastic about ice's performance there, and thinks it's do-able anywhere. What about ground source heat pumps? Drill, baby, drill.

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