It's CLEAR: EDF Climate Corps fellow banks on sustainability at Bank of America

By Anne Marie Pippin, EDF Climate Corps Fellow at Bank of America, MBA Candidate at Terry College of Business, University of Georgia, Member of Net Impact

As my fellowship with Bank of America has recently drawn to a close, it’s a great time to reflect on my experience this summer as an EDF Climate Corps fellow spending my summer at the nation’s largest financial institution.

As a first time participant of the EDF Climate Corps program, I knew that expectations were high for the target findings of my summer project. These high expectations coupled with Bank of America’s impressive track record of environmental stewardship and innovation in energy efficiency, led to a ten-week experience unlike any other for a business student seeking a career in corporate sustainability.

Let’s first start with what Bank of America is currently doing in the energy efficiency space.  In 2007, Bank of America announced a ten year, $20 billion environmental business commitment to address climate change through lending, investing products and services, and its own operations.

As part of this commitment, $1.4 billion was allocated toward achieving LEED certification for all new construction, meeting the U.S. Green Building Council’s highest environmental standards for design and construction.  An additional $100 million was pledged for energy conservation measures, such as installing energy-efficient lighting and HVAC systems for bank facilities.

This past summer I worked with the Environmental Risk and Sustainability Team, which is responsible for ensuring that compliance and sustainability procedures are integrated into the bank’s real estate practices at every level.  Bank of America maintains a corporate real estate portfolio that is second in the nation only to Walmart (currently around 124 million sq. ft.).  Because of this, the team utilizes a multi-faceted approach to ensure Bank of America’s corporate real estate environmental goals are carried out daily in a practical and effective manner.

The Environmental Risk and Sustainability Team’s overall vision is guided by the acronym CLEAR, which stands for:

  • C – Compliance
  • L – LEED Certification
  • E – Emissions Reductions
  • A – Avoiding Toxics
  • R – Resource Conservation & Education

Within this impressive framework, energy efficiency project identification and environmental innovation already exist as a standard management practice. I was not surprised when Bank of America redirected my goals from identifying energy efficiency projects within existing facilities, as a number of my colleagues in the EDF Climate Corps program had, to a different project that aligned with the company’s vision for sustainability.  I was asked to evaluate and recommend green, sustainable options for sites needing remediation within Bank of America’s real estate portfolio. While remediation itself is inherently green, the process of cleaning up such sites can be resource intensive and leave a significant “environmental footprint” of its own.  I was asked to evaluate various innovations in treatment technologies, waste disposal, energy generation and cleaner burning transportation fuels. My goal was to create a number of opportunities to make the remediation process more sustainable and efficient.

Looking back to when I presented my financial analysis and recommendations to corporate leadership, I was energized to think about how  my relatively brief period of time with the company will impact environmental policy and operational decision-making at Bank of America moving forward.

On a larger scale, its exhilarating to think about how the collective experience of all 51 EDF Climate Corps fellows will contribute not only to the identification of energy efficiency cost savings (which totaled, a not too shabby, $350 million this summer), but more broadly towards shaping corporate triple-bottom-line policy at some of the country’s largest companies.  With the EDF Climate Corps program experiencing a seven-fold increase in participation since its inception in 2008, its an exciting time to observe how the powerful results of this program  impact corporate America, contributing to operational efficiencies and the promise of a more sustainable world for future generations.

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