Who knew trucks could get VIP? Voucher Incentive Program, that is

Hopefully, you remember our blog post from last year about the Hybrid Truck and Bus Voucher Incentive Program (HVIP) that California had begun. Now in its second year, California is committing an additional $19 million to the effort. Started under the California Air Resources Board (CARB), the program provides vouchers on a first-come, first-served basis to help companies within the state purchase medium- and heavy-duty hybrid vehicles.

In its first year, HVIP was able to get more than 650 hybrid vehicles on the road – this year it hopes to do more. The launch date for vouchers this year was February 15th, but there is still time to sign up! Fleets can reserve up to $40,000 through participating truck dealerships.

For more details, go to the HVIP website at http://www.californiahvip.org.

Future of Green Call Monday: Phone Number Change

Aron Cramer, President and CEO of Business for Social Responsibility, will join us for a Future of Green Open Conference Call on February 28 at 1:30 p.m. ET (10:30 a.m. PT) to talk about his recent book Sustainable Excellence: The Future of Business in a Fast-Changing World. (To whet your interest, here are my 3 Take-aways from the book.)

We're coordinating this call with Jerry Michalski's weekly Yi-Tan Community call and will be using the Yi-Tan call-in line.  Thus, please join us at:

Date:    Monday, February 28, 2011
Time:    10:30 a.m. PT, 1:30 p.m. ET
Dial-in Number: 1-270-400-1500
Participant Access Code: 778778

Can Open Innovation Save the Planet?

Imagine if you could tap the brainpower of proven innovators from around the globe to help your company create its next business breakthrough and enhance its environmental record. Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) announced today that it is teaming up with InnoCentive, a global leader in crowdsourced innovation, to help companies do just that through a new Eco-Challenge Series to accelerate green innovation in business.

Breakthrough ideas can–and often do–emerge from bringing a new and diverse perspective to a familiar problem. Having that "fresh set of eyes" is one way that EDF has been able to catalyze and spread environmental innovations like redesigned packaging with McDonald's, hybrid trucks with FedEx, and next-generation solar technology with Walmart.

The folks at InnoCentive have taken this idea–that diversity of thought yields better outcomes–into the 21st century. Recognized as a global pioneer in Challenge Driven Innovation, InnoCentive's web-based platform and methodology help organizations formulate their most intractable problems, and gives over 200,000 entrepreneurs, inventors and scientists around the world the chance to solve them. With the likes of Eli Lilly, NASA, Procter & Gamble, and The Rockefeller Foundation using the platform, it's redefining the innovation process.

InnoCentive's unique approach to innovation is already solving tough environmental problems. The Oil Spill Recovery Institute used it to find a way to keep oil and water on oil spill recovery barges from freezing into a solid blob. The solution came not from the oil industry, but from a chemist who once spent a summer pouring concrete. He realized that the vibrators construction crews use to keep concrete in liquid form might also do the same for the frozen oil and water mixture on the barges. And it worked.

Another organization called SunNight Solar used the InnoCentive platform to create a dual-purpose solar light that serves as both a lamp and a flashlight in African villages and other areas of the world without electricity. The solution came from an electrical engineer living in New Zealand.

Now EDF is joining its environmental expertise with the InnoCentive global innovation platform to find and tackle business sustainability challenges. We're looking for companies to join us in launching a series of open innovation challenges designed to inspire new solutions that are good for both business and the environment. They could focus on a range of sustainability issues and opportunities including reducing water, energy, or other resource inputs, redesigning products, replacing materials, and creating new business or manufacturing processes. Successful solutions will also generate tangible business benefits like operating cost reductions or increased market share.

Our economy is global, our communications systems are global, and our environmental problems our global–so why do we look no further than our own R&D labs to solve them? Let's bring together the collective intelligence of the world's most creative thinkers–and get to work on solving our toughest and most important challenges.

For more information on this series, visit edf.org/ecochallenge.

This content was originally published by Fast Company.

3 Takeaways: Sustainable Excellence by Cramer and Karabell

Aron Cramer, President and CEO of Business for Social Responsibility, will join us for a Future of Green Open Conference Call on February 28 at 1:30 p.m. ET (10:30 p.m. PT) to talk about his recent book Sustainable Excellence.

We're in the age of information. Currently, there is a host of rich material from many directions helping us understand what can be done to make business become more sustainable. For instance, sustainable product innovations, musings on the purpose of business, evolving definitions of sustainability, management and change strategies, case studies of success (not much about failure), new technology approaches and more.

To help digest the materials we get through and to encourage you to engage with us in this thinking, we're going to do periodic, brief "book reports" (although not everything we discuss will be a book!)  The reports will provide three personal takeaways from the resource — three things that helped to advance and clarify thinking, direct action, improve explanations, or make connections. (You can also follow our thought-stream via our bookmarks, tweets, and this blog.)

This is the first of the Three Takeaways series featuring Sustainable Excellence: The Future of Business in a Fast-Changing World, a 2010 book by Aron Cramer and Zachary Karabell. This is a convenient place to start because Aron Cramer will join us next week for a Future of Green Open Conference Call. Please join the call next week to continue the discussion.

Here are three of my takeaways from his book.

Takeaway 1: The Importance of Green Leaders in Leading Companies

I believe we are in the early part of an adoption curve that we hope will lead to widespread realization that "sustainability is good business." The first movers on this curve were small, not-too-well-known, but innovative and risk-seeking companies (think of Stonyfield, Interface, Seventh Generation and others). However, in order to continue a march up the adoption curve we need some of the large engines of the economy to adopt and more importantly, explain the motivations for their adoption. Cramer and Karabell highlight GE's Jeff Immelt and Walmart's Lee Scott as examples of leaders of the larger.  They then take this thinking beyond the iconic companies and suggest that, because of operating and ownership advantages, emerging nations may offer new opportunities for leadership highlighting examples including China Mobile, Masdar City in Abu Dhabi, and a Brazilian stock exchange.

Takeaway 2: We Have to Talk About What We're Doing

Cramer and Karabell, with a hat tip to Marc Gunther, explain "CEOs take cues from what other prominent CEOs are doing: a green domino effect occurs when high-profile leaders step forward." But, in order for the green dominoes to start falling, business leaders must do more than lead their companies in a sustainable direction. We need them to also talk about what they are doing and influence others.

I periodically re-read Lee Scott's 2005 speech, delivered shortly after catastrophic Hurricane Katrina, when he explained his motivation for Walmart's environmental focus. He said, "A light bulb came on for me [...] We should view the environment as Katrina in slow motion. Environmental loss threatens our health and the health of the natural systems we depend on."

These messages from respected managers, investors and academics, will help guide the way for later movers up the adoption curve. Clay Shirky describes the importance of this "shared awareness" in his book Here Comes Everybody. Shirky highlights three levels of social awareness – "when everybody knows something, when everybody knows that everybody knows, and when everybody knows that everybody knows that everybody knows." Regarding the mutual importance of business and sustainability, we are still working on the first level, but our direction is clear.

Takeaway 3: Corporate Mission Matters (and is possible)

I've been struck several times recently by the potential for businesses acting on a compelling corporate mission to encompass and advance sustainability. On a recent Future of Green call we heard Maurice Bechard describe how Diversey's corporate purpose "to save lives, protect the planet, transform our industry" has helped guide their sustainability efforts. Cramer and Karabell explain how corporate mission creates new perspectives that allow companies like Nike and air conditioning company, Broad, to imagine new possibilities, approaches and products. In Broad's case the new vision imagines "employees a generation hence to be designing and building cool buildings rather than selling units to cool them." What is not yet clear to me is how to motivate a company without such a mission to adopt and live one.

What did you take away from Sustainable Excellence?  What else should we be reading, watching, or listening to? Email us at  business@edf.org with ideas or suggestions.

Future of Green Podcast: Barriers and Gamechangers

Barriers & GamechangersSummary (11 min.)
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Darcy Winslow

 

Darcy Winslow, Founder of DSW Collective and Peter Senge,  Senior Lecturer at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Founding Chair of SoL, the Society for Organizational Learning joined the Future of Green Open Conference Call to discuss their experiences working to make businesses more sustainable. 

Winslow worked at Nike, Inc.  for more than 20 years, and starting in 1999 helped initiate Nike's ambitious sustainability initiative. In addition to his classic business management tome, The Fifth Discipline, Senge is author of The Necessary Revolution, a well-regarded guide to how systems thinking can help bring about a more sustainable world. 

A few of the many insights from this call are: 

  • Winslow and Senge choose to work with groups that are already inclined to a sustainability mindset. They avoid situations where they must change people's minds; where they would be "pushing rocks up hill". Senge describes how the reaction "I need a business case to justify a focus on sustainability" may be a red herring:  it may be a legitimate request for help to explain the program, but it could be a deliberate obstacle to avoid action.
  • Peter Senge

     

  • It took years before the changes at Nike were widely adopted. Winslow works through the timeline from her start in 1999 when some senior managers were "allowing" her work to happen; to the point about six months later when her project was "apprehended" by management and required to show return on the pilot projects they were implementing; through 2006 when the project finally "tipped" and was widely accepted by top management. She talked about this last step as "nirvana" when leadership is making it happen – integrating resources, manpower, and responsibility throughout the organization.
  • Senge argues that every change situation is different but has common elements amongst which are the need for perseverance and patience. He suggested that organizational change requires a paradoxical stance that is at once committed to change while respectful of the company culture – "the essence of who we are." In the Nike example, Winslow targeted "creatives" as key influencers in the corporation and approached individual designers, developers, and engineers, before eventually approaching Marketing (a "tough sell"). She garnered a group of 100 champions throughout the organization and worked with them to develop a common language and a common goal, a "north star," to guide their efforts.
  • In discussion with host Jerry Michalski, Winslow and Senge talked about the importance of followers as well as leaders, the need to "leave ego at the door," and the importance of networks of relationships.
  • Winslow argued that shared resources, bandwidth, and investment are necessary to address the sustainability challenges we're facing. She highlighted the CERES project BICEP and GreenXchange (discussed in an earlier EDFix Call) as two organizations promoting collaboration to respond to these needs.

Waste Not Want Not: Walmart explores closed-loop recycling

By Daniel Upham, Writer, EDF Executive Office Operations

One man’s trash is another man’s treasure, and Walmart is starting to see the treasure potential of some of its own garbage. Walmart has been exploring closed-loop recycling, where trash goes in and new products come out, and one of its newer programs is literally for the dogs (and cats).

Each month the retailer sends 25 tons of cardboard, 15 tons of plastic bottles and 30 tons of plastic hangers to Worldwise, a company that turns the materials into pet products for Walmart to sell. Yesterday’s packing materials become today’s cat scratchers, beverage containers become dog bed filling and hangers become cat litter pans. Even plastic bags, as likely to end up in the ocean as entombed in a landfill, are given a new life, and repurposed into litter pan liners.

Forgive the trite expression, but it seems you can teach an old dog new tricks.

"A system where waste (is) essentially transformed into a feedstock to make high-quality products, not just downgrading into lesser products, can be really transformational,” Elizabeth Sturcken, our managing director of corporate partnerships, said in a San Francisco Chronicle article about the program. Vonda Lockwood, Walmart’s director of innovation and sustainability, said she hopes the Worldwise/Walmart partnership can “be a road map of success” for closed-loop recycling programs.

This is one of a few such pilots that Walmart has going. Other examples include:

  • Polyethylene terephthalate (PET) from Walmart’s dumpsters getting turned into hangers for its stores
  • Poster frames made from reused polystyrene

The march to zero waste continues.

Twitter Love: 10 Twitter Accounts We're Falling For

In the spirit of Valentine’s Day, we want to tell the world how we really feel, and openly declare our love for these Twitter accounts. They make our hearts flutter with great tips and fascinating stories.

  • @nytimesgreen: This handle generally tweets links to the corresponding New York Times Green Blog, which comes out with the top stories on energy and the environment.
  • @GreenBiz: Even though this account only tweets headlines from GreenBiz.com, the headlines are always very descriptive and topics are relevant. GreenBiz.com does a great job of covering the full spectrum of issues involving business and sustainability.
  • @BryanrWalsh: Environmental columnist at TIME magazine who is very involved in conversation! Bryan is great about responding to comments and engaging in Twitter discussions with valuable insights.
  • @guardianeco: Even though this handle belongs to the Guardian’s green blog, it doesn’t just regurgitate its article title but adds great commentary and asks the tough questions that we’re all left pondering. It also points to other relevant articles that may not be written by Guardian authors- great quality!
  • @greenwala: This handle has the ability to grab your attention in 140 characters or less- tough to do. Greenwala has the latest news, blogs, tips and videos for those of us who love being green!
  • @NewsOnGreen: If you want to know what’s going on in the world…of green, NewsOnGreen is a great source! NewsOnGreen will give you the 411 on politics, business and world events as it pertains to the environment.
  • @sustainableMBA: These tweets by Melissa Dingmon are funny, relevant and very useful. Melissa encourages and challenges business professionals to think out of the box and overcome the barriers that prevent corporations from becoming more environmental. She links to relevant articles, webinars and job opportunities.
  • @USATodayGreen: Run by Wendy Koch of USATodayGreen, this blog covers environmental stories in politics. If Obama says something about energy, Wendy knows about it!
  • @SustainableSocially: Straight from its Twitter page “Sustainable Socially creates an open dialogue through social platforms, moving people to believe in the importance of sustainability across brands & industries.” We couldn’t have said it better ourselves.
  • @arielhs: Fast Company’s Ariel Schwartz is a great source on Twitter! She responds to relevant articles in the green business world and interacts heavily with other Tweeters. Valuable opinion and entertaining tweets!

If there is a Twitter account that you’d like to point out, please leave a comment or write us at business@edf.org.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Combining Persistence, Patience and Impatience: 5 key learnings from EDF Climate Corps

By: Daniel J. Gisser, Director of Corporate Marketing, Eaton Corporation

Eaton is a $13.7 billion global power management company. We’re a leading manufacturer of electrical equipment and services for green buildings. Our energy efficient controls for lighting and motor controls for HVAC systems, our solar products and services, our electric vehicle charging stations, and many other products and services help businesses worldwide use power efficiently.  To boot, Newsweek ranks us as the 16th greenest large company in the USA.  So what can Eaton learn from an EDF Climate Corps fellow?

Based on our continued participation in the EDF Climate Corps program, there are five key learnings for embracing and implementing energy efficiency initiatives that any company can relate to, regardless of size, green ranking or industry.

1. “Live It. Provide It.”

Inside Eaton we often discuss sustainability under the twin pillars of “Live It. Provide It.”  As a B2B power management company we “Provide It” by helping customers use energy efficiently, which almost always has corresponding environmental benefits.  While I work in Marketing, my personal effort is mostly on the “Provide It” side.  But the EDF Climate Corps program gave me an opportunity to learn more about what we can do to “Live It” in our supply chain, and our 200-plus facilities around the world.

2. Build on successful relationships.

I saw an opportunity for Eaton in the Climate Corps program when I learned about it in late 2009.  Here was a chance to participate, learn and build on our longstanding relationship with Environmental Defense Fund (EDF):

  • In 2008 our CEO appeared on an EDF television ad asking Congress to create new legislation around climate change, the development of clean energy technologies, and jobs.
  • Way back in 2001, Eaton began working with EDF and FedEx to develop fuel-efficient, hybrid trucks.  Many years and lots of hard work later, this technology has driven 100 million miles for delivery trucks, buses, utility trucks and other commercial vehicles, saving 40,000 metric tons of emissions.

3. Create your leadership role.

I don’t work directly on Eaton’s energy purchases or on energy efficiency “inside our fence line,” which is where the projects most Climate Corps fellows pursue are found. Nonetheless, I recognized the opportunity in hiring a Climate Corps fellow, created a cross-functional team and drove our effort to make our participation a reality.  I learned that anyone in a company can adopt a leadership role in environmental sustainability, and it’s more fun if you do it together.

4. Start from wherever you are now.

Judd Eder did an outstanding job in summer 2010 as our first Climate Corps fellow.  Many Climate Corps fellows at other companies were placed in the actual locations in which energy measures were to be implemented, but our need was different.  We asked Judd to take energy efficiency to the next level.  Judd identified potential utility savings in several specific projects and created processes to identify opportunities in Eaton facilities globally.  We have since expanded our full-time staff working on this topic, and our fellow in 2011 will continue this work and extend it further.

At an energy efficiency workshop hosted by Duke University and EDF, I met most of the fifty-one 2010 Climate Corps fellows and learned that they are all impatient about the environment.  I also saw their patience and camaraderie as they took steps toward practical solutions for large problems.  Judd became a natural leader among this group, as they looked to him and his strategic, process-centric project as a map for their own companies’ journeys.

5. Celebrate past success and plan future success.

Our 2011 Climate Corps fellow will be joining Eaton as we celebrate our 100th Anniversary.  This milestone is inspiring my 70,000 colleagues and me to think about what we want the world to look like 5, 10, 20 and 100 years from now, and how Eaton can help get us there.  Participation in the Climate Corps program is one step forward on that journey.

Sign up to receive emails about EDF Climate Corps, including regular blog posts by our fellows. You can also visit our Facebook page to get regular updates about this project.

Future of Green Podcast: Some Corporations Are Really Changing

Sustainability: Can Corporations Really Change?
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Maurice Bechard, director of global environment health & safety at Diversey, and Michael Kobori, vice president for social and environmental sustainability at Levi Strauss & Co, joined a recent Future of Green conference call to talk about their companies' increasingly public sustainability initiatives and what they mean for business operations.

Moderated by Neal Gorenflo, publisher of Shareable Magazine, this conversation is part of the Future of Green, a conference/podcast series co-hosted by Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) and Stanford’s Graduate School of Business Center for Social Innovation with the goal of helping to define the next generation of sustainable business.

Both companies have legacies that support sustainable activities–dating back to the 1930's and their history with SC Johnson for Diversey, and from its 150 years of family ownership at Levi Strauss. Recently, Diversey enunciated an ambitious corporate purpose:  to save lives, protect the planet, transform our industry.  Bechard describes how this purpose is translated into action and what it has meant for sustainability investments and employee relations.

In the case of Levi Strauss & Co., what had historically been a private social consciousness has recently found a more public voice.  Kobori explains that the eye-opener for them was the result of life cycle analysis of a pair of 501 Jeans that showed that the bulk of the environmental impact came after its sale (during washing and drying) or before it was produced (from the agricultural impact of the cotton).  This has lead to an increased focus on stakeholders outside the company–both customers and suppliers.

The executives share stories about how approaches used to assure sustainability affect internal decision-making and employee satisfaction (positive and important!); and explain the challenge of transitioning to an integrated bottom line vs. near-term financial return, and the importance of moving towards sustainable operations for business and society.

Additional resources are available at:

Signs of summer in New York City? SunGard sees the light in its 3rd year with EDF Climate Corps

By Ryan Whisnant, Director of Sustainability at SunGard, MBA/MS, University of Michigan, 2009 EDF Climate Corps Fellow at SunGard

Walking to the train on the coldest New York City day so far this winter, I found myself thinking of summer. Ninety-eight degree train platforms and air-conditioned subway cars certainly feel like a distant memory. But the first signs of summer are already here. I’m not talking about those first little green plants poking up through the snow – that’s still a long way off. I’m talking about the first signs of what has become a hallmark of summer at SunGard – hosting an EDF Climate Corps fellow.

As SunGard has built its sustainability programs, we’ve followed a simple but effective methodology:

  1. Pilot and prove the results
  2. Look for opportunities to scale and operationalize
  3. Engage employees as part of the efforts

As a software and technology services company, energy use is an important issue for SunGard. With a mandate to help “leading companies to develop practical, actionable energy efficiency plans,” Climate Corps was a natural fit for helping SunGard continue to build its sustainability programs. SunGard started participating in the Climate Corps program in 2009, when I joined the program as a fellow at our headquarters in Wayne, PA. My task was to identify energy efficiency opportunities, large and small, and build the financial case for which initiatives to pursue. My work that summer uncovered opportunities for 25% savings in electricity use, including replacement of older, inefficient rooftop HVAC units. That number also included some no-cost solutions such as fixing a lighting timer, saving $20,000 a year. Looking to institutionalize these kinds of initiatives, we published an office energy efficiency guide for SunGard facility managers.

Our success at headquarters begged the question of what was possible across SunGard’s entire real estate portfolio. But we faced two major challenges: 1) identifying where to focus our efforts, and 2) overcoming the split incentive of occupying primarily leased spaces. To help us scale our energy efficiency efforts, we were excited to host a second Climate Corps fellow from the 2010 cohort. Our fellow, Rich Tesler, tackled a variety of projects including a portfolio-wide analysis to identify which facilities to target, and development of Green Leasing and Retrofit Guides, which have been adopted as part of our facilities and real estate processes. Both projects have allowed SunGard to significantly expand the scale of our energy efficiency programs.

Energy efficiency is now a core part of how we select and manage our facilities. Looking ahead to this summer, we’re excited to welcome a third Climate Corps fellow to help move our energy efficiency efforts into the next phase. From their grassroots beginnings, our sustainability programs continue to have strong local participation. We’re looking forward to the training and fresh ideas that a fellow will bring as SunGard develops programs to tap into the ideas and enthusiasm of our employees to further drive energy efficiency within the company.

Sign up to receive emails about EDF Climate Corps, including regular blog posts by our fellows. You can also visit our Facebook page to get regular updates about this project.