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.

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