The Evolution of a Career: 3 Questions to Answer Before Leaving B-School

By Peter Petropoulos, EDF Climate Corps Fellow 2010, Booth School of Business 2011, University of Chicago

Right from Day 1 of my MBA at the University of Chicago's Booth School of Business, one of my objectives has been to channel my previous consulting experience to deal with the world’s most pressing issues.

Prior to Booth, one of my projects had involved improving the businesses of the thousands of independent owners of Ace Hardware stores across the country. This was a great learning experience, but after five years, I was longing for new challenges.

I knew an MBA would help link my experience with my new career path but I am surprised at how fast this transformation has happened.

If you're thinking of going to business school, the best piece of advice I can give is to seek as many opportunities as you can to work in the industry that you are looking to get into. And this is not just to pad your resume, but to really understand what kind of people you will be working with, what the projects are like, and whether it is to in fact the right path for you.

I knew I wanted to expand on my consulting experience. But I also knew that I wanted to work in sustainability. So here's how I mapped my two years of business school:

Do I Want to Work in Sustainability?

A Summer Fellowship with EDF Climate Corps

My summer internship last year proved to be a pivotal point of my career. I was one of 51 Climate Corps fellows and was trained by the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) to help Fortune 500 companies find energy efficiency solutions.

Our mission: Identify, analyze, and recommend financially-lucrative energy efficiency plans and investments.

My host: PepsiCo

During my first week, I remember thinking:

"There is no doubt that PepsiCo is a sustainability leader in the corporate world. Walking into PepsiCo for the first time and realizing that its LEED Gold certified headquarters is just up the street from my project was a bit intimidating for a student searching for environmental opportunities."

But I was not only able to get client-facing experience; I also worked on a critical component to the growing energy crunch. The experience allowed me to show off the analytical toolkit that I have developed at Booth, work on my client management skills, and get out of my comfort zone into a whole new arena of business and social problems.

To continue reading, please visit In Good Company: Vault's CSR Blog.

This content was originally published by In Good Company: Vault's CSR Blog.

EDF Climate Corps matches trained students from leading business schools with companies to develop practical, actionable energy efficiency plans. Sign up to receive emails about EDF Climate Corps, including regular blog posts by our fellows. You can also visit our Facebook page or follow us on Twitter to get regular updates about this project.

The Bottom Line: Information is powerful and can be used for good

By: Matt Davis, EDF Research Fellow and Author of EDF Behavior and Energy Savings Study

I’m excited to announce the results of a new EDF study that analyzes the potential to reduce energy use and our environmental impact using one of the cheapest inputs in the world: information.  At EDF, we’ve always believed that the right set of consumer-facing energy efficiency tools and technology could allow families to take charge of their energy usage, cut down on their monthly bills, and shrink their carbon footprint – and now we have proof.

To continue reading, please visit EDF's Energy Exchange blog.

Follow the Action: Real-time updates from the Climate Corps training!

If you read our blog regularly, you know that the EDF Climate Corps training began today. You can keep up with what we're doing and what the fellows are learning by following us on Twitter.

The EDF Business handle is @EDFbiz, and we're using #CCTraining as a hashtag for all tweets relating to this fun three-day training. Feel free to ask questions or respond with comments directly via Twitter.

EDF Climate Corps matches trained students from leading business schools with companies to develop practical, actionable energy efficiency plans. Sign up to receive emails about EDF Climate Corps, including regular blog posts by our fellows. You can also visit our Facebook page or follow us on Twitter to get regular updates about this project.

Put My Tax Dollars Into A Growth Market, Please

Guest Blog Post By: Jackie Roberts, EDF's Director of Sustainable Technologies, National Climate Campaign

Two efforts to repeal tax breaks for oil and gas companies – Senate Bill S.940 and the Administration’s budget proposals to eliminate subsidies in FY 2010, FY 2011, and FY 2012 budgets – should receive bipartisan support for no other reason than re-directing those subsidies can be an engine of job creation.  University of Massachusetts at Amherst economic researchers developed employment estimates for various energy sources, including energy efficiency strategies.  Their data show that investments in energy efficiency creates 2.5 to four times more jobs than that for oil and gas development and renewables create 2.5 to three times more jobs than that for oil and gas development.

These jobs are dispersed throughout the U.S. as shown with our LessCarbonMoreJobs mapping, and bring particular benefits to the hard hit Midwest manufacturing regions.

Large government subsidies might, just might, be justified if “Big Oil” was using profits to invest record amounts in transitioning to clean energy.  But, that is far from the case.  A Center for American Progress analysis of Big Oil investments reveals that the big five oil companies invested just four percent of their total 2008 profits in renewable and alternative energy ventures.  There are no signs that this level of investment has increased at all in the past several years.

Clean energy will be a major new market – by some estimates the market for renewables alone will range from $1.7 trillion per year to $2.3 trillion by 2020, depending on different government policy scenarios.  Having already slipped from first to third in terms of investments in this sector, the U.S. needs to play catch up.  Government dollars should be used to help the U.S. transition to clean energy and to do so in a way that we have significant market share in as many clean energy solutions as possible.  First mover advantages are critical with new markets and worth every penny we can devote to creating strong clean energy innovation and manufacturing here in the U.S.  Such investments will also translate into cheap, homegrown energy sources in the medium- to long-term – the supposed purpose of the oil and gas subsidies.  Put my tax dollars into a growth market, please.

This content was originally posted on EDF's Energy Exchange.

Future of Green Call: What Defense Can Tell Business

Future of Green Open Conference Call with Daniel Kreeger from ACCO

On Tuesday, May 24th at noon ET, EDF will host a “Future of Green” open conference call with Daniel Kreeger, Executive Director of ACCO, to talk about conclusions from the Defense, National Security and Climate Change workshop and what business can take-away from the discussion.

Please join the conversation on 5/24/11 at 12:00 pm ET (9 am PT):

  • Phone: 213-289-0500
  • Code: 2676815

In March, the Association of Climate Change Officers (ACCO) hosted its Defense, National Security and Climate Change workshop. The motivation, as ACCO described it, was:

U.S. defense and intelligence communities are increasingly focusing resources on the operational and national security implications of climate change and energy. With the most recent quadrennial report identifying climate change as a global destabilizing force for the first time, an executive order from President Obama on sustainability across the Federal agencies, and an uncertain and unstable energy market, the challenges before American defense and national security communities to mitigate climate impacts and energy risks, as well as establish a leaner, more effective operational force in a down economy are clear.

It was a two-day workshop featuring a series of roundtable sessions concentrated on identifying best practices and innovative ideas on how to approach climate change and its effect on National Security.

The roundtables were split into six tracks; clean energy infrastructure, facilities management, non-CO2 GHG emissions, enterprise governance and strategy, supply chain and procurement, and national security; which echoed similar takeaways.

Takeaway 1: Leadership from Defense

Both participation and practice demonstrated that DoD is taking climate change very seriously. Former Senators John Warner and Gary Hart as well as senior staff from the Department of Defense, Army, Army Corps of Engineers, NASA and the White House participated and innovative practices being tested and deployed were discussed in all the tracks.

Takeaway 2: Life- Cycle Costs Must be Taken into Account

New technologies are often perceived as more expensive. However rarely are life-cycle costs, which could demonstrate long-term savings and environmental benefits, taken into account.

Takeaway 3: Create Universal Standards

Too many organizations and regulations are involved in the climate change debate. A universal standard of some sort must be created to provide a baseline for GHG emissions and set standards for energy efficient systems.

Notes from the ACCO Defense, National Security and Climate Change workshop are available online.

Happy Anniversary Green Portfolio Program – our flagship private equity partnership with KKR turns three!

This month marks the third anniversary of our Green Portfolio Project with KKR. Launched in May of 2008 with just three pilot companies, the program has grown tremendously since then. In 2010, we announced results for eight portfolio companies, totaling $160M of operating savings and 345,000 metric tons of GHG emissions avoided.  And this summer KKR will announce results for even more companies, spanning four continents and seven sectors.

While these numbers are impressive on their own, a handful of other Green Portfolio Program developments deserve equal notice. Since 2008, KKR has increased the capacity and sophistication of the program by bringing EDF veteran Elizabeth Seeger on board; joining BSR, CSR Europe and signing onto the UNPRI, and developing a dedicated Green Portfolio Program website to share results. In honor of the third anniversary of the Program, KKR recently redesigned their website and continues to set the tone for transparency and reporting around environmental initiatives for the industry.

KKR’s leadership and accomplishments have certainly provided us with powerful material to share with others in the private equity industry.  As does our partnership with The Carlyle Group to pioneer the EcoValueScreen, a due diligence tool designed to identify environmental opportunities earlier in the investment lifecycle. But even more broadly, we believe that private equity firms are increasingly recognizing and acting on the idea that environmental management and innovation can add value to their companies and increase returns to their investors. A growing number of well known private equity firms have hired in house environmental expertise, signed onto the Principles for Responsible Investment, and consulted service providers to help them identify and capture opportunities across their portfolios. Here at EDF, we are busy as well – writing more articles and speaking at more conferences on private equity than we could have imagined three years ago.  In just a couple weeks, we will be at the Private Equity International Conference in NYC which is focused on environmental, social and governance issues for the first time this year.

The momentum we see in the private equity marketplace is heartening and we remain hard at work to seed this change.  KKR continues to be an invaluable partner in the effort to raise the bar for this industry. Three years ago, we took a leap of faith that our partnership with KKR, an unlikely partner to say the least, would pay off. We are certain that is has – not only because of the changes we see at KKR, but also because of the changes we see in our own work with business at EDF.  Our partnership with KKR has allowed us a platform to spread environmental innovation to many companies at once and it has inspired us to think big and seek leverage and scale in all that we do.

Stay tuned for results from KKR’s newest Green Portfolio Companies this summer!

INVITATION: Forum on Safer Chemicals in Products

Join leaders from businesses, environmental organizations and governments for a one-day, in-depth forum on safer chemicals in products. Learn how leading businesses are moving to safer chemicals in products and hear NGO perspectives on policies that can support that movement.

Register at:

Invitation to the 2nd Annual Business and NGO Policy Forum
Safer Chemicals in Products: Changing Markets and Policies
June 9, 2011
Washington, D.C.


The Safer Chemicals in Products forum will gather leaders from businesses, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and governments to find common ground in the movement to use inherently safer chemicals in products. We will:
• Learn how business leaders are moving to safer chemicals: the tools, methods and programs they are adopting to transform product design.
• Discuss the needs of downstream users, including the need for better data, transparency in the supply chain and safer alternatives.
• Hear NGO perspectives on how chemicals policy reform can support the needs of downstream users of chemicals.
• Identify how public policy initiatives, such as the Toxic Substances Control Act reform, can support leading business initiatives and harmonize with existing regulations.

Speakers include …

• Kathy Gerwig, Vice President, Workplace Safety and Environmental Stewardship Officer, Kaiser Permanente
• Roger McFadden, Vice President, Staples
• Helen Holder, Corporate Materials Selection Manager, Hewlett-Packard
• Clive Davies, Chief, Design for the Environment Program, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
• Andy Igrejas, National Campaign Director, Safer Chemicals Healthy Families
• Robin Guenther, Principal, Perkins+Will
• Howard Williams, Vice President, Construction Specialties
• Mike Belliveau, Executive Director, Environmental Health Strategy Center
• Jason Saft, Manager, Vendor Programs, Becton Dickinson
• Jill Dumain, Director of Environmental Strategy, Patagonia [invited]
• Ben Dunham, Legislative Assistant and Counsel, Senator Frank R. Lautenberg

Topics include …

• Advancing Safer Chemicals through Purchasing: Best Practices
• Methods and Tools for Identifying Safer Chemicals
• Managing Chemicals in Products as a Manufacturer of Articles
• Modernizing our Flawed Chemical Safety System: Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) Reform
• Safe Chemicals Act of 2011: Legislative Update

What's Your Shipping Success Story?

An article in the Wall Street Journal the other day got me thinking: what are all the operational strategies companies are using today to move freight more efficiently?

The article highlighted an effort of Alcatel-Lucent, a 2010 Climate Corps company, to reduce its carbon footprint 50% by 2020. Improving the carbon-efficiency of its logistics operations is a key strategy to meet the goal.  As an example of what this company has done to-date, Alcatel-Lucent disclosed an effort to cut goods movement emissions by “making products closer to customers.”

Previously, the company manufactured optical networking terminals in Asia for the North America market. Now, these products are produced in Mexico. As a result “the company avoids the need for air freight shipment and provides customers with faster order fulfillment.” The company explored a simple mode shift—air-to-ocean, but determined that approach would have required a significant increase in inventories to offset a change in transit time.  Instead, the company employed a near-shoring strategy.

The case highlights how basic, operational strategies can be used today to cut goods movement emissions. Industry attention often highlights how freight carriers are exploring and deploying new technology advancements. Near-term reductions in goods movement emissions, however, are just as likely to be found through changes in the operations of shippers – the typically non-asset based entities that own the brand, such a Alcatel-Lucent, and are not primarily in the freight business. The type of best practices used by shippers can often be rolled out quickly and achieve a significant ROI.

Increased container utilization, collaborative distribution, redesigning distribution networks, and improvements in packaging are already helping companies increase carbon-efficiency and reduce costs today.   By targeting inefficiencies and waste, these practices also form the foundation of progress on which future improvements in freight efficiency can be built.

EDF is seeking to catalog and share more case studies about how companies are using operational approaches to reduce costs and emissions.  We’d love to hear about your shipping success story. To let us know, drop us a line at

Shining a Light on Energy Efficiency: EDF Climate Corps reflects on three years of results

As any energy manager knows, it’s one thing to find energy-saving projects that are worth doing, and quite another to get them implemented.  Over the last three years, EDF Climate Corps fellows have uncovered almost a billion kilowatt hours of potential energy savings, representing $439 million in net operating savings.  But our biggest question has always been, “Will the companies move forward with those energy-saving investments after the fellows leave?”  Thankfully, the answer is yes:  so far, companies report that they are implementing projects accounting for 86 percent of the savings identified by EDF Climate Corps fellows.

This year, as we looked back on three years of results, we noticed that many of the projects that got implemented first were lighting projects.  For example, Hospital Corporation of America will roll out a lighting retrofit program across the organization, and eBay recently upgraded the lighting in a 60,000-square foot building on its San Jose campus.  Other companies are employing devices to make sure the lights are on only when people need them:  AT&T will install occupancy sensors in its 250 largest central offices, and Sungard is optimizing the lighting timers in its New York City office.

This is no surprise if you’ve ever looked at the ROI on lighting projects.  The upfront costs tend to be relatively low – zero in the case of delamping or switching timer settings – so payback time is short.  And lighting projects are pretty straightforward to identify.  You can often spot ways to cut lighting costs just by walking through a building, and use a $50 light logger to document when the lights are on and don’t need to be, as our fellow at AT&T did.

Beyond lighting, EDF Climate Corps companies are also implementing upgrades to HVAC systems, office equipment, and data centers.  Eaton is moving forward with an air circulation improvement in a North Carolina plant that could yield an annual electricity reduction of 2.5 million kWh.  eBay is currently installing power management software for all of its PCs.  And Cisco has raised temperatures in some of its research labs, which could save the company about $1.8 million and 18 million kWh of electricity annually.

But if we’ve learned anything about energy efficiency over the last three years, it’s that it has as much to do with changing behavior as changing lightbulbs.  And EDF Climate Corps fellows have contributed to several projects that integrate energy and environmental data into a range of business decisions.

For example, Compass Group North America created a web-based toolkit for its food service clients, illuminating choices they can make to cut their carbon emissions.  And Diversey has introduced several decision-support tools with the help of its EDF Climate Corps fellow, including one that factors energy and carbon emissions into capital expenditures, and another that tracks savings from avoided travel.  As the firm’s global travel is 10 percent of its carbon footprint, Diversey estimates $6 million in annual savings from reduced travel that can be invested in other energy projects.

Putting the facts about energy use and greenhouse gas emissions into decision-makers’ hands is a powerful way to spotlight the business and environmental benefits of energy efficiency, and move energy-saving projects forward.  Another bright idea brought to you by EDF Climate Corps.

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Smart Grid: Big Market, Big Return

By Jackie Roberts, EDF's Director of Sustainable Technologies

The exciting innovations in the area of an energy internet – also known as the “smart grid” – illustrate just one of the ground-breaking ways that the U.S. can reduce our energy consumption and carbon emissions while also creating new business opportunities that help expand jobs.

Big Market, Big Return

Using data from a Pacific Northwest National Lab study that quantified several categories of smart grid benefits, Duke University estimates that a built-out smart grid could reduce an estimated 18% of emissions from the U.S. electric sector. Looking across the full spectrum of possible benefits, EDF sees even greater potential. By mobilizing system-wide efficiencies and large-scale deployment of renewable and distributed resources, a well-designed smart grid could reduce electric sector carbon emissions 30% by 2030.

This new market is predicted to be just as large as the aforementioned emission estimates. According to one market research firm, the global market value of products to enable the smart grid has grown from an estimated $26 billion in 2005 to more than $69 billion in 2009, a compounded annual growth rate of 22%. Total market value is expected to exceed $186 billion by 2015 (SBI Energy, 2010).

Who Will Benefit?

Duke University’s report, “U.S. Smart Grid: Finding New Ways to Cut Carbon and Create Jobs,” identifies 334 U.S. company locations in 39 states that are already developing or manufacturing products for a smart grid. All regions of the country will benefit.

For example, Chicago-based S&C Electric Company, founded in 1911, acquired new customers in the smart grid market. The company holds thousands of patents in switchgear, interrupters, and other transmission-voltage devices. In the past four years, its business has expanded approximately 50%, according to the company, with new products such as a truck-sized device that connects wind farms to the grid. Today, most of S&C’s products are made in the United States and Canada, with only a small portion made elsewhere. In all, the U.S. workforce totals about 1,700 employees, including more than 1,000 machinist, manufacturing, assembly and support positions, 200 engineers and technicians, a global sales force, and finance and accounting offices.

Global Expansion

Export markets are promising as well. According to Duke, “Italy’s 30 million installed smart meters all use Echelon (a U.S. company based in California) technology. Echelon has recently won large contracts in China, Russia, and Denmark.”

As former Google CEO Eric Schmidt noted, “Many companies can skirt downturns entirely by coming up with innovations that change the game in their industries – or create new ones.” That’s exactly what companies identified by Duke, from well-known IBM and other partners in our Pecan Street Project to companies such as Cooper Power Systems, are doing as they expand their offerings to meet the demands of the smart grid value chain.

Just last Friday, Eric Spiegel, President and CEO of Siemens Corporation, announced that their “orders and sales are increasing and [they] have added more than 1,000 new jobs to our U.S. workforce in just the last two quarters to keep up with the demand." All three of the company's sectors – Industry, Energy, and Healthcare – contributed to these results, but job growth was concentrated in the Industrial Automation, Building Efficiency, Smart Grid, and IT areas. Encouraging news all around.

This content was originally published on EDF's Energy Exchange blog.