Reading Between the Lines: Developing Employee Engagement Initiatives

By: Pia Kristiansen is a 2011 EDF Climate Corps Fellow at McDonald’s and an MBA Candidate at University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business

Earlier this summer, I shared my initial thoughts on working through the complexities of designing and implementing an employee engagement strategy during my EDF Climate Corps fellowship at McDonald’s Corporation. Anyone interested in the topic of employee engagement, specifically around sustainability initiatives like energy efficiency, is probably familiar with the plethora of resources listing five or ten “top” attributes of a successful program.

These resources provided a great starting point for me but did not necessarily define the path I needed to convert my ideas into actions and establish those attributes during my fellowship. That said, it is worth sharing the lessons learned from this experience and its unique challenges, so here are my take-aways:

Pia Kristiansen

  • Get to Know (and never stop looking for) Your Advocates: McDonald’s has a reputation for being a corporation that values personal relationships. Successfully engaging the crew members at the heart of McDonald’s business – its restaurants – requires buy-in across the system. I quickly found that fostering relationships with a wide spectrum of stakeholders was the best way to get data, solicit feedback, and pave the way for successful deployment. By looking beyond “corporate walls” and interviewing people in the field, I found incredible resources – people with, hands-on experience in innovative training and development programs and people with candor and a willingness to test my ideas. 

Takeaway: Pitch your ideas, collaborate on other projects, and take the time to get to know all of the stakeholders – valuable insight can be found in less obvious places.

  • Embrace the Culture:McDonald’s serves 64 million customers every day around the world and is so influential that The Economist light-heartedly publishes the “Big Mac” global currency index. However, despite its tremendous influence and brand power over the outside world, McDonald’s Corp. has a compelling company culture and value system. In building the framework for collateral on energy efficiency, I relied on my in-store experience and field feedback to construct a message that would resonate with the McDonald’s restaurant culture. My conversations with Green Team members, Restaurant Design, Corporate Social Responsibility, Operations and Energy teams gave me a clear understanding of the value system in which strategic decisions are made.

Takeaway: Solicit a variety of perspectives to gain a real understanding of the company. Frame your goals to focus on developing tools and resources that innovate and strengthen the culture and value system, rather than change it. Remember that these are the foundation for your engagement program.

  • Look Beyond Automation: Automation is often viewed as the “obvious answer” in energy efficiency, yet the importance of human participation cannot be overstated. Nearly every software program, piece of equipment or new technology for energy efficiency can be optimized by human behavior. Communication and education will likely be the tools you come to rely on. Lucky for me, McDonald’s had already devoted tremendous resources to automation, but it took dozens of meetings and the solicitation of mentorship to truly understand how I could best leverage these resources.

Takeaway: Make it a priority to become an expert on the infrastructure, policies, processes, and offerings already available. This knowledge will shed significant light on the feasibility and potential of your employee engagement initiatives.

With these lessons, I was able to deliver the concept design and proposal for an educational video on energy efficiency for distribution to approximately 14,000 U.S. McDonald’s restaurants as well as a summary of strategic recommendations that are being integrated into McDonald’s worldwide energy management program.

None of this would have been possible without significant time spent building a business case that reflects my understanding of the various audiences I was seeking to engage. While many of my Climate Corps counterparts faced technical equipment and finance challenges this summer, I found myself fielding more theoretical process-oriented questions. I had to clearly articulate why engaging employees helps to reduce energy use and how I planned on doing so successfully within a large and complex system.

All of this leads to a final piece of advice: Get comfortable building a dynamic business case. Employee engagement requires relationship building and strategic intuition that goes beyond a reliance on quantitative data.

This entry is cross-posted on In Good Company: Vault's CSR blog.

Powering Up: Walmart plans to install more solar panels and moves closer to its goal

Walmart recently announced plans to install solar panels on all remaining eligible Walmart store locations in California, bringing the grand total to more than 130 stores by the end of 2013.  Each installation will provide approximately 20 to 30 percent of that location’s needed electricity and will produce 600,000 kilowatt hours of clean, renewable electricity annually.

At Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), we’re excited to see Walmart take this step toward harvesting the business and environmental opportunities of solar technology while continuing to move toward its goal to be powered 100 percent by renewable energy.

Solar Power is Coming of Age…

A report released this month by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory details the dramatically changing landscape and growing opportunities for solar power.  Specifically, it reports that the average net installed cost of photovoltaic systems on commercial property fell by 22 percent in 2010 alone.  Additionally, the report states that financial incentives have played a significant role in driving the solar industry in the United States.  In fact, the data demonstrates that as the cost of solar installations continues to decline, so too does the value of available incentives.

While we all have seen the substantial coverage of solar manufacturer Solyndra declaring Chapter 11 bankruptcy and shuttering its manufacturing facility, what many have not acknowledged is that Solyndra’s failure is in some part due to increased price pressure from government-supported competitors in China.  The controversy surrounding Solyndra’s loan guarantee from the U.S. Department of Energy has distracted us from having a conversation about the continued need for policy makers in the U.S. to support renewable energy like solar in ways that allow it to be more competitive with dirty energy.

EDF and Walmart are working together because we both see the market potential for solar.  Walmart wants cost-competitive, reliable clean power for its stores.  And EDF wants to leverage Walmart's ability to bring renewables to the mainstream faster than they otherwise would.

… But We're Not There Yet

The decrease in incentives signals that policy makers believe solar power is on its way to becoming more cost competitive with traditional energy sources, and so less support is necessary.  While on a macro level that premise makes sense, it’s important to preserve and adjust renewable energy incentives in a measured and calculated manner that allow markets and competition to flourish.  The energy Walmart will purchase in California is cost-competitive with conventional electricity rates because SolarCity, the vendor who will source, install, own and maintain the solar panels, will receive incentives.

Right now, Walmart and other companies pursuing solar technology cannot do it alone. Renewable energy like solar will not flourish and be competitive with dirty, traditional forms of energy if utilities, states and the federal government step away from their vital role of enabling our clean and self-reliant energy future.

Walmart's showing leadership.  It's time for our country to do so, too.

Yar! Treasure Hunt Digs Up $70,000 in Energy Cost Savings

For some, a Treasure Hunt calls to mind images of the high seas, pirates and buried treasure. This particular Treasure Hunt, however, occurred not at sea, but in Springboro, Ohio—at the Cobasys advanced battery manufacturing plant. But it did turn up a treasure trove of energy cost savings and carbon reductions…and a few pirates too!

Our “Treasure Hunt” was led by energy-efficiency expert Bruce Bremer to identify opportunities to reduce energy use and waste at manufacturing plants. It relies on engaging plant employees to seek out energy and others savings during both "shut-down mode" and "normal" operating mode within a three-day period. These savings are identified, quantified and tallied up in a report that is presented to the company's management team.

To promote the broad application of this effective tool, IUE-CWA, a labor union with 45,000 members at over 300 manufacturing plants across the United States, and Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) formed an innovative partnership.  We work together to train IUE-CWA workers on conducting Energy Efficiency “Treasure Hunts” at manufacturing plants with their members.

The project helps overcome some of the barriers that hinder companies from adopting energy-efficiency investments—ranging from limited resources, information gaps and organizational barriers. By addressing these barriers, we hope that companies will invest in the abundant, economically attractive energy-savings opportunities that are available. For example, McKinsey estimates that the U.S. industrial sector could cut energy use by 18 percent and save $442 billion.

For additional data and case studies, see

By seizing these energy-efficiency opportunities, the U.S. manufacturing sector can save money on energy costs and protect itself from future energy price increases. These investments also promote U.S. manufacturing competitiveness that protect and create new jobs here—and improve environmental performance to boot.

At the pilot Treasure Hunt at the Cobasys plant, teams composed of members from IUE-CWA (including members from other facilities), EDF, and Cobasys managers searched the plant for energy-saving opportunities, including examining process equipment, lighting, compressed air, and HVAC systems. The results: the Treasure Hunt identified $70,000 in savings (20 percent of current energy costs) and over 700 metric tons of carbon (20 percent of carbon emissions).

Here are a few lessons I took away:

Even new manufacturing plants using the latest technology and equipment can overlook energy-saving opportunities that are literally “buried treasures”. The Cobasys plant is a new facility that was built in 2003 and uses state-of-the-art technology. Yet even here, our Treasure Hunt team was able to identify significant opportunities.

IUE-CWA’s workers bring deep knowledge and expertise to the table. The IUE-CWA workers who participated in the Treasure Hunt brought an impressive depth of practical, first-hand manufacturing technical expertise and knowledge that was invaluable in identifying energy-saving opportunities. The Treasure Hunt provides a great way to tap this resource.

Treasure Hunts are a great way to energize and excite workers to look for energy-saving opportunities. The enthusiasm of the IUE-CWA workers was energizing and contagious.  In fact, they got so caught up in the spirit of the “Treasure Hunt”, they donned pirate eye patches!

So while our Treasure Hunt at the Cobasys plant didn’t turn up any gold Doubloons, we did find a wealth of energy-efficiency opportunities. IUE-CWA and EDF will be working together to identify energy-efficiency opportunities at other plants with IUE-CWA workers—and promoting this approach with other labor unions to drive widespread energy-efficiency improvements in the U.S. manufacturing sector.

More on EDF's work in energy efficiency.

That's All Folks! Eco-Challenge Submissions Close

It is an exciting time for the Eco Challenge Series, the partnership between Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) and open innovation company InnoCentive.  With our first two challenges closed, we are on the verge of awarding our first prizes for eco-innovation. EDF put up two prizes to solve pressing environmental challenges in agriculture and we’re working with companies who will put up their own eco-challenges for prizes.

Challenge 1: Ideation

The Ideation, or brainstorming challenge received 42 submissions representing 185 pages of creative ideas on how we can solve our nitrogen pollution problem from farming practices.  Like with most ideation challenges, we were looking for out-of-the-box ideas that could help us expand our universe of potential solutions.  From this wealth of knowledge, we tentatively selected three winners, who are now being verified by InnoCentive.  If all goes well, we will award the $7,500 prize purse with the next week and will begin exploring opportunities to pilot test the ideas on actual farms.

That’s right—people will get to walk away with a nice reward for providing the kindling for a potential environmental breakthrough that will help our scientists and many experts throughout the agricultural industry protect our health and our planet.  In addition, the prizes don’t have to be very large to leverage the creativity of the crowd to solve.  Win-win-win, right?

Because it isn’t straightforwardly obvious, it’s worth explaining why a $7500 prize may be enough to leverage breakthrough innovation.  This is true for at least two reasons:

  1.  First, award amounts can be smaller because less is needed to incentivize individual participation, especially with the feel-good reward of helping the environment.
  2. Secondly, especially for Ideation, many of these ideas either exist already, or need someone to help bring about an “ah-ha” moment, they aren’t ideas that need to be drawn from scratch.  The trick is tapping into that moment.

In the coming weeks, we will be engaging with the solvers to see whether they can work with us to implement the ideas as pilots, and continue to improve upon them.

Challenge 2: Theoretical

Were in the midst of evaluating the 14 submissions we received for the more in-depth Theoretical Challenge on developing a low-cost, simplified logistics method to enable farmers to gather real-time feedback on the progress of their crops.  It’s important to point out that the stakes and the rewards are higher for this Eco-Challenge.  Instead of a $7,500 prize for the best solution, Solvers are competing to win a $15,000 prize for a Theoretical Challenge requiring a white-paper like submission with more detail and proof.  EDF will determine whether any of the submissions satisfy all requirements, and if so, a prize will be rewarded.

We’ll update you again on the outcome.

Innovations In Energy Efficiency Finance Conference

By: Brad Copithorne, EDF's Energy & Financial Policy Specialist

Earlier this week EDF and Citi co-hosted a successful conference on energy efficiency (EE) finance at Citi’s headquarters in Manhattan. This is the third similar conference that Citi has hosted. Four years ago, they had 10 people in a conference room. Two years back, it was 40 participants. This week, we were standing room only in a 200-seat venue. More importantly, however, was the diverse makeup of the audience, including bankers, real estate owners, EE project developers, financial sponsors, government agencies, foundations and nonprofit organizations. We are optimistic that this high level of interest indicates that we are close to a tipping point in toward the successful development of this market.

Some of the interesting transactions discussed included:

Public Buildings – Nobel Prize winner, John Byrne, explained an innovative structure that he developed and executed with Citi to aggregate, manage and finance $73mm of EE projects for public buildings in Delaware. Citi is looking to expand this approach in other states. (We hope to have a future blog post with many more details about this idea.)

Unsecured Loans – Cisco Devries of Renewable Funding discussed how he is working to aggregate a portfolio of unsecured consumer EE loans and how, to date, these loans seem to show much lower default rates than would be expected. Several speakers at the conference discussed the importance of getting data on EE loan performance and we understand that there are several efforts in place to collect this data.

Energy Services Agreements – Green Campus, Serious Capital, Transcend, Metrus and Sustainable Development discussed their efforts to further develop this market. We are hopeful for several favorable announcements in the near term.

Measuring and Managing EE Project Performance – Mary Barber of EDF described our project to create protocols to estimate future energy savings so that lenders and other investors can make informed investment decisions. Angela Ferrante of Energi talked about an insurance contract that will guarantee the energy savings for a project.

On-Bill Repayment – Jeff Pitkin of NYSERDA described New York’s innovative plan to provide low-cost loans to consumers for EE projects. The loans would be repaid through the customer’s utility bill. Credit would be improved because nonpayment would eventually result in shut off of power. Additionally, the obligation will stay with the meter if the customer moves. I discussed a similar plan that we hope to implement in California. We hope that the California strategy will work for commercial and multi-family in addition to single family homes.

Philanthropic Capital – Margot Brandenburg of Rockefeller Foundation, Jessica Boehland of Kresge Foundation and John Goldstein of Imprint Capital discussed how targeted investments for mission driven investors can help seed the market for EE finance.

Lessons for Solar Project Finance – Michael Mittleman of SolarCity and Marshal Salant of Citi described the very long effort that was required to make solar projects viable for financing. Currently, billions of dollars of solar projects are financed each year and the market is expanding rapidly. They (and we) are hoping that we will have similar near term success in EE finance.

We want to express appreciation to Citi for co-sponsoring this week’s successful event. Citi has committed significant resources to developing this market well before there is a likelihood of near term returns. We recognize that this type of commitment is not easy to make in a difficult economic environment with shareholders primarily focused on quarterly earnings releases.

Read EDF's whitepaper on energy efficiency financing >>

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

Reasons to be cheerful: EDF Climate Corps finds $650 million in energy savings.

By: Victoria Mills, Managing Director of Corporate Partnerships for EDF, and Michael Regan, Director of Energy Efficiency, EDF

Recent headlines paint a gloomy picture of our economy, with its looming deficits and stubborn unemployment rate. And let’s not forget the steady stream of evidence that climate change is already happening.  But today, a ray of sunshine breaks through these cloudy skies:  the news that companies, cities and universities  have found ways to save millions of dollars while avoiding hundreds of thousands of metric tons of carbon pollution.  How did they do it?  EDF Climate Corps.

Today, EDF announced that this summer’s class of Climate Corps fellows uncovered efficiencies in lighting, computer equipment, and heating and cooling systems that can:

  • Cut 600 million kilowatt hours of electricity use and 27 million therms of natural gas annually, equivalent to the annual energy use of 38,000 homes;
  • Avoid 440,000 metric tons of CO2 emissions annually, equivalent to the annual emissions of 87,000 passenger vehicles; and
  • Save $650 million in net operational costs over the project lifetimes.

Thanks to the work of our EDF Climate Corps fellows, organizations as diverse as McDonald’s, Target, the New York City Housing Authority, and North Carolina Agricultural & Technical University all found significant cost savings and greenhouse gas reductions through energy efficiency.  This is indeed cause for celebration.

But imagine how good the news would be if everyone reaped the full benefits of energy efficiency.  The opportunity is enormous:  McKinsey & Co. estimate that by 2020, the U.S. could reduce its energy consumption by 23 percent through energy efficiency measures, cutting CO2 emissions by over a gigaton and saving over a trillion dollars.

EDF created Climate Corps to cut carbon pollution by overcoming the barriers that prevent organizations from investing in energy efficiency.  Now in its fourth year, EDF Climate Corps has grown from 7 fellows in 2008 to 96 in 2011, and expanded to a nationwide program that spans corporate, academic and government sectors.  For us at EDF, the best news of all is our implementation rate:  to date, projects accounting for 86 percent of the energy savings identified by 2008-2010 EDF Climate Corps fellows are complete or underway.

We’d love to bring some of this good news to your organization.  Visit to learn how to hire an EDF Climate Corps fellow in 2012, or email us at

EDF Climate Corps places specially-trained MBA and MPA students in companies, cities and universities 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.

Now Brewing: Energy Efficiency at Dunkin’ Donuts

By: Jochen Schloesser, 2011 EDF Climate Corps Fellow at Dunkin' Brands, MBA Candidate at Harvard Business School

“America runs on Dunkin’.” Freshly-brewed cups of coffee are sold to millions of faithful American guests that flock to the restaurants’ doors daily. The company’s culinary and operational recipes have proven to be quite successful: already a Northeast staple, Dunkin’ Donuts is continuing to extend its presence across the rest of the United States. Excitement at the company runs particularly high nowadays, in response to its recent and successful IPO.

After observing the success of EDF Climate Corps fellows at other companies, executives at Dunkin’ Donuts believed energy efficiency could mean potential savings for their own company as well. This led to my summer assignments: (1) estimate the total energy consumption across Dunkin’ Donuts stores and (2) value and plan out financially-attractive energy efficiency investments throughout the stores. This seems simple enough, right?

But it gets trickier when you consider that Dunkin’ Donuts, as a franchisor, owns virtually none of the Dunkin’ Donuts stores. The corporate parent owns only a handful of actual restaurants. Instead, individual franchisees own each of the nearly 6,700 Dunkin’ Donuts stores in the U.S. So even if Dunkin’ Donuts were to identify very financially attractive energy efficiency investments, these investments would not be undertaken unless franchisees (the actual store owners) became interested enough to implement and pay for the projects on their own.

How can a franchisor convince franchisees that an energy efficiency project is worth the investment? Below are some recommendations from my work to-date regarding franchisee engagement and benchmarking:

Step 1: Gather your test subjects

Find a small group of franchisees willing to participate in an energy efficiency benchmarking pilot project. Ideal candidates will have already expressed an interest in reducing their energy consumption to the franchisor. Collectively, participants should form a representative sample of the entire franchisee population. Obtaining buy-in from franchisees to participate in the pilot program will likely require one-on-one conversations to explain the costs and benefits of participation. Franchisees should commit to providing abundant utility and operational data for select stores. In exchange, the franchisor can reward participants with detailed “report cards” at the end of the benchmarking project that inform franchisees of how efficient each of their stores are in relation to their peers. While appealing to a person’s competitive spirit in hopes of lowering energy consumption is nothing new, the combination of providing savings evidence and benchmarking should prove effective.

Step 2: Collect your data  

Measure pilot stores’ energy consumption and gather store operating characteristics. Some companies gather energy consumption data electronically. If that isn’t the case, roll up those sleeves and gather raw energy consumption data on your own by reviewing monthly utility bills for each of the stores in the pilot set. At a minimum, observing a full year’s worth of energy usage per store is required to fully understand the effects of cyclicality. Once energy consumption data is collected, tabulate the stores’ physical and operating characteristics such as sales, geography and climate, square footage, operating hours, and other elements which might clearly influence energy consumption.

Step 3: Group your groups

Determine which attributes make individual stores comparable to each other and lump these stores into “comp” groups. Find correlations between a store’s physical and operating characteristics and its energy consumption. What types of stores have similar energy consumption drivers and are therefore comparable? Despite their obvious similarities, most stores probably shouldn’t be compared to each other for the purpose of ranking their energy efficiency. Take Dunkin’ Donuts’ example: we found that only stores of similar sizes, in similar geographies, and of similar structural builds (freestanding stores with their own parking lots as opposed to stores in a strip center, for example) should be considered “comps.”

Step 4: Rank your results

Lastly, rank “comp” groups based on energy efficiency. Identify the leaders and laggards, and allow franchisees to prioritize investment decisions accordingly. Identifying the most and least efficient stores motivates franchisees to prioritize investing in the laggards, and look for best practices in the leaders. At Dunkin’ Donuts, benchmarking results suggest that several freestanding stores could reduce their energy consumption by 15%. Depending on a location’s cost per kilowatt-hour, this consumption difference could translate into substantial monthly savings for franchisees.

Armed with a better idea of energy consumption in stores, and the savings potential in energy efficiency investments, Dunkin’ Donuts is now shifting gears to determine how it can encourage the adoption of energy efficiency projects by franchisees with busy stores outside of the pilot group. One idea is to lead by example. Dunkin’ Donuts could invest to make corporate-owned locations as energy efficient as possible (within the parameters of what makes financial sense), while continuously measuring the savings, documenting the work, and sharing lessons learned with franchisees.

Much implementation work remains, but it’s been exciting to have measured the massive potential for energy efficiency savings that exist within the franchisee pilot group alone. I look forward to seeing how Dunkin’ Donuts continues its energy efficiency efforts.

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.

It’s in the Perks: The Energy Behind Facebook’s On-Campus Amenities

By: Naveen Lakshmipathy, 2011 EDF Climate Corps fellow at Facebook, MBA/MS Candidate at University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business 

Facebook offers some fabulous amenities to its employees.  These perks include cafeterias that serve three meals a day and a robust transportation program that keeps a large and ever-growing percentage of employees out of their cars.  The company is planning even more offerings, including a state-of-the-art fitness center and additional food options, as it moves to its expansive new campus in Menlo Park, CA.  These amenities keep employees happy and healthy, and help make their lives easier by reducing the need to run errands throughout the workday.

Food is Energy

I am one of a team of three EDF Climate Corps fellows at Facebook this summer, working to make a business case for investments in energy efficiency.  Given the important role that amenities play in Facebook’s corporate culture, our team was excited to take on the task of examining how these services could be more energy-efficient.  The place to start was clear: food.  It is easy to see (and taste) why food service is so highly valued by Facebook employees. Facebook’s kitchens—and the professionalism of its culinary staff—are a sight to behold.  I marvel every day at how a handful of individuals in tiny quarters can prepare thousands of delicious multi-course meals each day.  Looking inside the kitchen at mealtimes, I always see a well-oiled machine in which everyone knows their role, appearing to shift effortlessly from chopping and sautéing to serving and cleaning without taking even a second to think.  Despite our lack of prior knowledge about large-scale food service operations, we knew it would be important that any change in the name of energy efficiency would not disrupt this impressive dynamic.

Ask for Help

We decided to invite Todd Bell, an expert from PG&E’s Food Service Technology Center, to visit our cafeterias in order to provide practical and economical energy efficiency recommendations.  His first observation was that almost all of Facebook’s kitchen appliances were relatively new and Energy Star certified, and thus were already quite energy efficient.  He did, however, identify a few high-impact areas for improvement that would not only promote energy efficiency, but would likely even improve the operating environment of the kitchen.

The most significant of these recommendations involved the kitchen’s exhaust ventilation technology.  Commercial kitchens, like home kitchens, have exhaust hoods that draw out hot air and smoke during the cooking process.  In commercial kitchens, these hoods have powerful, noisy, energy-sucking fans and motors.  By law, exhaust hoods must be kept on whenever any food is being prepared.  In the case of Facebook’s kitchens, this is over 20 hours a day.  Unfortunately, almost all standard kitchen hoods have only one setting, running at full power no matter how much heat and smoke are actually being produced.  A technology called demand ventilation changes this.  Demand ventilation systems, which can be retrofitted onto existing hoods, incorporate temperature and smoke sensors with variable frequency drives (VFDs) that allow exhaust hoods to automatically operate at different speeds and power levels depending on actual temperature and smoke levels.  Given the intensive use of the exhaust hoods in Facebook’s kitchens, this technology has the potential to save hundreds of thousands of kilowatt-hours of electricity each year, resulting in tens of thousands of dollars in energy cost savings.  More important, perhaps, is the potential effect on the kitchen environment.  Demand ventilation is praised by professional chefs who benefit from the technology’s ability reduce noise in the kitchen environment while preserving indoor air quality.  Current utility subsidies make installation of the technology a no-brainer for many commercial kitchens.

Working it Out

We found another opportunity to promote energy efficiency in Facebook’s new employee fitness center.  In many fitness centers, cardio equipment and entertainment displays stay on at night, drawing phantom power even while not in use. We are working with the management company and facilities staff to create a procedure for automatic or manual power-down of equipment during off hours.

As Facebook’s campus in Menlo Park continues to develop and new on-campus amenities come online, it will be important to continually examine how to make these services as energy efficient as possible. As it does with other sustainability choices, we are encouraging Facebook to analyze the full life-cycle impact of choices related to amenities.  For example, what is the comparative environmental impact of washing fitness center towels in-house versus outsourcing the service to a centralized laundry facility?  Thoroughly analyzing choices like this will help give the company a fuller and ultimately more realistic understanding of its environmental impact.

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.

Where You'll Find Us in September

Sadly, this summer is coming to an end. We’ve had record-breaking heat waves, earthquakes and hurricanes. Maybe we aren’t that sad to see it go. On that note, let’s ring in the next season with some great conferences and events!

Growing GIBN Conversations

Next Call: September 13 at 2pm ET
Employee Engagement in Sustainability Efforts
(760) 569-9000
Code: 160031#

More info.

To get us started this fall, Audrey Davenport is speaking on a sustainability panel at the Private Equity Summit for Institutional Investors on September 15-16 in San Francisco.  

Next on September 20, Andrew Hutson, Lee Coker, Jake Hiller and Namrita Kapur are attending the first Citi-EDF Innovations in Energy Efficiency Finance event.

Also on September 20, The GIBN Solutions Labs are picking back up in Indianapolis, where you can meet Beth Trask, and come up with an unconference agenda that works for you.

To help close out a very successful summer and great class of fellows, the EDF Climate Corps team will be at EDF’s Breaking Down Barriers to Energy Efficiency: An EDF Climate Corps Network Event September 21-22 in Cambridge, MA.

Emily Reyna is participating on a panel at The CR Commit! Forum in New York City on September 27. The panel is on “Building the Next Generation of Sustainable Business Leaders,” featuring EDF Climate Corps alumni Ryan Whisnant (Director of Sustainability at SunGard, 2009 EDF Climate Corps fellow at SunGard) and Stuart DeCew (Program Director and Yale School of Business and the Environment, 2010 EDF Climate Corps fellow at RBS/Citizens Bank).

Victoria Mills is moderating a panel at EnerNOC’s EnergySMART conference in Boston on September 27 called "Managing GHG Emissions: Reducing Energy Waste, Increasing Profitability." Participating on the panel are representatives from Genzyme, adidas and the Boston Globe.

Beth Trask and Justin Olsson are hosting, with InnoCentive, an invitation-only workshop on environmental innovation for business, called   “Can Open Innovation Save the Planet and Deliver Business Value?” at the EDF-San Francisco office. If you are interested in participating, please email us at

Sitar Mody is moderating a panel at the Green Initiatives Conference and Expo in Ft. Lauderdale on September 30 about “Breaking Down Barriers to Energy Efficiency in Companies.” Sitting on the panel will be representatives from CA Technologies, Wells Fargo and QTS.

Look for us at these conferences – and let us know if you’ll be there so we can watch for you as well!

You can always see where we’re going to be – and what other conferences we know about– on the EDF Biz Calendar.

Sustainable Shopping: On the right track with GoodGuide

By Lillias MacIntyre, Program Associate, Corporate Partnerships

OK – so you’re part of the ever increasing group of environmentally conscious global citizens trying to make a difference.  I’m sure you’ve found yourself browsing a retailer’s shelves or clicking through in search of a product more sustainable than the one sitting on your shelf at home…But you couldn’t remember if you should avoid PBDE, PFOA or NPEs!  Now, undeterred and armed with your smart phone, you launch the GoodGuide mobile app, and learn you should try and avoid all three chemicals.

GoodGuide helps consumers make better purchasing decisions by ranking product performance on a relative scale using an array of environmental, health and social impact metrics.  And with the recent launch of its “Transparency Toolbar” you can now browse products on and see how they stack up to the competition in areas of interest to you.  Naturally, the moment I learned about these tools I decided to give them a try.

The mobile app allows you to scan or manually input barcodes for product information and is a fun and convenient tool when it works.  With a database of about 120,000 products, you can opt to browse GoodGuide or simply use the scanner when shopping.  Conveniently, when browsing product categories, you’re given a list of “ingredients to watch for.”

The Toolbar is supported on Chrome and Firefox, currently works with Amazon, and will soon be supported by Walmart, SOAP, Target and Google Products.  While helpful when it finds a product from the database, this too has its inconsistencies.  For example, a search for “Avalon Organics Biotin B-Complex Thickening Shampoo” on,, and the mobile application produced an overall product rating of 6.2 on the first; a non product-specific 5.2 on the toolbar; and a 6.2 overall rating on the app.  Additionally, when clicking through for the “Full Rating” from the Toolbar, I was taken to a page with partial data and no overall rating.  It seems that in this case, the first Toolbar rating of 5.2 draws on overall company data (Avalon Natural Products).

Information on GoodGuide’s ratings and methodologies can be found on the website, but in general, data is acquired from many sources including scientific institutions, government agencies, NGOs, media outlets and corporations themselves.

That said, the next time you’re wandering the isles of your favorite retailer or searching for a great deal on, keep these tools in mind, because despite their kinks – you’re on a more enlightened path with GoodGuide.