Walmart: Driving solar in California

By Walmart Green Room

What country ranks No. 1 in the world in solar? The U.S.? Japan?

The No. 1 country is actually Germany, followed by the solar-loving country of Spain. Japan is next, followed by the United States.

Solar is important to a future powered by renewable resources, one that reduces greenhouse gases and our dependence on oil and other nonrenewable fossil fuels.

The sun is an incredible source of clean energy, and California has become an important state for us to expand solar on our buildings and help make the United States a solar powerhouse. Last year, we promised to expand our solar portfolio to more than 75 percent of our California stores.

Today, we have reached the milestone of 100 stores.

We now have 100 Sam’s Club locations and Walmart stores in California using rooftop solar panels (link to press release when posted),which have also created more than 3,000 contract construction jobs in the state.

The California Air Resources Board encourages other businesses to do the same and notes that buildings “represent the second largest source of California’s greenhouse emissions.”

For a good primer on the history of solar power and just how solar works, you can read this post by Green Building Elements. One interesting fact from the piece: Solar-power installation increased 83 percent in 2009.

We expect our California solar installations to:

  • Generate up to 70 million kilowatt hours of clean, renewable energy per year, which is the equivalent of powering more than 5,400 homes, according to the EPA calculator;
  • Avoid producing more than 21,700 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions per year, which is the equivalent of taking approximately 4,100 cars off the road; and
  • Provide 10 to 30 percent of each facility’s total electric needs.

As a company, we continue to work toward our goal of being supplied 100 percent by renewable energy.

So tell us, What role do you feel solar will play globally?

This content was originally published on Walmart's Green Room blog.

Are we Entering the Post-Green Team Era?

Are we on a path that moves us beyond volunteer green teams onto one in which sustainability is so deeply embedded into corporate culture, goals and business practices that every job is a “green job”?

Or is employee engagement just another “to do” for already over-stretched sustainability teams?

Environmental Defense Fund recently gathered corporate sustainability leaders to discuss these and other big questions about the next frontier of employee engagement.  It was a diverse group representing 23 companies, spanning high tech and information technology (including Hewlett Packard, eBay, EMC), aviation and biotech (Boeing, Genentech), management consulting and insurance (Accenture , Blue Shield of California), consumer products and entertainment (Levi Strauss & Co., Clorox, Sony Pictures), and more.

What we learned, not surprisingly, is that finding the right formula for employee engagement around sustainability is tricky.  Depending largely on organizational culture, it looks a bit different at every company.  Yet, a series of common strategic questions emerged:

What comes first: engagement or sustainability?

In a twist on the eternal “chicken or the egg” paradox, the fundamental question facing sustainability practitioners is:  Do sustainability objectives drive employee engagement or is the sustainability program a tool for engaging employees?  Since the C-suite is increasingly focused on the latter, sustainability teams need to design engagement programs capable of tackling their sustainability objectives in a meaningful way.  Otherwise, they could drain resources on fun, but ultimately light-weight activities that lack value for everyone.

How many employees should be engaged in sustainability? 

Many participants agreed that typically it is a small percentage of employees (often around 15%) who choose to engage in sustainability, whether through their day jobs and/or volunteer activities. Should a company, then, expend resources to get the other 85% involved?

For some companies, 15% (or even less) is a sufficient quantity of engaged workers to meet their current sustainability objectives, particularly if it includes those employees whose jobs have the most direct impact on the sustainability program (e.g. those in operations, facilities or energy management, etc.).  A few participants expressed concern that trying to engage more than 15% simply creates extra work.

For other companies, however, reaching the broader workforce is critical for ensuring long-term impact.  For example, can we encourage developers to write code in a way that reduces energy load?  How can administrative assistants be encouraged to book lower-carbon travel?

How can leveraging organizational culture make a bigger impact?

Hosting Earth Day events is the first step, but can we reach a deeper level of engagement?  Almost across the board, these sustainability leaders are trying to leverage company culture and core business practices.  For example, companies focused on advancing innovations in engineering can design innovation competitions around sustainability objectives for their engineers.  Or in a highly structured environment with a focus on safety and efficiency, building sustainability into existing continuous improvement teams is the way to go.

How to make the business case?

The conversation always comes back to making the business case.  But most companies lack hard numbers to back this up.  One seemingly simple solution (though often difficult to execute) is to get an extra question added to the annual company-wide survey. This way we aren’t just asking “Are you engaged?” but also “What is the source of your engagement?”  (Is it because you participate on the green team?)

Harder still, but even more important, is figuring out how to measure individual employee contributions to company-wide sustainability goals. To do this, some companies are experimenting with incorporating a sustainability goal, or two, into employee work plans and tying them to an award or even a piece the annual bonus.

This content was originally published on Sustainable Brands.

Shorenstein Fellow Reflects on Returning to EDF Climate Corps for Year Number Two

Fellow: Jaxon Love, 2012 EDF Climate Corps fellow at Shorenstein, MBA/MAcc Graduate at Lundquist School of Business, University of Oregon

Organization: Shorenstein

Opportunity: Jaxon Love began his 2012 EDF Climate Corps fellowship a year ahead of the pack

Summary: Jaxon Love is one of three 2012 EDF Climate Corps fellows participating in the program for a second year in a row. He was a fellow at Shorenstein in 2011 and is currently halfway through his second fellowship at the firm. We caught up with him to ask what brought him back.

Jaxon Love is one of three 2012 EDF Climate Corps fellows participating in the program for a second year in a row. He was a fellow at Shorenstein in 2011 and is currently halfway through his second fellowship at the firm. We caught up with him to ask what brought him back.

EDF: Tell us about your professional background. What were you doing before you became an EDF Climate Corps fellow?

Love: In 2010 I interned with the energy efficiency group at Pacific Gas and Electric. Prior to starting my MBA, I was a public policy and economics analyst with ECONorthwest, a consultancy in Portland, OR. Before that, I was a Peace Corps volunteer in Jordan.

EDF: What initially attracted you to EDF Climate Corps?

Love: I was always interested in sustainability and eventually came to the conclusion that a focus on energy efficiency would maximize my environmental impact. Plus there seemed to be job opportunities in the space. EDF Climate Corps provides the ideal hands on experience one needs to kick start a career in energy efficiency.

EDF: What brought you back for your second EDF Climate Corps fellowship?

Love: I really enjoyed working at Shorenstein. My work is on the ground and detail oriented. My supervisors, Bill Young and Lisa Mize, are great. Real estate is a fascinating industry because there are so many challenges and opportunities, especially in energy efficiency.

In addition to completing traditional energy efficiency projects during my fellowship last year, I developed a green lease guide based on the BOMA (Building Owners and Managers Association) green lease, an industry standard. Plus I developed a tool for Shorenstein managers to use in tenant negotiations. This year I'm working on Shorestein's strategy for LEED re-certification. No one has really worked out LEED recertification for operations and maintenance yet because it's so new. So it's really exciting – I feel like my work is valuable to the organization.

EDF: You're the only second-year fellow who has stayed with the same host. Any reason for that?

Love: I wanted to continue with Shorenstein because I felt like there was still more I could learn and more value I could bring to the table. I also think Shorenstein saw that I was already trained into the position – It's nice to hire somebody who already knows the organization and what it's trying to achieve.

I personally think that repeating EDF Climate Corps should be encouraged, for both companies and fellows. I found so much value in coming back to the same company, picking up where I left off and taking my work deeper.

It's great that EDF Climate Corps is open to having both companies and fellows repeat for multiple years. My suspicion is that we EDF Climate Corps veterans will have more success the second time around and be a resource for the newbies. At least, that's what I'm hoping. My fingers are crossed, and I'm excited to see how it all unfolds!

Stay tuned to Jaxon Love’s page on edfclimatecorps.org for updates on his work this summer.

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.

 

Fighting the Same Fight: EDF Climate Corps Crosses Paths with C40, BBC, Others

By Katie Ware and Andrew Willens

Heat waves. Droughts. A disappointing climate summit. This summer’s headlines have been less than encouraging for the fight against global warming.

Nonetheless, the EDF Climate Corps team sees reason for optimism. Rio+20 did not produce the binding international climate commitments many had hoped for, but it did demonstrate "big power shifts around the world."

In a recent New York Times article, John M. Brohner touted “the growing capacity of grass-roots organizations and corporations to mold effective environmental action without the blessing of governments." That’s exactly what we're working on through EDF Climate Corps. This summer we placed 98 specially trained graduate students in companies, cities and universities across the nation to build the business case for energy efficiency.

“With federal climate policy at a standstill, the need to cut carbon emissions through energy efficiency has never been greater," said Jim Marston, Vice President of EDF’s Energy Program. "Energy efficiency is doable right now, it’s cost-effective, and it’s too big a part of the climate solution to be ignored.”

About 1 in 5 organizations participating in EDF Climate Corps this summer are already committed to other climate change initiatives such as C40 and the Better Buildings Challenge. Here are some of the "grass roots" movements we’re crossing paths with this summer.

Corporate Eco-Forum

Corporate Eco-Forum (CEF) actually announced its newest sustainability initiatives at Rio+20. This invitation-only membership organization asks large companies to demonstrate commitment to environmental sustainability as a business strategy and meets regularly to exchange best practices. Its members represent 18 industries and have combined revenues exceeding $3 trillion. Our 2012 fellows working with CEF member organizations include:

C40

C40 is a global collection of 58 megacities – Hong Kong, Berlin, Sao Paulo and Johannesburg, to name a few – representing 18 percent of international gross domestic product and one in twelve people worldwide. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg currently serves as chairman of C40, which merged with the Clinton Climate Initiative in April 2011. Our 2012 fellows at C40 cities include:

DOE Better Buildings Challenge

The Better Buildings Challenge (BBC) is a program of the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) that supports energy efficiency in commercial and industrial buildings. It provides members with technical assistance for energy efficiency projects, as well as a forum to troubleshoot efficiency problems with other members. BBC is a strategy of the Better Buildings Initiative. Our 2012 fellows working with BBC include:


Regional Initiatives
A number of our fellows are also involved with sustainability organizations specific to a particular city:

Partnering for a Better City: Au Bon Pain Fellow Invited to Boston Sustainability Conference

By Jana Holt, 2012 EDF Climate Corps fellow at Au Bon Pain, Dual  MBA/MEM Candidate at The Fuqua School of Business, Duke University.

Organization: Boston’s A Better City Challenge for Sustainability (ABC)

Opportunity: “The private sector has the ability to influence social change on the larger community quickly and efficiently. A Better City Challenge for Sustainability is designed to leverage this ability and make Greater Boston a leader in sustainable business practices.” – ABC’s Web site

Summary: Jana Holt presented EDF Climate Corps and the wisdom of energy efficiency to members of Boston's A Better City Challenge earlier this month. Her favorite part? The two-way street of sustainability education she's now a part of.

One of my favorite things about working in sustainability is the community it generates, engaging people from all internal divisions of a company and often from completely separate organizations. This summer I'm fortunate enough to be a part of one such community, a collaborative project between Au Bon Pain, Boston’s A Better City Challenge and EDF Climate Corps.

In June, A Better City Challenge for Sustainability (ABC) hosted a half-day workshop on building energy management. Over 40 companies working toward environmental sustainability in Boston presented case studies. Jeannette Yee, the EDF Climate Corps fellow at Nixon Peabody, and I lead a presentation on strategies for overcoming barriers to energy efficiency.

We reminded participants, most importantly, to make the business case for energy efficiency. Companies often use financial metrics that fail to fully capture the benefits of investing in energy efficiency, insisting upon high hurdle rates and short payback periods that can kill energy efficiency investments before they're even out of the gate. These requirements, however, don’t account for the low-risk, long-term benefits of energy efficiency.

We encouraged ABC companies to try out Net Present Value (NPV) in addition to their traditional measurements. NPV analyzes the entire lifecycle of an investment, giving energy efficiency an honest assessment and often a fighting chance in the C-Suite.

Au Bon Pain has tapped into resources provided by ABC to craft its own sustainability action plan, and our ABC membership holds us to our goals. Thus far, it's worked. In 2011 ABC recognized Au Bon Pain for reducing the energy intensity of our warehouse by 11%. As a whole, ABC companies are reducing energy consumption by over 8.5 million kWh per year.

Jeannette and I think the companies at the workshop learned a lot from us, but I have a feeling we'll be the ones learning the most from the ABC community this summer. You wouldn't think that a café or a law firm would have much in common with TD Garden, the Seaport Hotel or the New England Aquarium. But they do. We do – we all share common challenges; and this community is giving us the resources to overcome them.

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.

Eight Ways National Geographic is Engaging Employees to Cut Costs

By Katie DeWitt, 2012 EDF Climate Corps fellow at National Geographic Society, MBA candidate at University of California Berkeley Haas School of Business

Organization: National Geographic Society (Nat Geo)

Opportunity: 1,307 passionate employees

Summary: Though the National Geographic Society is best known for inspiring people to care about the planet through educational materials and breathtaking images, its internal environmental activities are equally impressive…though less visible to the public. This summer, I'm getting an inside view of those activities and writing to tell you what I see.

Despite today's tough economic climate, particularly for media and nonprofit organizations, National Geographic (Nat Geo) has an exceptionally "green" workplace, an otherwise expensive undertaking that has been made possible by its GoGreen Initiative.

GoGreen is an employee engagement program that protects the environment and Nat Geo’s bottom line by tapping into one of the organization's most bountiful, though unconventional, resources – the passion and creativity of Nat Geo employees themselves.

Founded in 2007 entirely by employee volunteers, GoGreen runs at low- to-no-cost to Nat Geo, and is an imitable model – here are 8 successful aspects of the program that could help any organization "Go Green."

1)    Green Fridays: Every other Friday during the summer, Nat Geo closes its office and reduces gas and electricity to a minimum, saving about $20,000 per year. Employees still work 40 hours in the four day week, but they've said they appreciate the long weekends!

2)    Demand response: This is Nat Geo’s third year in EnerNOC's nationwide energy conservation program – we're alternating air handlers and asking employees to turn off elevators, nonessential overhead lighting and office equipment to reduce power usage during the hottest and most humid days of summer. That takes some of the pressure to supply off of our electricity provider, and it's saving Nat Geo about $19,000 a year.

3)    Signage: Every month, the GoGreen team reminds Nat Geo staff of its environmental accomplishments – and how to improve on them – with a new round of posters. This month's set focused on turning off computer monitors at night and printing double-sided, touting admirable statistics: "Nat Geo headquarters staff made 442,000 fewer copies in 2010 than in 2009, saving enough 8.5 x 11 sheets to stretch from DC to Baltimore and back."

4)    Alternative modes of transportation: Nat Geo recently increased car parking fees at its headquarters, using the revenue to subsidize Capital Bikeshare memberships and SmartTrip multi-use metro farecards for employees. It also provides bike racks and showers for employees who bike to work and participated in DC’s Bike to Work Day as a host.

5)    Dish carts: The GoGreen team worked with Sodexo, Nat Geo’s sustainability-driven cafeteria retailer, to place dish carts on every floor of the Nat Geo headquarters. Now employees can take food from the cafeteria and conveniently return the reusable dishware, reducing waste from to-go containers.

6)    Composting and recycling: To make composting hassle-free for employees, every office also has a recycling basket beside the trash can; every floor has a composting bin; and all paper towels in the bathrooms and paper waste in the cafeteria are compostable.

7)    Greenpage: As part of Nat Geo's internal "intranet," employees get green news, tips and resources for personal sustainability, and a forum for GoGreen questions and feedback.

8) Energy vampire: Every Halloween, an “energy vampire” reminds employees to turn off their lights… or else. Throughout the rest of the year, two blue and green spandex characters fill in, modeling good and bad environmental behavior for the office.

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.

Help Wanted: Private Equity Firms Add Staff to Manage Environmental Risk and Opportunities

A growing number of private equity firms are hiring in-house professionals and engaging outside experts to better manage environmental, social, and governance risks and opportunities.  Private Equity International's Responsible Investment Handbook 2012 highlighted this trend earlier this year.

In particular, the handbook spotlighted the fact that private equity leaders are adding new and much deeper social and environmental capabilities to their in-house teams. Among them: :

  • Kohlberg Kravis Roberts, which in 2009 hired Elizabeth Seeger (formerly of EDF) to manage KKR’s environmental and social issues across its portfolio. Seeger and colleague Alexandra Hartman, who came from Coca-Cola, are two of six employees focused on responsible investing at KKR.
  • The Blackstone Group, which in July 2011, hired Don Anderson as chief sustainability officer, a role that includes bulk purchasing low-cost energy efficiency items for Blackstone’s portfolio companies.
  • UK private equity firm Doughty Hanson, which hired Adam Black as its head of sustainability in 2008.
  • The Universities Superannuation Scheme, a £32 billion pension fund that employs a five-person ESG team co-led by David Russell.
  • Hermes Equity Ownership Services, whose director for private markets Tom Rotherham works with a team of nearly 30 investment professionals to screen 8,500 companies and identify risks. “Everything that we do is ESG,” Rotherham told PEI.
  • 3i, Actis, Carlyle, and TPG are among the other private equity firms with staff dedicated to ESG efforts.

There are many different solutions for private equity firms seeking to meet their capacity needs around responsible investing — not surprising, given the diversity of operating structures in the industry.  One thing that seems to be critical, however, is having at least one person who owns the issue and leads the effort at the firm.

Whether the answer is a dedicated full-time employee (or several) or engaging with outside experts, at EDF we are eager to help lower the barriers to tapping into specialized expertise in ESG.  We're doing our best to understand how we can help, whether that's developing job descriptions, interview guides, and/or a network of experts available to serve as consultants.

EDF Climate Corps fellows, MBA students specially trained on energy efficiency and ESG risk management, are one resource for jump-starting a new program or refocusing an existing one. Two private equity firms, The Carlyle Group and Clayton Dubilier and Rice are hosting fellows this summer to identify energy efficiency opportunities across a set of their investments.  In addition, 7 portfolio companies of leading PE firms are also hosting fellows .  It’s a simple, low-risk, highly cost-effective way to bring competitive to an organization, especially when compared with hiring an investment professional with a traditional portfolio management pedigree.

As James Taylor, editor of Private Equity International, points out in the handbook, responsible investment helps the industry's public image, protects the brand value of the businesses private equity owns, makes it easier to fundraise, saves money and increases returns. One thing's clear: those private equity firms that have invested in building capacity to manage environmental issues are going faster and further than those that haven't.