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.