Leadership + Collaboration = Impact: The Equation That Will Lead to Climate Solutions

Hand of a student pointing at green chalk board2015 has been an exciting year for action on climate and energy management. In the EDF Climate Corps network, there is a strong feeling of momentum, as company after company steps up to answer the call on climate action and demonstrates concrete ways that they are greening their energy programs. Looking around at last week’s Energy Solutions Exchange (ESE), which brought together 150 people from top organizations to share stories and insights, I was struck by all of the connections and interactions taking place in the room.

But if I learned anything from this year’s event, it’s that in order to continue this momentum and create lasting impact, we need to form a new equation: leadership + collaboration = impact. Leadership and collaboration are essential as there is a limit to how far we can get by ourselves – to get the big stuff done, we have to work together.

Companies are leading, but they need to talk about it more

I learned from our dynamic speakers that organizations are doing amazing things in energy management: like pioneering microgrid installations, scoping out solar PPA agreements, and scaling LED and VFD retrofits across their operations, yet many more are doing things that we don’t even know about.  To truly lead in this space, we need companies to start talking about their concrete energy solutions.

Corporate disclosure and goals have the power to motivate additional companies to speak publicly and set goals of their own, but only the practical solutions designed by companies to achieve those goals will provide the roadmap for others to get there. As Anne Kelly from Ceres noted, “policy is a lagging indicator” and we should instead look to corporate actions to lead the way.

Just think: a few years ago, renewables were a non-starter, a pricey alternative to traditional energy methods. Today, the growth of global initiative RE100 shows the sheer amount of companies committing to use 100 percent renewables in the near future, and EDF Climate Corps host organizations like Nestlé Waters North America have rolled up their sleeves and designed the projects that will get them there.

Nestlé Waters North America enlisted the help of EDF Climate Corps to analyze the potential for off-site renewable power for certain facilities. It is estimated that just switching to renewable power at two of its facilities, in Texas and Pennsylvania, would position Nestlé Waters North America to save thousands of dollars per year in energy costs, while also reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 42,000 tons and energy-related water consumption by 48 million gallons. Once implemented, these projects could increase Nestlé Waters North America’s share of renewable power by nearly 15 percent. Nestlé works with many partners and other NGOs to help advance their ambitious goals.

The power of collaboration

The benefits of forming partnerships were emphasized in every session at the ESE and for good reason. Unlike many issues where collaboration would be detrimental to competitive companies, energy management and action on climate change benefit from multiple parties at the table. When traditional competitors like Nestlé and Mars formed a united front to sign and circulate Ceres’ joint letter to U.S. and world leaders, it really drove home the fact that climate change is a pre-competitive issue as it puts each company’s ingredient supply chain at risk.

And this has never been more relevant. In the wake of company commitments like the American Business Act on Climate Pledge, the next step is for companies to develop concrete plans for how to achieve those energy goals and truly move the needle on energy management. The power of partnership will help companies reach their ambitious goals and accelerate the transition to a low-carbon economy.

EDF Climate Corps is just one of a whole host of NGO and industry partners that can help companies and organizations, such as the Business Renewables Center, who also joined the ESE to share insights and tips. Tapping the expertise of external partners can provide much needed resources to accelerate companies’ progress toward a clean energy future.

It is now time to move beyond pledges and commitments and get down to business to realize these ambitious goals. With issues this large, there is a limit to how far we can get by ourselves, and in order to get the big stuff, we will need to work together and lead to bring us to the low-carbon future we need.

For more insights from our Energy Solutions Exchange, follow @EDFbiz and the event hashtag #ESEBoston15