No Water Means No Beer, and Other Insights from an LA Water Conference

Beer lovers – now that I have your attention – let’s talk water. Nowhere in the country is water more critical an issue and looming risk than in my home state of California… critical to farmers, utilities, businesses, and yes, even breweries.

Officials touring San Luis Reservoir in 2013, which supplies water to Silicon Valley, is at historic low levels, only 17% full. (Source: Patrick Tehan/Bay Area News Group)

Officials touring San Luis Reservoir in 2013, which supplies water to Silicon Valley, is at historic low levels, only 17% full. (Source: Patrick Tehan/Bay Area News Group)

The current drought has brought a host of challenges for our growing state, including more wildfires, collapsing delta ecosystems and fisheries, decaying infrastructure and declining water quality. While California is on track to reduce carbon pollution due to our progressive climate and energy policies, our water challenges are the elephant in the room.

So it was inspiring to attend a daylong event convened by the Pacific Institute in Los Angeles, where leading corporate, nonprofit and technical water experts honed in on water stewardship and shared innovative solutions to the business and environmental challenges we face with regard to water scarcity.

The companies represented there – including AT&T, Deloitte, MillerCoors and Veolia – see water scarcity as a current business risk, as well as a critical component to economic growth in California, the Colorado River Basin and around the world. The World Economic Forum even ranked water crises as the third most pressing global risk for 2014. “Often, the greatest risks come from conditions over which the company has the least influence,” noted Jason Morrison of the Pacific Institute, whose Water Action Hub offers a powerful guide with tools and resources for collective action.

The day’s far-reaching discussion would be impossible to capture in a single blog post, so I'll highlight here just a few of the challenges and solutions that stuck with me after a full day of information sharing.

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The Real World Part Deux – Careers after EDF Climate Corps and why you should apply today!

The application deadline for 2012 EDF Climate Corps fellow candidates is two days away – January 11th.  If you are an MBA or MPA student deciding whether or not to apply, this post will convince you.  EDF Climate Corps may just launch your career in the new energy economy!

Following last year's post on what EDF Climate Corps fellows have gone on to do after their summer experience, we caught up with our alumni to take a crack at part deux of "Real World: Climate Corps." Many have taken full-time jobs that build directly on their EDF Climate Corps experience. Alumni are working around the world for Fortune 500 corporations, government agencies, small start-ups, private equity firms and utilities. Their roles range from directors of sustainability to facilities engineers to energy efficiency consultants. Here’s what a few of them are up to:

Fortune 500 companies

  • Rachel Bourne (2010, Cummins) returned to Cummins as Special Projects Leader for Global Facilities.
  • Tracy Liu (2010, Vivaki), is now an associate in the Corporate Citizenship, Insights & Integration at The Walt Disney Company.
  • Jamie Mikkelsen (2010, Target) is a Strategic Program Manager of Materials at Intel.
  • Megan Rast (2010, eBay) is an Environmental Sustainability Manager at Sony Pictures Entertainment.
  • Elizabeth Turnbull (2010, adidas) returned to adidas and is a Senior Manager for Environmental Affairs.
  • Eva Zlotnicka (2010, Genzyme) is Associate Director of Global Sustainability at UBS Investment Bank
  • Katie Schindall (2009, Sodexo) is now a Senior Program Manager, Sustainability at EMC

Utilities and the renewable energy sector

  • Russell Baruffi (2009, Sony Pictures Entertainment) is a Renewable Power Project Developer at SunEdison
  • Greg Buzzell (2009, Accenture) is the Director of Market Development at SoCore Energy
  • At least 5 are at PG&E including: Dan MacDonald (2008,, Program Manager for Third Party  Programs; John Joseph (Intuit, 2008), Senior Program Manager of Green Communities and Innovator Pilots; Ali Moazed (2008, Yahoo!), Manager of Finance – Energy Efficiency / Demand Response; Joey Barr (2010, Shorenstein), Senior Product Manager and Margaret Hodes (2011, Genzyme) who will join PG&E's MBA Leadership Program in the fall of 2012.

Government and universities

  • At least three alumni are working at the U.S. Department of Energy: Chris Anderson (2009, Ahold) works in DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Program along with  Jeremy Dommu (2010, PHH Arval) a Project Manager in the Office of EE and RE's Building Technologies Program; and Anne Marie Pippin (2010, Bank of America) is a Presidential Management Fellow at DOE.
  • Stuart DeCew (2010, RBS) is now the Program Director at Yale Center for Business and the Environment
  • Sahil Thaker (2009, North Carolina Central University) is an Energy Engineer at Ace Energy Inc
  • Stacie Shatzer (2011, Nash County, NC) is the Energy Manager for Nash County (NC).


  • Hunt Briggs (2009, Biltmore Farms) is the Chief of Business Development at ReGenerate Solutions, LLC
  • Jeff Crystal (2007, EDF) is the COO of Voltaic Systems, a solar products company
  • Harpreet Singh (2009, AMD) is the Founder at Kvantum Inc, a marketing campaign optimization and delivery


  • Several fellows have gone on to work at Deloitte Consulting including: Sarah Shapiro (2009, Cisco Systems); Jen Snook (2010, AT&T); Jay Stone (2010, News Corporation); and Catherine Sweere (2009,
  • Pablo Medina (2009, Intuit) is a consultant at Price Waterhouse Coopers
  • Sandrine Dury (2009, HP) is a consultant at Bain and Company
  • Jim Wilson (2010, Yahoo!), consultant at Booz Allen Hamilton
  • Akshay Honnatti (2010, Ingersoll Rand) is Senior Climate Change and Sustainability Services Officer at Ernst & Young LLP.

Already with a fellow alumni network of 187, the EDF Climate Corps program is poised to grow even bigger for 2012.  Join us!

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.

Energy Efficiency Opportunity Captured! Read our report to find out how.

Last September EDF Climate Corps teamed up with Duke’s Center for Energy, Development and the Global Environment (EDGE Center) to convene a one-day event to bring Climate Corps companies and fellows together to identify effective approaches to profitably reduce energy use and greenhouse gas emissions.

“Capturing the Energy Efficiency Opportunity: Lessons from EDF Climate Corps” was hosted at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business where Climate Corps companies and fellows from the past three summers shared lessons learned and identified common themes or innovations that could be more broadly applied to accelerate energy savings and reduce climate impact. The inaugural event attracted nearly 100 Climate Corps companies, fellows, EDF and Duke staff, guest speakers and members of the Duke community. The interactive format of the event gave participants, organizers and supporters an opportunity to identify the most promising strategies for identifying and delivering on efficiency gains in industry. I described the event in detail in an earlier post  and Nick Fassler, a 2010 Climate Corps fellow at HCA, shared additional insight on the opening talk led by Peter Senge, director of MIT’s Center for Organizational Learning, in the post “Energy Efficiency is Not the End Game.”

The EDF and Duke University conference team recently published a conference report that summarizes the content and lessons learned from the discussions at the event.  Download the report here if you’re interested in exploring how to capture the energy efficiency opportunity! And keep an eye out on EDFBiz for more blogs and lessons learned once we kick off the 2011 Climate Corps program in May.

The Future Looks Bright Green – Life after EDF Climate Corps

EDF’s innovative Climate Corps program embeds top MBA students in leading companies to make the business case for energy efficiency. People often remark about the incredible amount of financial savings uncovered by our fellows. Just as remarkable? How our EDF Climate Corps fellows parlay their summer experiences into long-term careers at the nexus of business and the environment.

EDF Climate Corps has experienced exponential growth since its inception in 2007. We grew the program from just one MBA fellow in 2007, to seven fellows in 2008, to 26 fellows in 2009, and 51 fellows this past summer.

Once they finish business school, our EDF Climate Corps fellows move on to play a prominent role in the transformation to a more sustainable marketplace throughout corporate America.  Our alumni take their EDF Climate Corps training and become true agents for change. It’s no wonder that Forbes reporter, Aman Singh, recently wrote that Climate Corps is “Finally a program that gets corporate sustainability.”

I was part of the 2008 EDF Climate Corps class working at Cisco Systems where I analyzed a project that could save an estimated $8 million per year and reduce Cisco's greenhouse gas emissions by 3%. (I’m happy to report that Cisco has begun implementing my recommendations, and they’ve also hosted two EDF Climate Corps fellows since I’ve worked with them in 2008!)

Following that summer, I returned to the University of Michigan’s Erb Institute for Global Sustainable Enterprise to complete a dual MBA and MS degree program, and begin the tough work of finding a job.  My dream job was one where I could make the business case for sustainability – finding environmentally-preferable solutions that would also keep a company profitable.   I couldn’t be happier working at EDF, using my business and environmental degrees to impact dozens of companies on a daily basis.

What about the career paths of other EDF Climate Corps alumni? The success stories are as diverse as they are impressive.  – private sector, public sector, start-ups– our Climate Corps alumni  are embedded throughout the country working on  various corporate projects and platforms around energy savings and environmental innovation.   Scroll through this list to see what some of the many rock star EDF Climate Corps alumni are currently doing:

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EDF Climate Corps Family Reunion: Reflecting on where we've been and determining where we're headed

In March, Duke’s new Center for Energy, Development and the Global Environment (EDGE Center) approached the EDF Climate Corps team with a novel idea: convene a one-day reunion  for all past Climate Corps fellows and companies to distill lessons learned from the program’s three years of work breaking down barriers to energy efficiency.  Since Duke’s EDGE Center seeks to become a thought leader in this space, they imagined no better way to learn, capture and re-apply energy efficiency insights than with rich examples from three years of Climate Corps.  So with generous support from 2010 EDF Climate Corps companies Ingersoll Rand and Eaton Corporation, nearly 100 Climate Corps participants made the trip out to Blue Devil country for our “Capturing the Energy Efficiency Opportunity: Lessons from EDF Climate Corps” workshop on September 17th.

I had a unique perspective: I am both a Climate Corps alumna (at Cisco Systems in 2008) and an EDF staff member on the Climate Corps team now.  As you can imagine, I was unsure of what to expect, especially since the word “reunion” often elicits anxiety around seeing an old flame and the dreaded comparisons that ensue.  I was also curious to see what kind of discussions would unfold and how candid participants would be sharing their experiences around corporate energy efficiency.

However, the energy (pun intended!) and enthusiasm of participants was infectious. Fellows and companies were excited and curious about the progress of their peers, and were eager to swap stories on creative answers to energy efficiency. In fact, the energy and creativity of the fellows was on display even before the conference began. For example, Ryan Mallett wrote a song about his 2010 EDF Climate Corps experience at Verizon and Sarah Will, a 2010 fellow at REI, created homemade “Retro-Commissioning” T-shirts that were available for others to purchase.  Fellows were excited to be there, and it showed.

Climate Corps alumni fellows reunited at "Capturing Energy Efficiency Opportunity” – see Sarah’s “Retro-Commissioning” T-shirt!

The event began with “climate leaders in conversation”: Michael Lamach, Chairmen, President and CEO of Ingersoll Rand speaking with Peter Senge, Director of the Society for Organizational Learning at the MIT Sloan School of Management and author of The Fifth Discipline. While Michael Lamach made a resounding push for energy efficiency, Peter Senge warned that energy efficiency might lead to a greater dependence on coal.  Nick Fassler will talk more about Senge’s provocative point of view in his blog post tomorrow, so be sure to check it out!

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The Green MBA Trend: Good for students, companies and the planet

The emerging green economy has made sustainability a hot topic in the MBA world.  And while the increased interest is driving the formation of corporate sustainability departments, clean tech start-ups and sustainable investment firms, the challenge will be for business school programs and companies alike to make sustainability an enduring core component of the curriculum and business strategy, rather than a passing fad.

To prepare students, many MBA programs are going green, as Francesca Di Meglio points out in her recent Businessweek article, and have begun to offer sustainability certificates or dual degree programs where students take classes at both the business and the environment schools.  The programs that have already developed curricula and joint degrees in this area, including my alma mater, University of Michigan’s Erb Institute for Global Sustainability, are expanding course offerings to meet the growing interests of the students and the increasing requests to inject sustainability into traditional MBA topics.  A recent Financial Times (FT) article by Sarah Murray titled, “Class is not always greener,” highlighted the Michigan’s Ross School of Business, which is offering a new elective finance course that teaches students how to evaluate social and environmental returns, as well as the financials, when investing in business projects. Read more

Sharing is Caring: An Energy Efficiency Wiki to Share Knowledge and Best Practices

According to recent article by GreenBiz, 2010 is the year for Energy Efficiency.    With more awareness of and incentives for energy efficiency, companies and households alike are trying to find ways to reduce energy consumption and cut costs.

The goal of Environmental Defense Fund’s Innovation Exchange is to Copy of iStock_typing000005238151Largeencourage widespread adoption of innovations and best practices that lead to tangible environmental results.  To that end, we are experimenting with an energy efficiency wiki to foster commercial building energy efficiency practices. Read more

2009 Climate Corps Fellows Bring Excitement back to Energy Efficiency

So maybe energy efficiency has never captured the imagination in the same way that renewable energy has, but attention to the importance of energy efficiency has surged in recent months.  Why?  Because it saves both money and greenhouse gas emissions.

President Obama’s administration has touted energy efficiency as the cheapest, cleanest, fastest energy source and a July 2009 McKinsey report concluded that, “energy efficiency offers a vast, low-cost energy resource for the U.S. economy – but only if the nation can craft a comprehensive and innovative approach to unlock it.”

EDF has developed an innovative approach to unlock energy efficiency in the commercial building space.  It’s called Climate Corps, and here’s how it works: Climate Corps places talented MBA students from top-ranking business schools in leading companies to make the business case for energy efficiency investments in office buildings and data centers.

We just completed our second year of the program and the outcomes are quite impressive.  Overall, the 2009 class of Climate Corps fellows uncovered efficiencies in lighting, computer equipment and heating and cooling systems that could:

  • Save more than $54 million in net operational costs over the lifetime of the projects;
  • Cut the equivalent of 160 million kilowatt hours of energy use annually—enough to power 14,000 homes;
  • Avoid 100,000 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions per year— equivalent to taking more than 12,000 SUVs off the road.

How did our fellows achieve such astounding outcomes?  By keeping an eye toward the “low-hanging fruit:” the no-cost or low-cost solutions that can provide companies with loads of savings.

Here are just a few of this summer’s stories: Read more