Changing Behavior Means Changing Beliefs

At EDF, all our advocacy and education around climate change aims to change behaviors — of individuals, corporations, utilities, governments and communities. But in order to change behavior, we must first change their belief systems.

Sitar ModyThat point was made eloquently in last month's final episode of Years of Living Dangerously, the Showtime documentary series about the human impact of climate change. The episode featured a conversation with President Barack Obama, a report on the impact of accelerated glacier melt in the Andes and the far-reaching effects of human-induced ecosystem changes in Bangladesh on the economy and society.

For me the takeaways were:

  • It's vividly clear that climate change is an issue of national security in poor countries, where extreme weather creates huge groups of impoverished, resource-strapped people who easily end up in slums and ghettos, often refugees in countries far from their homes. For instance, the incursion of ocean water in Bangladesh is disrupting rice farming.
  • Abrupt climate events can destroy overnight the societies and self-sustaining lifestyles that agrarian communities have built up over many generations.
  • The United States is responsible for a tremendous amount of greenhouse gas emissions, and it's only a matter of time before we become a target of worldwide anger for the damage climate change is wrecking on our planet.
  • We must guard against cynicism, especially among the youth. Obama's recently released energy plan paints an optimistic vision of an achievable future with reduced dependence on foreign oil, affordable clean energy technologies and improved energy efficiency.
  • Putting a price on carbon is one way to change mindsets, by forcing people to recognize the true cost of a resource differently.

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Big Ideas on Display with Verizon Ventures

At the invitation of Alan Scott, Verizon’s leader of energy and sustainability, I was thrilled to participate in the Verizon Ventures Powerful Answers Award Dinner two weeks ago, a gathering of entrepreneurs, sustainability executives from large corporations, and nonprofit leaders.

Verizon Powerful Answers Award

The dinner was part of the run-up to Verizon's multi-million dollar global competition for creative solutions to the world's problems in the areas of education, healthcare, sustainability and transportation. The competition, for which the entry deadline is June 30th, rewards innovators for finding more efficient, sustainable, and accessible solutions that lead to better outcomes.

It was fascinating to hear the variety of conversations in the room, which appropriately was held at Foreign Cinema restaurant, a San Francisco Bay Area restaurant known for its sustainable practices. Across the evening, two key themes resonated with me: cross-learning and networks.

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Buzz from GreenBiz Forum 2014

Last week, I had the pleasure of joining hundreds of leading sustainability and energy practitioners at the 2014 GreenBiz Forum. For those who were unable to attend, I wanted to call your attention to three themes that I noticed buzzing throughout the conference. For those who joined me at the Forum, I hope you’ll  add your perspective in the comments below.

1: Align Your Policy Efforts With Your Sustainability Goals

I was struck by an emphatic talk by Anne Kelly from Ceres Bicep. She emphasized the need for green business leaders to get involved in policy and to influence their company’s decisions on lobbying. She urged the leaders in the room to envision the future of green business and drive us there. Read more

Unveiling the Secret Sauce for EDF Climate Corps

EDF founded Climate Corps in 2008 armed with a hunch and seven smart, young people. Five years later, we have placed nearly 300 elite graduate students in about 200 leading companies, cities and universities to uncover valuable energy savings.

Today, EDF announces Climate Corps' latest results.

In the course of each engagement, EDF Climate Corps fellows have found an average of $1 million in energy savings for their host organizations. Collectively, they’ve identified opportunities to cut the electricity use of 150,000 homes – that’s like the entire city of Pittsburgh – and avoid the carbon emissions of 200,000 cars every year.

People often ask us, “What’s the secret sauce? How do these guys find such monumental savings in just ten short weeks?”

After five years, we’ve mastered the recipe:

  1. Pick the Right People. It takes the right type of person to inspire. Our fellows come to us with strong professional backgrounds in engineering, finance, environmental management and other specialties. We hand-pick committed self-starters with entrepreneurial characteristics and strong analytical skills.
  1. Give Them the Right Tools. EDF Climate Corps fellows are carefully matched with their hosts, and each one goes through an intensive training before setting out. We equip our fellows with a customized onboarding tool that helps them zero in on key opportunities, identify the major stakeholders in the organization and understand how decisions are made around energy investments right off the bat.
  1. Stand on the Shoulders of Giants (Or: Use the Network).  Based on our experience working with hundreds of organizations, we’ve uncovered common types of barriers to energy efficiency in nearly every organization, and identified proven strategies for overcoming them.

That’s the three-step recipe behind EDF Climate Corps, and it’s why our fellows can consistently deliver big results in just one summer.

We’ve found that no matter where an organization is on its path to sustainability — whether it’s just getting off the starting blocks or already taking strong energy and climate initiatives — EDF Climate Corps can help bring it to the next level.

In tough economic times, when budgets are tight and our country’s energy future is unclear, EDF Climate Corps provides a valuable and highly effective way to help almost any organization save energy and save money now.

EDF Climate Corps is now accepting applications for companies, cities and universities to host a fellow in 2013. Find details about hosting a fellow at or email

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Connecting the Dots and Breaking Down Barriers

Two things have been on my mind this week.

First is the 2012 State of Green Business Report released by GreenBiz. The report shares a mixed view of the condition of the green economy we are collectively bringing to bare. While companies are consistent in dedicating resources to setting and meeting notable environmental goals, the momentum in other important areas is slowing. This includes a decline in investments in clean energy and an increase in energy intensity.

The second is the 515 applications we received for the EDF Climate Corps fellowship this summer. We have 125 spots available with host organizations across the country, and I am constantly amazed by the huge interest we see from up-and-coming business leaders in aligning environmental goals with business priorities.

What strikes me (and many others) is the disconnect between these two things. There is an obvious need and interest in aligning the environment with business, but there are not-so-obvious barriers preventing that from happening.

With these ideas in mind, I am facilitating a workshop at the State of Green Business Forum next Monday in San Francisco. Kirk Myers, CSR Manager at REI, and Jake MacArthur, graduate of the Bren School at UC Santa Barbara and 2011 EDF Climate Corps fellow at REI will join me in a conversation about the barriers hindering companies today, and the opportunities available. EDF Climate Corps fellows work closely with different stakeholders across functional lines to help their host companies take advantage of the huge cost savings available through energy efficiency upgrades.

Next week, we'll tell the few stories about innovative ways to break down the barriers to energy efficiency and reap the financial benefits. Hope to see you there!

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.

Attention MBA Students: Do you want to work at Yahoo!, Dunkin's Brands, or JP Morgan Chase Bank this summer?

Then make sure you submit your application by Tuesday, January 11th for EDF Climate Corps!

Next week is our early decision deadline. Our regular deadline is in February, but the benefit of applying early is that you have the chance to be matched with the impressive list of companies that signed up for early decision.

The EDF Climate Corps program demonstrates how rigorous training, on-the-ground analysis, and long-term follow-up can lead to real-world cost and energy savings, while providing unmatched opportunity for critical experiences that lay the groundwork for future careers.

Chris Anderson, who now works in the Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, was an EDF Climate Corps fellow at Ahold grocery chain in 2009. He attributes much of his success along his career path to EDF Climate Corps. "Climate Corps was instrumental in solidifying my desire to work in the energy efficiency/renewable energy space. I was offered my dream opportunity at DOE in part on the strength of my experience, much of which I owe to my amazing summer with Climate Corps."

Still not sure if EDF Climate Corps is for you? To make it simple, we’ve pulled together the top 3 reasons to become an EDF Climate Corps fellow:

  1. Have direct impact inside a leading corporation. As an EDF Climate Corps fellow, you are working directly inside a leading corporation and leaving them with tangible recommendations that will save money and help the environment.
  2. Become a change agent for sustainability. Sustainability is a broad field. EDF Climate Corps fellows deepen quantitative and technical skills while becoming more effective change agents for sustainability.
  3. Grow your network significantly. By participating in EDF Climate Corps, you’ll grow your network of sustainability professionals exponentially with established relationships with 50 other fellows, 3 years of Climate Corps alumni, EDF experts, and contacts at your company to help you throughout your career.

We look forward to seeing your applications next week!

Want to hire a fellow at your company? Contact Rachel Hinchliffe (

For more on EDF Climate Corps, visit

EDF Climate Corps descends upon the Net Impact Conference: 2020: Vision for a Sustainable Decade

Our vision for a sustainable decade is for companies across America to incorporate energy efficiency as standard operating procedure into all their business. Low-hanging fruit always grows back with new innovation on the horizon, and we hope to see sustainable business practices that acknowledge that fact.

Let’s start with 2010. To continue the momentum of the energy efficiency movement, EDF Climate Corps attended the Net Impact Conference at the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business at the end of October. We talked about the outstanding outcomes of the program since just 2008. The caliber of the MBA student attendees was very high and their interest in participating even higher. We also met with many engaged company representatives all excited to participate in the 2011 program.

Not only did we focus on engaging prospective fellows and companies, but we wanted to spend time with our alumni as well. On Thursday night in the sustainable farm-to-fork restaurant, the Grange, we hosted a dinner with alumni host companies to hear more about their summer experiences.

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EDF Climate Corps Tour: Come meet the team and learn about opportunities for you

Fall is just beginning and the EDF Climate Corps team is already making the rounds  to MBA schools and business and energy conferences across the country. We are looking to meet MBA students who are inspired by sustainability, and provide the opportunity to use their  business skills to turn their inspiration into practice.

EDF Climate Corps trains a select group of MBA students in energy efficiency best practices, pairs them up with a Fortune 1000 company, and then sends them out into corporate America to uncover efficiencies that can save the environment and improve their host company’s bottom line. Read more about our selection criteria here.

As I mentioned before, the EDF Climate Corps recruiting tour is already underway. Here are a few of the places we’ve had the opportunity to share some insight on the program:

On September 15, we visited University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business, where 2010 EDF Climate Corps fellow at CSX Corporation, Matt Coleman, spoke with students about how his internship provided tangible experience to jump-start a career in corporate sustainability. Will Teichman, a member of Target’s Environmental Sustainability team and Darden alum, added some valuable perspective from a participating company’s point of view and noted that MBA internship opportunities in corporate responsibility, like EDF Climate Corps, are few and far between.

The following day at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the EDF Climate Corps team met with MBA and dual degree students interested in learning more about the opportunities available through EDF Climate Corps. Emily Martin, an EDF Climate Corps fellow at SAP this past summer, talked with her fellow classmates about the network she walked away with after participating in EDF Climate Corps. This is the network that many of our EDF Climate Corps alumni turn to in order to find like-minded colleagues forging successful pathways in corporate  sustainability.

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