Corporate America Steps Up During Climate Week

The combination of the Pope’s visit, Climate Week NYC and news of China planning a national cap and trade program has made last week huge in terms of support for climate action. But it’s also been a week of great sustainability news coming out of corporate America, and I’m excited to see the momentum building.

  • Companies publicly stating aggressive, science-based sustainability goals? Check.
  • Big brands supporting the Clean Power Plan? Check.
  • Business committing to set an internal price on carbon? Check.
  • Increasing commitment to sourcing 100% of energy from renewables? Check.

Like I said, it’s been a really good week. After 18 years as a sustainability advocate, I’m encouraged to see companies continuing to step up their leadership on climate— making public, science-based commitments and increasingly creating an environment where denial and delay by private and public sector leaders is no longer acceptable. Many of the companies who have made commitments, (this week, before this week, and hopefully leading into COP21), are demonstrating that tending one’s own sustainability garden is necessary but no longer sufficient—corporate leaders of today and tomorrow need to collaborate with each other for greater impact and assert public policy leadership as well. Read more

The Clean Power Plan is Out – Time for Business to Focus on the Certainties and Weigh In

Tom Murray, VP Corporate Partnerships, EDFCommuting home from work last week and listening to the radio, I heard the EPA’s Clean Power Plan (CPP) described as a big deal for our company, our nation, and our planet. When so much of the initial news coverage about the CPP was focused on uncertainty, it was terrific to listen to Ralph Izzo, CEO of Public Service Enterprise Group (PSEG) focus on the certainties.  According to Izzo, the science is in on climate change, the CPP creates business opportunities for PSEG and others, and the future for PSEG and utilities in general will be increased reliability, more energy efficiency, and increasing energy from carbon-free sources.

For nearly 25 years, EDF has partnered with leading companies to accelerate environmental innovation in their products, operations, strategies, and supply chains.  In fact, it was EDF’s early partnerships with McDonalds and FedEx that first attracted me to the organization.  While we’ve made considerable progress working with business, there’s still a lot of work to be done to reach the low carbon, clean energy future mentioned above.  To get there, we need more aggressive private sector leadership and strong support for solutions like the CPP.

Business weighing in on Clean Power Plan


What’s next with the CPP?  It’s time for business to focus on the certainties and weigh in… Read more

In Its 5th Citizenship Report, KKR Reaches Beyond ESG

This post is part of an EDF+Business ongoing series on sustainable finance, highlighting market mechanisms and strategies that drive environmental performance by engaging private capital. EDF is actively engaging leaders with the capital and expertise needed to catalyze sector-wide changes—from accelerating investment in energy efficiency and clean energy, to protecting tropical forests, restoring depleted fisheries and saving habitats of endangered species.

Sustainability pioneer and inspiration to many of us at EDF, Ray Anderson frequently talked about his company’s efforts to scale the seven faces of Mount Sustainability and develop a more responsible company along the way. Summiting a mountain is a good analogy for a company’s journey to improve its environmental performance. To succeed you need a plan, commitment, resources, and the ability to change direction if there are obstacles in your path.

In the case of a private equity firm like KKR & Co. L.P. – with over 56 portfolio companies participating in value creation programs linked to its environment, social and governance (ESG) strategy since 2009– the journey is more akin to traversing an entire mountain range, whose contours keep evolving as companies enter and exit their portfolio.

That changing landscape is what’s driven KKR to continue to adapt how it manages ESG challenges and opportunities. KKR’s recently-released 5th annual ESG & Citizenship Report details how these programs have continued to evolve since our initial partnership in 2008.

Our work together helped drive KKR’s Green Portfolio Program which, six years later, has added a cumulative $1.2 billion to its portfolio companies’ bottom lines while avoiding more than 2.3 million metric tons of greenhouse gases and reducing waste by 6.3 million metric tons and water use by 27 million cubic meters, according to results announced last fall.

kkr_logo_13932KKR’s latest report documents the firm’s progress in advancing ongoing efforts, including measuring and improving ESG performance at key portfolio companies, rolling out a publicly available ESG policy across its global private equity staff, contributing its expertise to the Sustainable Accounting Standards Boards’ development of ESG disclosure guidelines, bringing together sustainability professionals and other experts at its first Sustainability Summit last year, and hiring a full-time energy expert and two EDF Climate Corps fellows to help its portfolio companies more systematically adopt solutions for better energy management.

In addition, something new caught our eye. KKR plans to refocus its investment efforts through one of three lenses – responsible investing, solutions investing and impact investing.

  • Responsible investing incorporates ESG metrics and analysis into investment decisions.
  • Solutions investing refers to investments made in companies that have an intentional focus on solving a societal challenge and deliver traditional returns to investors, such as providers of reusable bulk shipping containers, developers of environmentally-responsible office buildings in Korea and microfinance groups increasing access to capital for business owners in rural and semirural India.
  • Impact investing goes beyond the other two, focusing on investments in companies that put environmental and social impacts on par or even ahead of financial impacts. KKR began advising two impact businesses in 2013 by providing technical assistance, helping the companies scale their businesses and secure additional funding. Moving forward, KKR will consider investing in such businesses.

At EDF, we believe that private capital can and must be part of the solution to our biggest environmental challenges. We’re encouraged to see major investors like KKR expand their investment strategy as the next step in this journey and eager to see the environmental and financial results it delivers.

Accelerating the Shift to More Efficient Trucks

Freight transportation is the work horse of the global economy, ensuring that the products consumers want get on the shelves where and when they want them. With 70 percent of U.S. goods being moved by truck, freight is a key source of U.S. fuel consumption and corporate greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Today, freight also offers companies a key opportunity to drive us toward a lower carbon future.

pepsico-logoIn a Wall Street Journal op-ed with EDF President Fred Krupp, Pepsico Chairman and CEO Indra Nooyi voiced the company’s strong support of the new fuel efficiency and GHG standards for medium and heavy duty trucks released June 19th by the U.S. Environment Protection Agency and Department of Transportation. Over the life of the program, these robust standards will cut fuel consumption in new trucks by 1.8 billion barrels of oil and reduce carbon emissions by one billion metric tons.

Leading companies like General Mills, Walmart and Anheuser-Busch have made reducing fuel use and emissions from freight a priority in setting their internal supply chain performance goals. But Pepsico’s willingness to step forward with this op-ed is a prime example of how companies can extend their leadership by aligning their public policy stances on with their sustainability goals – what EDF has been referring to as the business-policy nexus.

Freight affects all of us, but business is in the driver's seat

EDF - Building better trucksFreight transportation exists to serve companies that make or sell physical goods, from brands and manufacturers using trucks to bring in supplies and ship out final products, to technology companies needing trucks to deliver the hardware that powers their online services. While medium- and heavy-duty trucks only make up 7 percent of all vehicles on the road, they consume 25 percent of the fuel used by all U.S. vehicles.

Inefficient movement of goods wastes fuel, raises costs and increases environmental impacts. For firms like Pepsico, who maintain their own fleets, as well as those that contract out for freight moves, fuel is the single largest cost of owning and operating medium- and heavy-duty trucks. Truck fuel prices have increased 58 percent since 2009, a strong incentive for increasing the efficiency of trucks that move freight. Consumers are counting on businesses to solve this problem, as those costs are passed on to consumers. Through everyday purchases, the average U.S. household spends $1,100 a year to fuel big trucks. Strong standards can cut this expense by $150 on average a year by 2030. Read more

Bank of America Votes for Renewables with Its Very Large Wallet

bank-of-america-logoA company’s public statements matter– they can influence consumer choice, sway public policy decisions and demonstrate leadership on important issues. But in terms of actual change, it’s where a company puts its money that really matters. This week, Bank of America spoke with both its voice and wallet: At its shareholder meeting last week, the bank announced a new coal policy that continues the company's commitment to reducing its exposure to coal extraction companies and accelerating the transition from a high-carbon to a low-carbon economy.

According to BoA, its portfolio has grown to favor renewable energy over coal by a ratio of more than three-to-one. That’s an important step forward toward a clean, low-carbon energy future. And, it’s one that builds on moves by other institutions, like the recent news from Goldman Sachs about how the company is looking to divest some of its mining interests and Citi’s recent 10-year, $100-billion commitment towards investments in areas like energy efficiency, renewable energy, green affordable housing and climate change resiliency projects.

Tom Murray, VP Corporate Partnerships, EDFInvestors are seeing the terrain change beneath them – from upcoming regulations like the EPA’s Clean Power Plan and federal regulations on methane emissions from the oil and gas sector, to consistently lower natural gas prices, which undercut coal’s prior price advantage over other power sources – and beginning to bet on a future that’s powered by lower-carbon options.

More of this type of corporate leadership, including metrics and timelines, is what's needed to help make the leap from today’s polluting energy system to tomorrow’s thriving, clean energy future.

Further reading:

2015: A Year of Business and Policy Action on Climate

Tom Murray, VP Corporate Partnerships, EDFFor most of us, New Year’s marks the time when we set annual resolutions (personal and professional) and get to work on tackling the priorities for the year ahead. In my hometown of Washington, DC a new year also means that Congress comes back into session, lawmakers and speechwriters ready their agendas and proposals, and the president delivers the State of the Union address.

From what we heard last night and in recent announcements, 2015 could be a big year for action on climate – from government and the private sector alike. But big results will take leadership on all fronts.

Leadership from our government…

Addressing climate change is supported by the vast majority of Americans and the Obama administration is taking bold steps to curb the United States’ contribution to climate change. Last night, we saw President Obama tell the nation “no challenge – no challenge – poses a greater threat to future generations than climate change” in his State of the Union address. The President also strongly reiterated his commitment to work to ensure “American leadership drives international action” on climate change.

It is clear that climate change is an urgent national priority. Fortunately, the Administration is carrying out its promises under the Climate Action Plan, and steps taken and soon-to-be-taken have helped put us on the right path. From the proposal to reduce carbon pollution from power plants, expected fuel economy standards for medium- and heavy-duty trucks, to last week’s announcement of steps to address methane emissions from the oil and gas sector, we have seen a lot of progress to address climate change since the last State of the Union. Further, the November announcement of a joint China-U.S. agreement to address climate change on a global scale underscores how crucial U.S. leadership is at this juncture in achieving a binding worldwide climate deal. Much more work remains and leadership at all levels will be necessary to meet our climate goals. Read more

Oak Hill Capital Continues to Chart the ESG Course for Middle-Market Private Equity Firms

Last year, Oak Hill Capital Partners released its inaugural environmental, social, and governance (ESG) performance report. While you may have read about similar reports from private equity firms like KKR and The Carlyle Group on this blog, Oak Hill Capital’s report was significant because it were first among U.S. middle-market private equity firms to publicly release an ESG performance report. In doing so, the firm increased transparency and offered other mid-market firms a blueprint to follow. Last week, it issued its second annual report, offering an inside look at the firm’s progress to date.

Oak Hill Capital Partners logoA comprehensive approach

In its new report, Oak Hill Capital outlines its approach to ESG management, measuring progress in integration, results and leadership: three of the key building blocks for a successful ESG management program that are included in our ESG Management Tool for private equity.

For Oak Hill Capital, integration refers to the ways it embeds ESG management practices across the firm’s operations to ensure it can best deliver results at portfolio companies. Key examples from the report include its responsible investment policy, incorporation of ESG in due diligence, and its recently becoming a signatory of the United Nations Principles for Responsible Investment (UNPRI). Management of environmental performance is also woven into the management of the firm, through its ESG Committee, which is made up of senior executives and chaired by Oak Hill Capital’s general counsel.

Results speak to how the firm evaluates the ESG performance of potential new investments and how it tracks and supports the sustainability efforts of portfolio companies. This year’s report includes how the firm considered ESG factors in the due diligence process of three new investments and how existing portfolio companies have benefited from the firm’s expertise in ESG issues. One example is an energy efficiency project Oak Hill Capital initiated at its portfolio company, Dave and Buster’s, with Entouch Controls, a leading energy management solution for restaurants and schools.

Lastly, Oak Hill Capital takes a broad approach to leadership, both within the industry and in the communities in which it operates: promoting lessons learned among similarly-sized firms, as well as engaging employees in business-focused mentorship opportunities.

A diverse portfolio of sustainability initiatives Read more

It’s Got to Be About What You Do: KKR’s Green Portfolio Program Matures

Ken Mehlman, KKR

Ken Mehlman, Global Head of Public Affairs, KKR

Last week in Atlanta, Kohlberg, Kravis & Roberts (KKR) Member and Head of Global Public Affairs Ken Mehlman summed up his approach to sustainability in a single sentence:  “it’s got to be about what you do.” The comment was in response to a panel that EDF moderated at KKR’s first annual sustainability summit, where guest panelists Jeff Foote from Coca-Cola, Mitch Jackson from FedEx, and Maury Wolfe from Intercontinental Hotels Group shared their successes and challenges in improving their organizations’ environmental performance. Ken highlighted a common theme in all three panelists’ remarks: for a company’s work on sustainability to have a real impact, it needs to be integrated into its core business model.

KKR has clearly taken the same lesson to heart. By integrating environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues into how it evaluates and manages portfolio companies, KKR has shown what that thinking can achieve for a private equity firm and its portfolio companies. Read more

Leadership on Sustainability Must Include Helping Shape Smart Policy

This past year, we’ve seen some bold action by companies in what we’ve dubbed the business-policy nexus, and it’s taking several different forms. Some have been calling for state or federal action on environmental impacts, while others are taking far-reaching voluntary efforts that could help support policy advocacy in the future.

Whether you view engagement on public policy as risk mitigation, providing market certainty, supporting corporate sustainability goals or securing competitive advantage, leading businesses are increasingly stepping up their efforts to support smart policy reform that will benefit the environment and economy.

Keeping toxic chemicals out of supply chains

Walmart shopper

Walmart and Target are moving to proactively get harmful chemicals out of their supply chains, even though the nation’s main chemical safety law, the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), is outdated and hasn’t been reformed in nearly two decades.

Earlier this year, our long-term partner in this area, Walmart, took a big step forward by announcing a new sustainable chemicals policy focused on cutting 10 chemicals of concern from home and personal care products it sells. Chemicals of concern – for example, formaldehyde, a known carcinogen – have been found in about 40% of the formulated products on Walmart shelves, including things like household cleaners, lotions and cosmetics. Read more

Investors Voice Market Support for Methane Regulation

banner_gasLast week, financial community leaders took a big step into the intersection of business and policy on the urgent need to curb methane emissions from the oil and gas sector. A group of investors managing more than $300 billion in market assets sent a letter to the U.S. Environmental Protection Administration and the White House, calling for the federal government to regulate methane emissions from the oil and gas sector. The letter urged covering new and existing oil and gas sites, including upstream and midstream sources, citing that strong methane policy can reduce business risk and create long-term value for investors and the economy.

Spearheaded by Trillium Asset Management, the cosigners of the letter to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy included New York City Comptroller Scott M. Stringer, who oversees the $160 billion New York City Pension Funds, and a diverse set of firms and institutional investors. They spelled out in no uncertain terms that they regard methane as a serious climate and business problem – exposing the public and businesses alike to the growing costs of climate change associated with floods, storms, droughts and other severe weather.

Read more