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.

…and from our peers

Leadership can and should also come from top U.S. companies. By both leading in efforts to reduce emissions from their operations and supporting the policy changes needed to solve climate change at scale. We saw this trend last year, when a range of companies and investors took bold steps in terms of climate action:

Supporting the EPA’s Clean Power Plan

The Clean Power Plan would create the first national limits on carbon pollution from exiting power plants and the EPA is scheduled to finalize the plan this summer.

Through flexible, state-specific implementation plans, it is expected to achieve a 30% reduction in carbon pollution from the U.S. power sector by 2030, compared to 2005 levels. In finalizing the plan, the EPA paves the way for states to present their individual plans for meeting the standards by June 2016.

Public opinion polls across the country have consistently found strong support among Americans for reducing emissions from existing power plants. EDF has been active in rallying its members to submit comments in support of the EPA’s proposed Clean Power Plan – in fact, we delivered nearly half a million comments last year – and we’ve also reached out directly to companies to talk about how they can benefit from engaging in the rule’s implementation, as we did during our November webinar.

21 companies joined us for the webinar, where EDF Senior Manager Mandy Warner and I answered questions about how to get involved, and what the midterm elections would likely mean for the Clean Power Plan’s implementation.

Time to act

By engaging on the Clean Power Plan, companies that care about clean energy have near-term opportunities to expand the demand and market for renewable energy and energy efficiency and shape policy in the regions where they operate.

Companies across sectors can leverage the changing policy landscape to better meet their carbon reduction, green power purchasing and efficiency goals. For those firms in energy efficiency, renewable energy and metering / demand response sector, there are clear growth opportunities as well.

EDF stands ready to help businesses figure out the best avenues for engaging – whether it’s sharing their stories, making public comments or engaging constructively in the public policy debate in the states where they operate.

The Plan represents an important occasion for companies to benefit and lead by aligning their internal energy strategy and operations with their external engagement in public policy. This alignment is what we call the business-policy nexus and represents the next step in corporate sustainability leadership.  It’s what is needed to solve the climate challenge and we’d be thrilled to have you join us in paving the way to a clean energy future this new year.

The Green Freight Journey: Create Momentum

The Green Freight Journey is a five-step framework for freight optimization projects. Leading up to our January 14th webinar, EDF is taking a brief look at each step of the Journey.

Once you have established a Green Freight goal and defined metrics for tracking your progress, it’s time to start putting the wheels in motion. Below are some tips for taking the next step, creating momentum, in your Green Freight Journey:

  • Choose a pilot project – Select pilot projects that can be scaled up and replicated elsewhere in the organization, if successful. See our Green Freight case studies for examples of replicable pilot projects.
  • Focus on what you control – Choose a pilot project where you have direct control over the outcome. Examples here are increasing load factors or moving to intermodal from truckload. Projects that rely on the actions of suppliers, such as alternative fuel use by your contract carrier, are more difficult to execute.
  • Track results – Be sure to capture good data and use the metrics you created in step one. The data you produce will be a powerful tool in communicating the results of your pilot to employees, customers, and key stakeholders. The data will also help you identify new opportunities.

Below is an example from our Green Freight Handbook, which can help you determine which pilot project would be most impactful for your organization.

Green Freight Diagnostic

Join me on January 14 at 12PM ET for a webinar that will introduce you to the full Green Freight Journey framework, review real-world case examples and highlight tools EDF is making available to help companies progress on their journey.

Register here today for this informative webinar.

Steps on the Green Freight Journey:

The Green Freight Journey: Take Your First Step

The Green Freight Journey is a five-step framework for freight optimization projects. Leading up to our January 14th webinar, EDF is taking a brief look at each of the steps along the Journey.

The first step, Getting Started, is about deciding where you want to go. To do this, companies:

  • Gather internal stakeholders  such as supply chain or transportation executives, sustainability officers or EHS professionals, and an executive sponsor.
  • Define their green freight objective  such as reducing climate warming emissions or cutting fossil fuel consumption.
  • Determine key metrics – by reaching each agreement on how to objectively measure progress. A metrics-driven approach helps to keep you focused on the actions that will deliver the biggest results for the best returns.

When determining your metrics, consider these examples from the EDF Green Freight Handbook:

Metrics

Join me on January 14 at 12PM ET for a webinar that will introduce you to the full Green Freight Journey framework, review real-world case examples and highlight tools EDF is making available to help companies progress on their journey.

Register here today for this informative webinar.

Steps on the Green Freight Journey:

EDF Climate Corps Continues to Drive Results for Private Equity Firms

The results are in. As my colleague Victoria Mills wrote recently, this year’s cohort of EDF Climate Corps fellows found $130 million in potential energy savings across 102 organizations.

Among the engagements, 12 fellows worked with private equity firms and portfolio companies on a diverse set of projects. Each engagement offers its own story, but we’d like to showcase a few examples demonstrating the value the Climate Corps program can bring to firms of all sizes and at all stages of understanding of energy management.

Energy audits and retrofits for a major manufacturing company

amiHellman & Friedman’s portfolio company Associated Materials, which specializes in exterior building products, hosted two fellows this past summer, its first year with the EDF Climate Corps program.

Fellow Karunakaren Muthumani Hariharan audited two of the firm’s 11 manufacturing locations to identify opportunities for energy efficiency, including lighting upgrades, process equipment upgrades and manufacturing process modifications. He suggested improvements with potential net present value savings greater than $1.4 million and reductions of greenhouse gas emissions by approximately 2,700 tons per year. Hariharan also proposed funding the energy efficiency projects through a new Green Energy and Sustainability Fund.

Krishna Chaitanya Vinnakota analyzed Associated Materials’ total expenditure on energy, over $15 million, and focused on energy saving opportunities in the company’s supply centers, including an approach that could result in energy expenditure savings of 20 to 50 percent in some supply centers. He also suggested strip doors as a simple but effective way of conserving energy during winter. It’s a project that could save the approximately half a million dollars per year if rolled out across the company’s 125 supply centers and 11 manufacturing plants. Read more

It Can(‘t) Be Done

I recently read the inspiring story of how Farmers Electric Cooperative, one of the smallest utilities in the country, overcame some formidable financing challenges to develop the biggest commercial solar project in Iowa.

Rock-uphillThe example called to mind a comment made by Lisa Jackson, Vice President of Environmental Initiatives at Apple and former Administrator of the U.S. EPA, during the closing plenary of GreenBiz’s VERGE conference earlier this fall. She told the audience that, at Apple, the best way to get something done was to say “it can’t be done.”

This idea, of conquering seemingly impossible obstacles, is one I’ve seen reflected in a number of new advances in corporate sustainability, including many discussed at the conference and others from our own work. Each demonstrates how entrepreneurs (and intrapreneurs) are harnessing major environmental and social challenges to create real solutions: Read more

Good News for America: Cleaner, More Efficient Trucks that Protect Our Environment and Strengthen Our Economy

jason_mathers2014 is shaping up to be a great year for truck equipment manufacturers. Sales through October are running 20% higher than their 2013 levels. It’s a banner year that continues to pick-up steam. 2015 is looking even stronger, with forecasts suggesting it will be the 3rd strongest year ever for truck sales. There are several factors driving this market. Higher fuel efficiency is top among them.

This point was brought home recently by the lead transportation analyst for investment firm Stifel, who noted that “the superior fuel efficiency of the newer engines” was a key in getting fleets to buy new trucks now.

The CEO of Daimler Trucks, the leading producer of class 8 trucks for the U.S. market, acknowledged recently that their most efficient engine and transmission combination was “already sold out for 2014” and that the “demand is beyond their expectations.”

It’s not just Daimler that is having a good year.

2014 is a banner year for truck sales; and 2014 trucks are the most efficient ever.  2014 trucks are the most efficient ever because of smart, well-design federal policy.  This is the first year of the 2014-2018 heavy truck efficiency standards that will:

  • reduce CO2 emissions by about 270million metric tons,
  • save about 530 million barrels of oil over the life of vehicles built between 2014 – 2018,
  • provide $49 billion in net program benefits.

The 2014-2018 heavy truck fuel efficiency and greenhouse gas program demonstrates that climate policy benefits businesses, our economy, and human health, while also cutting harmful climate pollution.

Or, as Martin Daum, president and CEO of Daimler Trucks North America noted, these standards “are very good examples of regulations that work well.”

In its first year of existence, the 2014-2018 fuel efficiency and greenhouse gas program is boosting sales for manufacturers, reducing operating costs for fleets, and cutting climate pollution for all of us. It is clear that well-designed federal standards can foster the innovation necessary to bring more efficient and lower emitting trucks to market.   That is very good news, because we have an opportunity to further improve and strengthen these standards – creating more economic and environmental benefits in the process.  For this, we all can be thankful.

General Mills selects United Suppliers to increase fertilizer efficiency in the field

SUSTAIN-logo_circle_4c-300x300Isn’t it nice when somebody steps forward boldly to do the right thing and is rewarded for doing so? General Mills did just that for United Suppliers and the SUSTAIN platform, which will help farmers improve nitrogen use efficiency and productivity.
In July, General Mills put out a call for proposals to help the company meet increased production needs in ways that contribute to cleaner air and water.

It was almost like a future posting in sustainability want ads: “General Mills, a 17+ billion dollar food company, has the following need: Seeking best practices in nitrogen fertilization (nitrogen optimization) technologies for sustainable agriculture.”

The company recognized the pressing need to limit nutrient losses while also helping farmers produce more of the wheat, corn, soybeans and other crops it needs to make the products we buy.

And the winners are….

United Suppliers got the nod with its SUSTAIN platform. As I blogged earlier this fall, United Suppliers has really stepped out front with this platform, recognizing the growing  sustainability demands from retailers and food companies as a real business opportunity. They knew they were taking a risk when they reached out to Environmental Defense Fund last spring for help in developing a program to meet the changing needs of the supply chain.

If they built this program, would anyone care? Would their owner retailers sign up to implement the program? Would food companies want to use it?

Well, we still have a long way to go. But the signs are good, and this success with General Mills is a big step forward. General Mills saw the huge value in SUSTAIN, which includes nutrient use efficiency and soil health technologies, practices  and products, as well as the extensive training and implementation infrastructure needed to take it to scale.

The other winner of the General Mills competition was Adapt-N, a breakthrough nitrogen use efficiency platform that is also included in SUSTAIN.

Ramping up

This winter will be very busy with grower meetings and trainings for the agronomists and owners of participating ag retailers and cooperatives, as well as deployment of the robust data platform needed to maximize value back to the ag retailers and growers and aggregate data for supply chain reporting.

We are very excited to see SUSTAIN become part of General Mills’ work to meet its goal of being 100 percent sustainably sourced by 2020 for its 10 priority ingredients. These ingredients – corn, oats, wheat, dairy, fiber packaging, cocoa, vanilla, palm oil, sugar cane and sugar beets – represent half of the company’s total raw material purchases.

The commitment builds on the company’s sustainability mission to conserve and protect the resources upon which its business depends. Currently, General Mills has five regional sustainability engagements for commodity crops using the Field to Market continuous improvement framework , and it will deploy SUSTAIN and Adapt-N across these regions.  These programs will support General Mills’ primary purpose in advancing agriculture sustainability and grower profitability.

This post was originally published on EDF's Growing Returns blog.

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