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.

San Luis Reservoir

The San Luis Reservoir, facing low levels in 2008

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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EDF Climate Corps fellows – right where they need to be

EDF Climate Corps on Years of Living Dangerously

Watch the episode featuring
EDF Climate Corps
Monday May 26th at 8 pm on Showtime

When the producers of Years of Living Dangerously – Showtime’s groundbreaking new series about climate change – were looking for a story of hope, they turned to EDF Climate Corps. The series, which brings the reality of climate change into your living room every Monday night, does not spare the viewer the devastating impact on people of wildfires, superstorms and droughts. But it also shows how people can be part of the solution to climate change. The three EDF Climate Corps fellows featured in this Monday’s (5/26) episode are protagonists in that story of hope. They show how saving energy benefits both the environment (by cutting carbon emissions) and the bottom line.

One exchange that Showtime caught on camera goes something like this:

Jessica Alba:  “Can you can walk into any organization and tell them how to save energy and money?”

Climate Corps fellow:  “Yes.”

EDF Climate Corps fellows are turning up in all kinds of interesting places this year. In January, Tyrone Davis joined the first lady to watch the State of the Union address. This month, fellows will appear on television to give people hope about solutions to climate change. And this week, we announced the 2014 class of Climate Corps fellows – 117 top grad students chosen from close to 700 applications – all going to where the biggest opportunities are to save energy.

EDF Climate Corps Working in Key Geographies

This year, we’ll have six Climate Corps fellows in China, now the world’s biggest emitter of greenhouse gas. About two-thirds of our 117 engagements will be in the nine U.S. states that consume over 50% of the nation’s energy. And 16 of those will be in Chicago accelerating progress toward the city’s 20% energy reduction goal.

EDF Climate Corps Helping Key Sectors 

Climate Corps fellows continue to work in large commercial buildings like the Merchandise Mart in Chicago. But we’ve also expanded the sectors in which we work to include manufacturing (with Legrand, Lockheed Martin and Owens Corning), cities (Baltimore, Boston and Los Angeles) universities (Clark Atlanta and the University of Texas Southwest Medical Center), data centers (RBS Citizens and Comcast), utilities (Pacific Gas & Electric), and even military bases (US Army at Fort Bragg).

EDF Climate Corps Tackling Diverse Projects

The 2014 class of Climate Corps fellows are working on a wider range of projects than ever before. About half will be working on building energy efficiency. The rest of the projects include:

  • Energy strategy, data management and employee engagement
  • Water efficiency – implementing the unique toolkit that EDF developed with AT&T
  • Supply chain logistics – integrating our expertise in green freight and operating more efficient warehouses

EDF Climate Corps is recruiting, training and deploying the sustainability leaders of tomorrow; a viral solution that gives us hope that we can bend the curve on carbon emissions and avoid the worst impacts of a warming world. But don’t just take my word for it. Tune into “Years of Living Dangerously” on Monday May 26th at 8pm on Showtime. See for yourselves how our fellows helped Caesars Entertainment Corporation, Texas Southern University and Office Depot scale their energy management efforts.

 

Also of interest:

Years of Living Dangerously: Two producers, coffee and a vision for climate action

Behind the Showtime cameras with EDF Climate Corps fellows

EDF Climate Corps, creating a new generation of leaders

 

The 2014 Skoll World Forum: Always Act

Skoll World Forum logoSe hace camino al andar – the road is made by walking,” said Yves Moury of Fundacion Capital, quoting Spanish poet Antonio Machado. He went on to explain that the poet was telling us to find new ways to think and to act. “Always act,” he exhorted, “the road is made by walking.”

I identified with this call to action as the unofficial theme of the 2014 Skoll World Forum. The presentations, the side conversations and even the general spirit of the Forum underlined this. Here is a sampling of some of the more provocative actions and articulations I heard:

  • In the opening plenary, Sir Richard Branson, founder of the Virgin Group, argued that the world needs more CEOs to stand up to their shareholders.
  • Also in the opening plenary, Arif Naqvi, founder of private equity firm The Abraaj Group, emphasized the importance of a broad definition of stakeholder engagement because as he put it, “you can’t have islands of excellence in an ocean of turbulence.”
  • Jason Saul of Mission Measurement presented a framework that promotes deriving a cost/outcome across what he deems is 132 outcomes in the world.
  • Jeff Bradach of Bridgespan Group raised not only organization-centric pathways to scale, but also field-centric ones that would argue for strengthening a constellation of organizations.
  • Feike Sijbesma, chairman and CEO of Royal DSM, emphasized that more than shareholders have to be a company’s priority in “future-proofing a business” as he traced the company’s transition from a coal mining company to a chemical company to its current framing as a life sciences company.
  • Mike Barry of Marks & Spencer shared in a side conversation that in 10 years their most important strategic partner might be a healthcare company as they think about a frame of wellness rather than products.
Malala Yousafzai

Malala Yousafzai

Finally, as a tour de force at the Forum were the words of Malala, the 16-year-old Pakistani girl who survived a Taliban assassination attempt as she advocated for education for girls. She spoke passionately and eloquently with a poise way beyond her years as she proclaimed, “Education is more powerful than any weapon.” Although she was specifically speaking about education for girls, her message is really universal whether speaking about individuals, investors or companies.

As I reflect back on the Forum, I’m inspired to continue challenging companies to always act, innovating to protect the planet.

Walmart Puts Consumer Product Suppliers on Notice: The Chemical Phase-out Starts Now

By: Michelle Mauthe Harvey and Sarah Vogel

Today dozens of consumer product makers will get a letter from Walmart detailing new requirements on phasing out a list of toxic chemicals found in goods sold by the world’s largest retailer. The comprehensive initiative is by far the largest and most ambitious of its kind. It reflects a growing trend in which consumer and wholesale purchasing power are combining to change the chemical makeup of the products we see on store shelves and bring into our homes.

Walmart_Stores

The policy and its implementation guide can be found here.

Walmart worked closely with vendors and non-profit advisors including Environmental Defense Fund. Together they spent several years developing the policy, and figuring out how to implement the unprecedented measures across a sprawling global supply chain with hundreds of suppliers. The solution had to be robust, credible and transparent. It also had to set an ambitious goal for suppliers without creating impossible hurdles. Read more

A momentous week for trucks: Walmart unveils “Jetson” truck and President Obama announces next generation fuel efficiency standards

What a great two days it’s been for the future of trucks. Yesterday, Walmart unveiled a prototype, concept next generation tractor-trailer truck that they have affectionately dubbed “Jetson.” This morning, President Obama laid out a timeframe for action on developing the next generation truck efficiency standards – standards that will improve the fuel efficiency of American trucks, bolster energy security, cut carbon pollution, save money and support manufacturing innovation.

Truck

Innovation is critical to curb the growing climate pollution and fuel consumption from our nation’s freight trucks – which are projected to increase by 40 percent between now and 2040. But innovation is best supported by strong standards.  A well-designed efficiency program can speed the deployment of clean, energy-efficient technologies and the infrastructure to support their widespread use nationwide. Read more

EDF named “Trusted Leader” in Inaugural GreenBiz NGO Report

Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) is honored to be ranked by GreenBiz as one of the three trusted leaders among environmental nonprofits, along with World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and The Nature Conservancy (TNC) – truly excellent company.

Murray_Tom

In its inaugural NGO Report, GreenBiz asked hundreds of sustainability executives from large corporations to rate and rank 30 leading NGOs in terms of influence, credibility and effectiveness. GreenBiz charted the responses and grouped the NGOs in four categories:

  • Trusted Partners – Corporate-friendly, highly credible, long-term partners with easy-to-find public success stories
  • Useful Resources – Highly credible organizations known for creating helpful frameworks and services for corporate partners
  • Brand Challenged – Credible, but not influential, organizations
  • The Uninvited – Less broadly known groups, or those viewed more as critics than partners Read more

EDF Highlights Important New Fertilizer Strategies at Walmart Sustainability Milestone Meeting

cornfieldbluesky_39542233_shutterstock_com_RF

At today’s Walmart Sustainability Milestone Meeting, EDF Vice President Tom Murray brought welcome attention to strategies farmers are implementing to more precisely match fertilizer use with the amount their crops need.

In a question and answer session with the head of Walmart's U.S. grocery business, which accounts for roughly half the retailer's sales and approximately a third of all U.S. grocery business, Tom commended the excellent work many farmers are already doing to get this balance right, and called on other retailers and suppliers to engage in this effort. Read more

Environmental Lessons from the Super Bowl: Set Big Goals and Play to Win

We'll hear plenty of amateur quarterbacking about this year’s Super Bowl, but there’s a lesson from the game that applies equally to sports and to business: set an aggressive goal and you’ll accomplish more than you ever thought possible.superbowl 2014

Cutting carbon emissions is no different. In our experience, the most successful companies set stretch goals that they don’t yet know how to achieve. In doing so, they unleash a wave of creativity and innovation within their organizations, and reap far bigger financial and environmental rewards than if they had played it safe. Read more

Is there a ray of environmental optimism?

First there were the producers of “Years of Living Dangerously”, who wanted to end their ground-breaking documentary on an optimistic note. Next, President Obama and the First Lady invited former EDF Climate Corps fellow Tyrone Davis to the State of the Union address.

It seems like everyone is coming to EDF Climate Corps to find that one, important ray of hope when talking about climate change. Could we be onto something here?

The answer is yes. EDF Climate Corps does represent hope for a more environmentally secure future. Why? Because we are tapping into the country’s brightest and most passionate graduate students to create a ripple effect of environmental change in the corporate sector, in cities, and in universities. This is the generation that will change the planet with a new approach to leadership that balances profitability with sustainability. President Obama said it nice and loud, “The debate is settled. Climate change is a fact.” The new generation of leaders understand that we need to find ways to provide goods, food and services for an exploding population without decimating our planet. They’ve got the passion. EDF gives them the tools. Now they’re getting the exposure they deserve.

Case in point:

Gina McCarthy and Tyrone Davis of EDF Climate Corps

We are all incredibly proud of Tyrone’s work and the well-earned attention he has brought to the next generation of leaders.

Look for “Years of Living Dangerously” to debut on April 13th at 10pm on Showtime.

Along with new EDF Climate Corps hosts, new project offerings in 2014

CC-200x300Environmental Defense Fund unveiled today the first group of participating organizations to sign on for EDF Climate Corps 2014, along with a revamped list of smart energy management offerings the program will provide for them. New host organizations including Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, Dow Chemical Company and Jackson Family Wines join veteran participants like AT&T, Shorenstein Properties, PepsiCo, Caesars Entertainment and McDonald’s in choosing EDF Climate Corps as a cost-effective resource to advance organizational energy management. Read more