Denver Housing Authority Sets Bar for Municipalities Nationwide

To many, it may seem that pursuing environmental sustainability would fall relatively low on a municipal housing authority’s goals.  After all, providing moderate and low-income families with clean, stable homes in the face of uncertain federal subsidies and increasing taxpayer scrutiny is challenge enough.

North Lincoln Homes - PV SystemsThe Housing Authority of the City and County of Denver (DHA), therefore, deserves praise for its innovative solar power program that not only provides renewable energy, but creates revenue for the housing authority, creates green jobs in the region, and saves taxpayers’ money – all the while reflecting the spirit of the federal Department of Energy’s Better Buildings Challenge, which looks to reduce energy consumption by 20 percent by the year 2020. DHA serves as a model for municipalities across the country.

Andrea Davis of the DHA’s Real Estate Department and Chris Jedd, portfolio energy manager, showed the creativity and sheer will to make a lofty renewable energy goal affordable, manageable and successful, while providing their communities with empowerment, economic opportunity, and a vibrant living environment.

Taking financing and deployment to scale

Solar InstallersAfter careful vetting through its RFP process, the DHA partnered with several solar energy companies to ensure that taxpayers funded virtually no up-front costs.  In 2012, the authority teamed with Denver-based Oak Leaf Energy Partners to scope, develop and seek financing for the project which included the installation of 666 solar electric systems on 387 DHA resident housing rooftops, with the production potential for 2.5 megawatts of electricity.  Namaste Solar of Boulder, CO installed more than 10,000 solar panels over the course of 11 months.  And, Belgium-based Enfinity provided $10 million in financing and operation of the systems,  agreeing to not only sell the electricity it generates from the solar electric systems to DHA at a discount, but to pay DHA for leasing the authority’s roof space.

Throughout the project, DHA wrote its own rules. Without vast internal experience and expertise in running its own solar power business – and without the upfront capital — the authority looked outside for the right combination of partners that could help the authority realize the goal of an anticipated 3.4 million kilowatt hours of electricity per year, which is an annual reduction of around 3,400 tons of carbon dioxide in the region.

Preserving capital, keeping costs predictable

For DHA, there are a number of resulting benefits. This project enabled the housing authority to expand its portfolio of renewable energy sources without dedicating funding. And, with the additional revenue streams from its roof leases, DHA has capital that can be used for other much-needed improvements.

In addition the DHA’s solar energy costs are now also long-term and predictable, which is something the federal department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) encourages.  And, with accompanying resident communications programs, DHA has provided its residents with information about the project and an additional reason for them to take pride in their homes.

Through its EDF Climate Corps program, Environmental Defense Fund has proudly worked with DHA on its sustainability programs, and we’ve seen first-hand how DHA’s proactive engagement on the frontlines of its Solar PPA changed the way it viewed its energy consumption and carbon footprint.

There are 3,300 housing authorities in the United States. If all followed DHA’s lead, the rooftops of public housing authorities could produce 11 billion kilowatt hours of electricity annually, powering more than one million homes, and reducing carbon dioxide emissions by 11 million tons. And saving municipal taxpayers millions of dollars annually in energy costs.

It’s time for those other 3,299 other municipalities to follow DHA’s lead.

 

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

Sustainability and Profitability Go Hand-in-Hand, Says Iowa Corn Farmer

Farming is a tough business.  With constantly changing crop prices, difficult to predict and increasingly extreme weather variations, and changing consumer demands, growers don’t have an easy time of it.

Like any business, profitability is the number one priority. And it should be – if you are not profitable, it’s very hard to stay in business.

All the growers I’ve worked with care deeply about their land. In a recent survey of a group of Midwestern farmers, “land stewardship” ranked as their top value.  And sustainability is in a farmers’ best interest since healthy lands plays a huge role in whether farms will be around – and productive – for the next generation. But making agriculture truly sustainable will require investment from farmers.

Here’s the good news: sustainability and profitability can go hand-in-hand. Efficiencies like fertilizer optimization can result in cost savings. And with those savings, growers can invest in new technologies and cover crops, which can help make farms more resilient and increase yields, generating long term economic gain.

tim-richter-saratoga-partnership

Tim Richter, owner of Saratoga Partnership

I asked Tim Richter, owner of a swine and corn farm operation spanning 9,000 acres in northern Iowa and Missouri, to tell me his profitability and sustainability story. 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.

EDF Climate Corps Proves its ROI for Private Equity Firms

As summer officially gets underway, the 2015 EDF Climate Corps fellows are already off to the races seeking out energy and cost-saving opportunities for some of the world’s largest companies and organizations. Among those participating, we are pleased to place 13 fellows with private equity firms and their portfolio companies, the largest such cohort in a single summer, besting last year’s record of 12 fellows. This brings the grand total up to 57 EDF Climate Corps fellows who have worked in the private equity sector (including with portfolio companies) to date.

EDF Climate Corps fellows Yien Huang (left) and Jiamu Lu (right) collaborating at the fellow training

EDF Climate Corps fellows Yien Huang (left) and Jiamu Lu (right) collaborating at the fellow training

Since 2008, EDF has worked with the private equity sector to drive environmental results, beginning with a partnership with KKR & Co. L.P., and later with The Carlyle Group and Oak Hill Capital Partners. Resulting from this work was a suite of free tools designed to help firms identify and manage environment, social and governance (ESG) issues. EDF Climate Corps offers private equity firms a powerful resource that continues to deliver environmental benefits alongside real financial returns.

This year, as in past years, we continue to see a diverse range of participating companies and projects:

  • In 2015, we welcome new hosts Guitar Center, NBTY (vitamin/food supplement supplier), Ortho Clinical Diagnostics (medical equipment manufacturer), Pharmaceutical Product Development, and Gelson's Markets (a grocery chain in southern California).
  • Among returning companies, we’re excited to welcome back Floor & Décor, Philadelphia Energy Solutions, Avaya, and Caesars Entertainment, the last of which was featured in episode 7 of the Showtime series Years of Living Dangerously (now available on Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime), which profiled the efforts of EDF Climate Corps.
  • HCA Healthcare will also be returning, marking the company’s sixth straight year of participation.
  • KKR & Co. L.P., Carlyle Group, and Hellman & Friedman will have fellows working at the firm level this year.

The work that these fellows will engage in this summer ranges from energy benchmarking and efficiency upgrades to demand response assessments and green revolving loan fund design. We’ve written previously about the myriad ways that fellows can add value both at private equity firms and portfolio companies and we’re excited to see new stories unfold this summer. Watch this space as well as our Climate Corps-specific blog, where fellows across a variety of sectors will share their experiences and accomplishments.

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

Consumers Deserve To Know What's In Their Products

This installment of our Pillars of Leadership series explores Informed Consumers.

Sharing ingredient information with consumers is key to business leadership on chemicals. It can build consumer confidence, trust, loyalty – and market advantage. Numerous surveys (see here and here) and advocacy campaigns (see here) reveal that people want more ingredient information than is typically available today. The key to success in cultivating an Informed Consumer is providing product ingredient information that is comprehensive, accessible, and importantly, meaningful.

Woman label blog image

Consumers want to:

  • Have easy access to consistent, reliable information
  • Feel empowered when making purchasing decisions for themselves and their families
  • Understand what they’re bringing into their homes
  • Avoid adverse health and environmental impacts
  • Trust that brands and retailers respect their interest in knowing product composition

How does a company cultivate an Informed Consumer? For starters, by sharing ingredient information on product packaging and online for products it makes or sells, with content that extends well beyond regulatory requirements. While packaging physically limits the amount of information that can be shared with consumers, online ingredient disclosure allows greater flexibility in terms of the extent and type of ingredient information, as well as how that information is accessed and presented. Read more

Campbell’s Soup Expands Fertilizer Optimization Programs

There’s a new reason to celebrate your favorite sugar cookie. The Campbell's Soup Company has committed to fertilizer optimization in its sourcing areas in Ohio and Nebraska – which provide wheat for Campbell’s subsidiary, Pepperidge Farm – and the company will enroll an additional 70,000 acres into its fertilizer optimization programs by 2020.

220px-Campbell_Soup_Company_logo.svg_Campbell's will work with EDF to create additional fertilizer optimization and soil conservation programs for farmers, and will deploy United Suppliers’ SUSTAIN platform in these sourcing areas to help ensure for farmers that changing their practices will not only reduce nitrogen runoff, but also protect yields and farm income.

With this announcement, the momentum for sustainable agriculture is higher than ever. Campbell’s is the latest company to participate in EDF’s Sustainable Sourcing Initiative, joining Walmart, Smithfield Foods, General Mills, and United Suppliers to make fertilizer efficiency and soil health the norm in U.S. grain production. Read more

Why the Food Movement is Alive and Well

silverware 2 up closeMark Bittman’s recent New York Times op-ed, “Let’s Make Food Issues Real,” is a grim assessment of the current state of the food movement – in fact, he questions whether a food movement exists at all.

Bittman states that the lack of major change to government food policies means the food movement is not winning. “I’ll believe there’s a food movement when Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush are forced to talk directly about food issues,” Bittman writes.

I’ll take that bet. With the drought in California threatening the nation’s produce and the other impacts climate change pose to our food supply, I think it’s likely that the next group of presidential candidates will discuss food issues on the campaign trail.

But even if politicians take up the banner of the food movement, new legislation should not be the sole indicator of success. Food companies are increasingly making changes to their products, practices, and sourcing in response to consumer demand. State policies and federal agency priorities are also shifting. Read more

How Institutional Commitment Translates to Safer Products

Behind the Label_FSuccessful business outcomes require strong and continuous commitment and support from company leaders. As with any change initiative, modifying how a manufacturer selects the ingredients it uses or how a retailer selects products requires time and resources, and infrastructural and behavioral adjustments. In our previous blog in this series, we identified five 'pillars' that are critical to attaining industry leadership on safer chemicals.

The first pillar, Institutional Commitment, is essential in ensuring leadership support for business transformation.

Institutional Commitment to safer chemicals frames a company’s journey, builds internal champions, and sets accountability for the journey at every level of the organization. In a committed company, action ripples throughout the organization; company executives set top-level goals that are reinforced by middle management in a way that empowers employees in every business function to make the transformation successful through their own daily operations. It’s about true integration of the new safer chemistry philosophy into everyday business. Read more