This article originally appeared in GreenBiz and can be seen here.
When I was a kid, my dad told me that his favorite technological advancements were the automatic garage door and the automatic ice maker. I didn’t fully understand why at the time. But I get it now.
When I leave my office today, I will pull out my mobile phone, order a Lyft and walk out to meet the driver within a minute. While in the car, I’ll use Seamless to have my dinner delivered at my exact arrival time, and the Nest thermostat in my apartment automatically will adjust to my desired temperature once I am within a mile.
Technology continues to make our lives easier. But, besides convenience, it has the incredible potential to reduce our day-to-day impact on the environment. And that’s why I look forward to the VERGE conference each year.
This year, VERGE is focusing on how technology is supercharging sustainability in three areas in particular: circularity; energy; and transportation.
In my role with EDF Climate Corps, I’m seeing greater interest from companies wanting to use innovative technologies to accelerate sustainability and scale solutions across nearly every sector. Here are some ways I’ve seen it happening across those three areas in particular.
I’ve never run a marathon, but I imagine it would be a very praise-worthy experience.
First, you sign up, feeling that initial rush of “wow, I’m actually doing this” adrenaline. That's followed by everyone's favorite part: telling people. You’re instantly flooded with responses like “Good for you!” and “You’re such an inspiration!”. But then, the glory starts to fade and you realize it’s time for the hard work. Months of training, time and dedication (and probably pain) are needed before you can cross the finish line.
We’re seeing a similar process happening in corporate sustainability around setting climate goals. It’s inspiring work to see companies set targets. Take for example evian, which announced its ambition to be Carbon Neutral globally by 2020 during the Paris Climate Summit in 2015.
But getting kudos for setting a goal is just the beginning. The rest of the story, often the most important and tricky step is figuring out those middle miles – determining how exactly these goals can be met. As consumers, it’s the hard work being done to deliver on a goal that we should be celebrating even more.
Today marks my one year anniversary of joining EDF Climate Corps, where I’ve spent the last 12 months helping companies think through the strategies for meeting – or setting – their climate goals. What I’ve learned in this short time is that companies are going beyond the “safe bet” to tackling bigger and more impactful projects. In doing so, I’ve identified four important trends in corporate sustainability this year that all business leaders should be watching.
But before we get into these trends, let’s step back and look at how corporate sustainability has evolved. In my previous role as president of Green Impact Campaign, I helped thousands of small businesses get their foot into the sustainability door by investing in energy efficiency. It was a low-risk, reliable way to cut costs and reduce their carbon footprint. Now, with EDF Climate Corps, I’m working with businesses to go beyond implementing the already-proven strategies – like energy efficiency – to setting new trends that others will follow.
Energy efficiency is a simple, quick and cost-effective method to reduce both costs and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. That’s why companies are scaling up their energy efficiency projects in an effort to achieve greater results. And it’s important that they do. Buildings play a considerable role in GHG emissions: Commercial buildings in particular make up roughly 20% of total U.S. energy. So it’s no surprise that optimizing building systems is on the rise.
Between 2006 and 2014, investments in commercial building energy efficiency more than doubled from seven billion to 16 billion, with projects ranging from heating and cooling, to refrigeration, energy management and more.