A strong climate deal makes dollars and sense for American business

VictoriaMills_287x377_1The chorus of business voices calling for climate action has grown steadily in size and strength in the months leading up to the Paris climate talks. Now that COP 21 is finally here, companies have pumped up the volume even more, with a full-page ad in the Wall Street Journal and a wave of new commitments to the American Business Act on Climate Pledge.

Championing a Low-Carbon USA

In today’s Wall Street Journal, over a hundred U.S. companies placed a full-page advertisement calling for a shift to a low-carbon economy. The ad’s message is simple: failure to act on climate change puts America’s prosperity at risk, but the right action now will create jobs and boost competitiveness.

WSJ-ad

Click for full ad in PDF

Companies as diverse as Colgate-Palmolive, DuPont, eBay, General Mills, Ingersoll-Rand, Microsoft, Owens Corning and Pacific Gas & Electric signed on to the ad, which encourages the U.S. government to:

  1. Seek a strong and fair global climate deal in Paris that provides long-term direction and periodic strengthening to keep global temperature rise below 2°C
  2. Support action to reduce U.S. emissions that achieves or exceeds national commitments and increases ambition in the future
  3. Support investment in a low-carbon economy at home and abroad, giving industry clarity and boosting the confidence of investors

These companies recognize that their efforts alone can’t solve an issue like climate change. Businesses need governments around the world to act as well. By setting ambitious goals and providing regulatory certainty, governments can unleash the power of the marketplace to deliver the necessary reductions in emissions, while also boosting competitiveness and economic growth. Read more

Shifting the eBay Mindset for a More Naturally Integrated Energy Management System

By Gabrielle Maguire, 2011 EDF Climate Corps Fellow at eBay, MIB Candidate at The Fletcher School at Tufts University

My EDF Climate Corps at eBay is coming to a close, and amid the flurry of project deadlines and presentations, I’m taking a moment to reflect on the past 2.5 months. I’ve been tasked with analyzing the best way to make our on-campus data rooms more efficient, and I outlined many of the barriers in my last post (How do you shrink while you grow?). Gabrielle Maguire

I’ve found that my colleagues have been making the best decisions based on their given parameters determined by silo-ed ownership and a shorter-term focus—even though they desire a better overall solution. In short, the system is forcing them to make less than optimal decisions from both a cost and energy efficiency perspective. Ultimately, my analysis focused as much on proposed efficiency changes as on the larger operational process changes that should occur.

In my analysis and recommendations, I compared “business-as-usual” to incremental changes in the business model. To make a case for a process change, I expanded the financial analysis beyond savings from simple energy efficiency investments to some other critical components in this system:

Operational Risk – By incorporating the financial costs of continuing at business-as-usual, I was able to demonstrate that the current situation cannot hold. eBay is growing too quickly to maintain the status quo. These risks were compared to the varying investments that the changes would involve, and the risks quickly outstripped the initial costs.

Budget Allocation – I looked at the overall costs to eBay Inc., rather than to each business unit. This would allow us to find the best decision for eBay, regardless of where the cash from investment would come from. As a secondary step, I considered how the future decisions would be affected by aligning budget, expenses and responsibility. This is where a process change would promote energy efficiency decisions for years to come.

Employee Experience – In an industry that heavily competes for top developers, the employee experience is a critical part of eBay’s culture, and impacts on this experience must also be included in the analysis. Certain changes I analyzed would negatively impact developers’ daily functions. By calculating this impact in terms of potential losses in retention and recruitment, it is clear that although they may be financially sound from an efficiency point of view, they are too expensive overall. On the flipside, other investment decisions would enhance the employee experience and lead to higher returns on investment.

With these aspects in mind, I worked to quantify the previously uncalculated risks and returns that play into eBay’s current model and compare them to costs of creating a process change. With this information eBay will be able to inform (and shift) a larger process mindset so that subsequent efficient energy decisions from here on out will occur within a more naturally integrated system.

This content is cross-posted on In Good Company: Vault’s CSR Blog.

Bidding Farewell to eBay and Four Takeaways on Computer Power Management

By Megan Rast, 2010 EDF Climate Corps fellow at eBay Inc., MBA candidate at Haas School of Business, University of California, Berkeley, Member of Net Impact

My summer as an EDF Climate Corps Fellow making the business case for energy efficiency and carbon reduction at eBay Inc. has officially come to an end.  Despite my uncertainty of finding low-hanging fruit in energy efficiency at an environmental-leader like eBay, I found my stride and was able to calculate the energy savings of a number of computer power management solutions.   Thanks to this project, and a few smaller projects on facility upgrades, I was able to “dig in” and provide recommendations that will be implemented across eBay Inc.

Through my success working on computer power management at eBay, I found four key takeaways for working on sustainability and energy efficiency:

  1. Be Introduced Widely Across the Company.  During my first week at eBay Inc., my supervisor set up introductory meetings for me far and wide across workplace resources, information technology, data center strategy, finance, procurement and corporate communications.   As I started my internship, I focused on projects related to eBay’s facilities and data centers, and did not initially work with the other groups I had met.  However, thanks to these introductions, IT remembered my skillset, and approached me in mid-July to analyze the energy savings of a variety of options already under consideration.   Our initial meeting was necessary in connecting organizational needs to the resources and skillset I provided. Read more

eBay Bids on Energy Efficiency and Wins

By Megan Rast, 2010 EDF Climate Corps fellow at eBay Inc., MBA candidate at Haas School of Business, University of California, Berkeley, Member of Net Impact

When I originally set out to spend the summer as an EDF Climate Corps fellow at eBay Inc., I anticipated spending my 10-week fellowship focused on making the business case for energy efficiency in the company’s data centers.  On my first day at eBay headquarters, I realized I had been mistaken. The greatest energy efficiency gains would actually not be in the data centers, but found elsewhere.

Near the start of my fellowship, eBay Inc. unveiled a new data center named Project Topaz that was 30 percent more efficient than any other data center in the company’s portfolio.  In “geek speak,” it has a power usage effectiveness (PUE) rating of 1.4 thanks to water-side economization, in-row cooling and 400V power distribution.  As a Climate Corps fellow who has been trained on data center efficiency measures aimed at enabling companies to pick low-hanging fruit and cut costs on wasted energy, it has been nearly impossible to make any recommendations for a facility that is already so advanced in its green initiatives.

Obviously I needed to refocus the scope of my project.

Thankfully, my supervisor introduced me to colleagues throughout the organization in workplace resources, procurement, IT and corporate communications.  Considering over 2,400 of eBay Inc.’s employees are members of the Green Team, I was not surprised by the contagious enthusiasm for sustainability.  Read more

Tapping into the Next Wave of Start-Ups: The Software Side of Energy Efficiency

By Megan Rast, 2010 EDF Climate Corps fellow at eBay Inc., MBA candidate at Haas School of Business, University of California, Berkeley, Member of Net Impact

While working at eBay Inc. as an EDF Climate Corps fellow, I have taken up the challenge to make the business case for energy efficiency and carbon reduction initiatives within the internet company.  Hence, the reason I was so keen on attending an event last week called “The Software Side of Energy Efficiency,” hosted by MIT/Stanford Venture Lab.

Only in Silicon Valley, can one guarantee that such an event will draw a packed auditorium – a perfect storm of venture capitalists, cleantech enthusiasts, entrepreneurs and software engineers that work and live in one of the greenest energy states in the U.S.  It was a formidable crowd not to be underestimated.

But underestimate, we did.  The panelists were surprised when a quick poll of which audience members had checked their energy usage in the past 6 months yielded 10 times the usual number. Read more

Five Energy Efficiency Tips Anyone Can Use

By Cindy Chen (MBA candidate, Berkeley), 2009 Climate Corps Fellow at eBay

This summer, I will be working on energy efficiency projects at eBay as part of the 2009 class of EDF Climate Corps fellows. While I’ve had exposure to energy efficiency through talks at UC Berkeley / LBL, various conferences, and even co-writing a business plan for an energy efficiency start-up, the three day EDF training was a comprehensive crash course in all things energy efficient. Rather than delve into the details about improved lighting, HVAC, energy management systems or green data centers (more information is available in the Climate Corps Handbook (PDF)), I thought I’d share my top five takeaways from the training.

  1. Increasing the energy saved by the end user will result in a huge multiplier effect. Most energy that is produced is lost in distribution, so for every 12 units of energy produced upstream at the power plant, only one unit of energy arrives downstream to be consumed by our host company. The inefficiency of power generation and distribution will result in cumulative energy savings impact that is many magnitudes greater than the energy savings at the end user.
  2. Think systems, not disparate parts. When retrofitting an existing facility, the total impact is often greater than the sum of the individual parts. So while it’s great to swap out T-12 fluorescent lamps for T-8 or replace old windows with ones with low e-coating, it’s important to recognize that changing multiple things simultaneously can result in larger energy savings that individual one-off initiatives.
  3. One of the easiest and most cost-effective ways to delay climate change is through energy efficiency programs. Advanced biofuels, as well as solar, wind, and wave energy are all sexy energy technologies making the news, but good old-fashioned energy efficiency can be implemented immediately and often has shorter payback periods. Even President Obama has called energy efficiency the “cheapest, cleanest, fastest energy source.”
  4. At the end of the day, energy efficiency is about common sense. Am I heating or cooling the building on the weekends, when there are no tenants there? Have I remembered to shut off the lights at the end of the day, or installed sensors to automatically turn them on and off? Am I running all the servers in my data center at an appropriate capacity, or should I turn off some that are unnecessarily drawing power and using additional resources?
  5. Even the small stuff counts, like bundling cords in the data center to improve air circulation or installing blinds to minimize sun glare and reduce cooling needs. It may be difficult to quantify all of these small improvements but they do add up.

Though my internship may only cover a small portion of the many topics taught, I am confident that the lessons learned will help shape and refine the specific projects I’ll be analyzing this summer. I’m looking forward to getting started at eBay next Monday – stay tuned for more lessons from the field!