What today’s CEOs need to know to attract and retain tomorrow’s leaders

Yesterday, some of the most powerful CEOs in corporate America declared that driving shareholder value can no longer be their sole business objective. A group of 181 CEOs representing the Business Roundtable claimed that corporations have a responsibility to balance the needs of all their stakeholders – from employees to local communities.

Several societal trends have pushed corporations to look beyond their fiduciary responsibilities and consider their impact on society, including pressure from employees.

Nearly 40% of millennials – now the largest generation in the American workforce – report choosing a job because of the employer’s approach to corporate sustainability. Five years of statistics from EDF Climate Corps reflect this trend: Demand for climate-related jobs has nearly doubled in the last five years.

Millennials are different from previous generations in their preference for purpose over paycheck. They want to bring change.

Here are three insights I’ve identified from EDF Climate Corps’ pool of graduate student applicants that should matter to any CEO seeking to recruit and retain talent. The program receives over 1,000 applications each year and has an acceptance rate of 10%.

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What presidential hopefuls can learn from the original “Climate Corps”

The 2020 presidential candidates are starting to introduce an array of proposals to fight climate change. Included in the mix are multiple calls for creating a “Climate Corps” – a national service initiative designed to engage America’s youth to advance climate solutions.

I’m excited by the increased attention on climate change and about the debate on how best to involve the next generation in solving the climate crisis. As candidates and public officials look to develop their policy ideas, they might look to lessons learned from the original Climate Corps – Environmental Defense Fund’s fellowship program that empowers the next generation of sustainability leaders to help major companies, organizations and industries to take action on clean energy and climate.

Here are four considerations to help inform the effective design of any national climate-related service initiative.

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Meet the young minds solving the climate crisis

As a Cruise Director for an expedition travel company in the Arctic and Antarctic, Meghan Kelly often found herself in conversations with locals about the receding coastline. She heard how decreasing sea ice is diminishing traditional hunting grounds, along with the passages between one community and the next in the Arctic. For the families who have been there for generations, surviving means adapting to a warmer climate.

To many of us, these remote locations may seem far away. But stories like this are happening much closer to home. Climate change is altering, and in some cases destroying, the environments we grew up in.

It’s easy to feel hopeless when hearing these stories. But here’s one reason why I’m optimistic about the future of our planet.

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Their vote and their jobs: Millennials’ new tools for climate advocacy

A new poll by CNN shows that climate change now ranks as the very top issue among Democratic voters – beating out historically popular issues like healthcare.

Engaging in climate advocacy is growing globally. And what I find to be especially interesting is the innovative approaches that people are taking to make their voices heard.

Climate change’s time could be now, and people are seizing the opportunity. People like Summer Sandoval.

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This Election Day, leverage your influence on climate

I remember the exhilaration I felt as my mom and dad drew the curtain to fill out their ballot, and I know I’ll experience a similar sensation tomorrow when I cast a vote for what I believe in: A cleaner, better future.

Findings from last month’s IPCC Special Report show the dramatic effects that climate change is already having and will continue to have on our planet. It’s a world of more extreme storms, rising sea levels and vulnerable global supply chains. It’s a world that looks vastly different from the prosperous, clean energy future so many of us desire.

That’s why tomorrow, I’ll head to the polls with my wife and my 6-month-old daughter, and we’ll vote for candidates who support policies that help stabilize our climate. From there, I’ll head to work where I’ll fight for a low carbon future in another way: By empowering business leaders to make climate action a top priority within and outside of their four walls.

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Grad student helps Blue Shield of California cross the finish line on solar project

Yesterday afternoon, local officials and Blue Shield of California employees gathered in El Dorado Hills as CEO Paul Markovich cut the ribbon on the healthcare company’s newest solar power installation. I’m always excited to see companies breaking ground on clean energy projects, but I’m particularly thrilled about this one. That’s because three years ago, I met Radhika Lalit – the grad student who laid the foundation for this project.

Investing in clean energy is a smart decision for business, but it’s not always an easy path. It takes time, money and bandwidth, to move projects from an idea to reality. So in 2015 when Blue Shield of California partnered with EDF Climate Corps for help with developing its renewable energy strategy, I was hopeful that Radhika, a grad student at Stanford at the time, could give Blue Shield what they needed – an extra set of hands and dedicated project management.

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How Google, BlackRock, Hilton are doubling down on sustainable business

If you were asked five years ago “What types of companies are thinking about – and acting on –sustainability?” you would likely answer with the usual suspects: Patagonia, REI, etc. Less likely on your radar, I’d venture to guess, were players like TPG Capital, Novartis or Caterpillar. Today, companies across all sectors are re-envisioning what it means to be sustainable, and EDF Climate Corps is helping them do so.

Last week I attended my 7th EDF Climate Corps training – the annual kick-off to the summer fellowship. I left the reception with the feeling that this year would be different than previous; partly due to my new role as manager of the program, but more so from the conversations I had with this year’s cohort of 115 EDF Climate Corps fellows. There was a shared feeling that the mindset around corporate sustainability has changed from a nice-to-have to a must-have. And it was inspiring to hear how this group of determined, talented individuals plans on helping some of our country’s largest businesses meet and strengthen their climate goals.

It’s inspiring people like these – coupled with the broader trends at play – which give me so much confidence in the EDF Climate Corps model to help more companies tackle larger, more impactful and more innovative energy-related projects. Here’s why:

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Big brands drive change in China’s manufacturing hub

In just a few days I, along with EDF+Business’ Xixi Chen, will be traveling across China to talk with companies and students about corporate energy management. The trip comes one week after China’s “Golden Week”—the country’s eight-day-long national celebration. Each year, the holiday marks the largest week for tourism, bringing in over 700 million tourists at home and abroad to the nation’s streets and roughly $87 billion in revenue.

But while the streets are bustling, China’s industrial and manufacturing powerhouse comes to a standstill. This is a mandatory national holiday for all citizens, which means, for the entire week, almost everyone is off of work, businesses and factories are shut down, shipping lines are put on pause, and companies with suppliers in China are busy preparing for a week of silence.

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