Green MBAs Find $350 Million through Climate Corps

Image courtesy of EDF

This past summer, 47 Fortune 1000 companies discovered opportunities for saving a combined $350 million through energy efficiency measures.  Across all projects, these savings represent an opportunity to reduce over 400,000 metric tons of annual greenhouse gas (ghg) emissions. These figures are enough to catch the attention of any business manager looking to improve the economic and environmental performance of their organization.  But what’s most interesting about these figures is how they were discovered…

Through Environmental Defense Fund’s Climate Corps program, 51 green MBA students were placed at industry leading companies for 10 – 12 weeks with the goal of identifying energy efficiency savings for their host company.  This summer, participating companies included Verizon, Xerox, Target, Pepsi and McDonald’s. For companies such as eBay, Cisco and Yahoo!, this wasn’t their first time hosting a Climate Corps fellow.  Christina Page, Director of Climate and Energy Strategy at Yahoo! told the press, “We are saving tens of millions of kilowatt hours per year of energy from previous projects identified by our first Climate Corps fellow, so we jumped at the chance to sign up again. Our 2010 fellow uncovered even more opportunities for saving energy in our data centers and building systems.”

Started in 2008 with only 7 fellows, Climate Corps grew to include 26 fellows during the summer of 2009 and 51 during 2010. To date, the program has provided leading companies with energy efficiency recommendations giving them 557,000 metric tons of annual potential avoidedghg emissions while also saving a combined $439 million in energy-related expenses. Although it’s up to the company to decide whether or not they implement the recommendations, 84% of the potential energy saving projects identified by previous fellows are either completed or in progress.

The 2010 Climate Corps cohort included MBA students from top business schools such as the University of Michigan, Duke University, Yale University and the Presidio Graduate School. After receiving specialized training from EDF and industry experts, the fellows begin their work to develop detailed energy efficiency investment and implementation plans for their host company. Along the way, the fellows work to institutionalize internal systems for identifying and implementing efficiency strategies over the long-term within the organization. But, the job of a Climate Corps fellow is not an easy one.

Developing thorough recommendations in a short timeframe requires that the Climate Corps fellows deeply embed themselves within the organization and create collaborative partnerships with facility managers, operations managers, IT staff and business leaders throughout the company.  Furthermore, the fellows look for strategies to save wherever possible including lighting, IT infrastructure and HVAC, which requires a broad knowledge base of energy efficiency potential.

It seems that participating companies couldn’t be happier with their work.

John Schinter, Executive Director of Energy at AT&T was recently quoted in a press release as saying, “Our EDF Climate Corps fellow had the skills and training to dive deeply into projects. Her pilot project identified the potential for up to an 80% reduction in electricity costs for AT&T across more than 100 million square feet of space.”

The commercial buildings that Climate Corps fellows focus on are the source of 18% of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions.  During this past summer alone, these MBA students identified opportunities to reduce energy consumption by 678 million kilowatt hours, which is enough to power 60,000 homes.  Imagine what businesses could save if they had their own team of efficiency detectives working for them year round…the results would be amazing.

For more information about the Climate Corps program, visit: http://edfclimatecorps.org/

David received his undergraduate degree in Geographic Information Sciences from James Madison University and completed an M.A. in International Development at Clark University. With over 10 years of experience in the field of environmental sustainability, David has worked for organizations such as Environmental Defense Fund, USDA, USGS and the Smithsonian Institute.Currently, David is a NetImpact member and an MBA candidate at the Presidio School of Management where his research focus is on developing market incentives for investment in environmental sustainability.

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