ED Note: EOS Climate is also a 3p Sponsor and has helped produce an ongoing series called Refrigerant Revolution. Learn more here.
By Candice D. McLeod
Each week leading up to the Sustainable Brands Innovation Open (SBIO) finals on June 5th, where the runner-up will be decided via live online public vote, we will feature two articles on an SBIO semi-finalists. Meet semi-finalist EOS Climate.
Joe Madden, a pioneer in the North American Greenhouse Gas Markets, Jeff Cohen, a 2008 Nobel Peace Prize honoree for his contribution to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Special Working Group on Ozone Protection and Greenhouse Gases, and Todd English a climate specialist with a background in biological systems created EOS Climate in 2009. Their mission is to tackle climate change by managing greenhouse gases with market-based approaches.
The three met at Presidio Graduate School, where at the time, Cohen had been researching the extent to which refrigerants were aggressively contributing to climate change. In fact, Cohen had worked for 10 years at the U.S. EPA’s Office of Atmospheric Programs.
“Jeff had done years of research on how to change the lifecycle of refrigerants while at the EPA, and realized that refrigerants and the climate were heading towards a collision,” says Madden.
This collision would not only be the result of the ozone depleting and global warming properties of refrigerants, but also the global scale of their use.
Refrigerants are ubiquitous products, used across multiple industrial, commercial, and consumer sectors. For example, they are necessary for most modern day comforts such as air-conditioning systems in buildings and cars, but are also used in systems required to store and produce food. Unfortunately, although refrigerants are undoubtedly useful products, the primary ingredients in most refrigerants are also potent greenhouse gases, such as hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs). These potent greenhouse gases are actually also referred to as “super-greenhouse gases” to emphasize their high global warming potential.
Over the past three decades, there has been a constant move forward in the refrigerant industry to phase out the most harmful fluorochemicals, largely due to regulations such as those put forth under the Montreal Protocol. However, many businesses are at different stages of the lifecycle of their refrigerants, which indicates that harmful refrigerants are still in use and continuing to be environmental liabilities.
An additional area of concern is that most regulations manage the production and consumption of refrigerants, but not the accidental emissions of refrigerants over their lifecycle. In fact, the current global refrigerant inventory is over 7 billion mtCO2e, and 99 percent of refrigerants are released into the atmosphere over their lifecycle. Furthermore, refrigerant use is predicted to increase globally by 50 percent by 2030.
Given these facts, and their expertise in the management of greenhouse gases, English, Madden and Cohen wanted to create a product that allows large refrigerant users to manage the refrigerants within their supply chains. More importantly, they wanted to provide large refrigerant users with an economic incentive to manage these greenhouse gases by transforming refrigerants from “liabilities” into “assets.”
“Our philosophy is that if it doesn’t make economic sense, it won’t be adopted to scale, and we are looking to make a global impact,” says co-founder Madden, who is also EOS Climate’s Chief Business Development Officer.
As a result, they created a technology platform called Refrigerant Revolution, as an innovative method of tackling climate change by incentivizing the environmentally responsible use of fluorochemical refrigerants throughout their lifecycle.
Madden says, “We realized that refrigerants were being treated as ‘consumables,’ that is, as a ‘one-time expense’ and were not being properly managed beyond purchase.” However, refrigerants do not break down easily so they can be recycled and reused.
Therefore, Refrigerant Revolution was created to track refrigerants across the existing supply chain. This enables companies to not only derive more value over time from their refrigerants by recycling them, but it allows companies to be able to take refrigerants out of the supply chain to dispose of them in an environmentally safe way. The result is economic and environmental benefits on a global scale.
“Our goal is to help our customer take control and manage their refrigerants. This helps them to be proactive and stay ahead of the regulatory curve,” says Madden. This is particularly important for multinational companies that have to comply with varying federal, state, and international regulations.
Therefore, EOS Climate assists companies in developing “beyond compliance” best practices throughout the lifecycle of their refrigerants, particularly for safe disposal. They also assist their clients with the generation and sale of carbon offsets “from the verified destruction of phased-out refrigerants at end-of-life.”
In fact, EOS Climate originated a standardized protocol, adopted by California’s Air Resources Board under the Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006, also known as AB 32, which enforces the cap-and-trade regulation of greenhouse gas emissions. This means that not only does EOS Climate help their clients safely dispose of harmful refrigerants, the company’s expertise in greenhouse gas trading allows them to reward their clients for the safe disposal of these “super-greenhouse gases.”
In order to provide this comprehensive lifecycle management service, EOS Climate has established several key partnerships with organizations at different stages in the value chain, including Carrier, a global manufacturer of heating, air-conditioning, and refrigeration products, Clean Harbors Environmental Services, a comprehensive environmental, energy and industrial services company, and JACO Environmental, one of the leading appliance recyclers and a key participant in the U.S. EPA’s Responsible Appliance Disposal (RAD) Program; as part of their operations, JACO recovers ozone-depleting and global warming chemicals from old refrigerators, freezers, and window air conditioners.
Madden says, “We aim to link the supply chain together to create a sustainable, economic model. We also identify the leaders in each sector that are driving change and partner with them. Overall, we have spent a lot of time creating an ecosystem of knowledgeable people dedicated to environmental sustainability.”
This “ecosystem” has enabled the company to accomplish a lot during their four-year tenure. As of April 2013, EOS Climate has approximately 50 percent market share of California compliance credits, which is the equivalent of three million tons of offset production. They have also developed a diverse client base including pharmaceutical manufacturers, mechanical contractors, HVAC and commercial/residential refrigeration equipment manufacturers, supermarkets, and universities.
EOS Climate has also acquired many accolades since its inception. In addition to being a Sustainable Brands Innovation Open Semi-Finalist for 2013, Environmental Finance and Carbon Finance magazines have awarded the company Best Project Developer – North American Markets. EOS Climate was also awarded the Governor’s Environmental and Economic Leadership Award (GEELA), California’s highest environmental honor.
“Our overall goal continues to be a global transformation of the refrigerant value chain. A lot of entrepreneurs get caught up in the widget game and focus on incremental improvements in the existing system. However, the technology now exists to deliver massive change on big problems,” says Madden.
Visit EOS Climate to learn more about Refrigerant Revolution and the company’s innovative methods of creating economic and environmental benefits. You can also meet co-founder Joe Madden at the Sustainable Brands Solution Expo at SB’13. Enter the discount NW3pSB13 for free entry.
Candice D. McLeod is the Sustainable Brands Innovation Open Co-Coordinator. She received a Master’s degree in Environmental Studies, concentrating in Energy Management & Policy, as well as a bachelor’s degree in Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering from the University of Pennsylvania. Connect with her on Twitter @candicedmcleod.