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.”
In 2008 and 2009, McKinsey & Company published two leading reports that describe the vast potential for economic and environmental gains that are possible through energy efficiency measures. However, it’s almost 2011 and we have yet to see widespread investment in such (EE) measures. This begs the question, “why don’t we see more businesses and investors pursuing energy efficiency as cost-savings and investment strategies?”
What we find is that many of the investment barriers that were in place in 2008 and 2009 are still present today. The fact is, business models to address these barriers have not emerged successfully within the marketplace. As a result, an increasing amount of discussion is now taking place at energy conferences to clarify the investment barriers and to discuss the financial mechanisms that can address those challenges.
A survey of recent reports and presentations indicate that the key barriers include:
This past summer, one of the world’s largest private equity firms, Kohlberg Kravis and Roberts (KKR) released updated results from the company’s Green Portfolio Program and their accomplishments are impressive. Across eight portfolio companies, the program has generated a combined savings of more than $160 million in operating expenses, the avoidance of over 345,000 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions and the elimination of 1.2 million tons of solid waste and 8,500 tons of paper. Detailed results from the eight portfolio companies that participated and reported in the program are as follows:
Australia’s inaugural cap-and-trade legislation is causing the nation’s political climate to heat up so much that it has now become the deciding factor between whether or not the country will see an early election this year.
The country’s opposition leader, Malcolm Turnbull, has made it clear that his coalition will vote against the nation’s first-ever climate change legislation next month, unless the bill is amended from its current form. Known as the Carbon Reduction Pollution Scheme (CRPS), the bill was originally presented to the upper house Senate in June, 2009. The bill is slated for a second vote on August 13th and according to Australia’s laws, if the bill does not pass on it’s second time through, the Australian Labor government will have reason to call for a snap election.
When Gavin Newsom announced last week that the city’s new sustainable food policy calls for more urban land to be used to grow food, many residents wondered where the additional land would come from. According to Garden Fare, a new and growing business in the Bay Area, most residents don’t need to look any farther than their own front and backyards.
As more and more companies emerge with offerings of urban agriculture services, their emphasis is often largely placed on the conversion of abandoned lots and unused parking areas. What makes a company like Garden Fare unique is that they focus on converting existing ornamental lawns into edible gardens that provide ample amounts of healthy, local produce. In addition to providing easy access to healthy food, Garden Fare founder Patrick Rodysill also highlights the fact that residents see a greater return on their investments in lawn care when those lawns are being used to grow edible foods versus the more typical, non-edible plants.
In 2008, Texas Instruments (TI) saved $5.1 million through reducing energy use by 5% and water consumption by over 7%. As a result, TI reduced its worldwide carbon footprint to 2.07 million metric tons of CO2, which represents a 2.8% reduction in the company’s worldwide carbon footprint.
The company’s 2008 Corporate Social Responsibility Report outlines the 159 distinct initiatives that were undertaken to realize the company-wide savings. Entitled, “Building a Better Future,” the new report organizes the company’s environmental performance into eight categories including air quality, climate change, energy use, alternative transportation, water use, materials usage & recycling, sustainable site policies and principles.
However, the most captivating elements of the report are the environmental performance highlights.
On Wednesday of this week, the G8 leaders failed to unanimously pass a climate bill to mandate a 50% reduction in CO2 emissions by 2050. The group’s failure to agree is further evidence that international agreements on a global climate change policy are stalling. The cause of the gridlock stems from disagreements among national leaders on primarily two fronts: efficacy and equity. History plays a part as well, as exemplified by Obama’s struggle to overcome the legacy of the Bush administration’s inaction on the climate issue.
As progress towards an international agreement stalls, climate change policy critics are gaining a stronger voice in the debate over the issue. In fact, an international group of academics are now encouraging world leaders to simply abandon their current climate change policies. Instead, the authors advocate for the G8 nations and developing countries to emphasize improvements in energy efficiency and to deploy low-carbon technologies.
The field of competitors within the emerging field of energy management software now includes Microsoft. Earlier this week Microsoft launched Hohm, a home energy management application that delivers appliance specific energy consumption data to users through a web interface. The intention behind Hohm is to enable consumers to gauge their electricity usage and determine strategies for reducing consumption.
On Friday, the World Trade Organization (WTO) and the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) published a report that indicates increased economic activity could result in a rise in carbon dioxide emissions. However, the report also stipulates that increased ease of trade can also help combat climate change through delivering energy efficient and renewable energy technologies to more markets.
Although these findings align with the existing beliefs of numerous business managers and policy makers, the conclusions issued in the report are significant because this is the first time the WTO and UNEP have collaborated to examine the connections between trade and climate change. These types of multilateral cooperation and findings are critical measures to ensure the success of the upcoming UN climate negotiations in Copenhagen (December 2009).
Earlier this week, a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences confirmed that refrigerant chemicals known as “F-gases” pose a greater threat to global climate change than was previously thought. The paper, which was authored by a team of scientists from NOAA, EPA, Dupont and the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency, estimates that the growth of F-gas emissions due to increased cooling needs represents a grave enough threat that it may undo nearly half of the efforts to stabilize greenhouse gas emissions as a means to combat global climate change.
Found in everyday products such as refrigerators, insulation foams and air conditioning units (including units in homes, building and cars), fluorocarbons were designed by chemical engineers to trap heat in modern cooling appliances. In this light, hydrofluorocarbons (HFC) are the quintessential greenhouse gases. The intention behind the design of HFCs was to combat the impact of cooling chemicals such as Freon on the depletion of the ozone layer, and they were developed before the impact of human-induced climate change was widely understood.
Building upon my recent article, “Growing a Green IT Strategy,” this follow-up post provides a detailed presentation of the emerging trends and leading practices within the growing field of sustainable business practices for information technology professionals.
As indicated by the 2009 Worldwide Green IT Report, 45% of surveyed IT professionals have already implemented Green IT initiatives. Consequentially, certain practices have been established as “go-to” measures to reduce costs and minimize the environmental impact of computing operations while others are emerging with solid momentum.
Currently, carbon emissions from IT and communication technologies represent 2% of global CO2 output, which puts information technology (IT) on par with the aviation industry in terms of carbon pollution. With an average increase in emissions of roughly 12% per year, IT has become the fastest growing industry for contributing to the carbon content in our Earth’s atmosphere. However, where consumption is highest, you can also typically find the greatest opportunities to conserve.
Businesses of all sizes are starting to turn to their IT departments for strategies to reduce their carbon footprint while also improving services and cutting costs. Being identified as one of the most successful arenas to adopt efficiencies and to improve services through sustainability strategies, corporate IT departments are now enabled to emerge as the green thought leaders within their companies.
The Xerox Corporation is a $16 billion enterprise that is beginning to integrate sustainability into their product offerings and operations. It strives to operate as a sustainability leader who delivers “waste-free” products that offer quantifiable benefits to the environment.
Worldwide, consumers and investors ask how a company that is invested in toxic ink toners can deliver environmental benefits to company stakeholders. In response, Xerox outlines four goals within their corporate sustainability framework: Climate protection, biodiversity and forest preservation, preserving clean air and water, and waste management. The Xerox Sustainability Growth Plan provides details on how exactly the company works towards affecting environmental change.
For years, Patagonia has established itself as one of the strongest leaders of sustainability within the business community. Although it’s a well-deserved reputation, there are a number of innovative strategies behind why Patagonia’s industry leading reputation is so widespread. From their product catalogs, which serve as environmental education materials to their product labeling strategy that touts organic and reused materials, Patagonia clearly knows the value in communicating their message through innovative and effective channels.
The Tin Shed, Patagonia’s latest sustainability communication tool is no exception. The Tin Shed is an interactive web application that combines the stories and dispatches of Patagonia’s sustainability ambassadors from around the world. The “tin shed” is a reference to Patagonia’s origins which was an old shed that Yvon Chouinard began forging his pitons in. Today, Patagonia’s virtual tin shed serves as the platform from which the company integrates the breadth and depth of their environmental and human sustainability initiatives.
Earlier this week, Volvo introduced a new model that integrates a plug-in lithium battery and a diesel engine, which Volvo plans to make available by 2012. When compared to Volvo’s earlier plan to have a hybrid vehicle available in 2012, the new plug-in model represents a more aggressive move on Volvo’s behalf.
Notably, this move could position Volvo as the world’s first provider of a plug-in diesel model. Although the technical specifications are a work in progress, the company says that the new plug-in will emit less than 50 grams of carbon dioxide per kilometer. When compared to the average emissions rate of roughly 90 g/km found among most European subcompacts, Volvo’s 2012 plug-in is a big leap in automotive efficiency.