Since moving to the United States from France last year, I have been anxious to understand how American corporations are thinking about sustainability. From an external political perspective, we have witnessed the United States withdraw from the Paris Agreement and the changes with EPA leadership to name a few signals of uncertainty, and it’s been unclear what direction the country was taking.
At the same time, we’ve seen the increased resolve of mayors, governors and business leaders to pledge to reduce emissions and stem the causes of climate change. I knew I had to take the road to see for myself firsthand what is actually happening with U.S. businesses and their sustainability efforts.
So, I set off in an electric vehicle (and other modes of transport) with my ENGIE Insight colleagues on a grassroots coast to coast sustainability tour to canvass the US, stopping to visit ten cities in ten days. Along the way, we met with U.S. business leaders, innovators and influencers to gain insight into the strategies, successes, and underpinning innovations as well learn the specific challenges that organizations are facing. We designed the tour to get an accurate sense of what’s really going on and to spark conversations on what we learned on a spectrum of sustainability topics like renewable energy, blockchain, energy efficiency, water conservation and waste reduction projects and more. From there, we also wanted to gather all the intelligence we could and use it to help inform the work we do at ENGIE Insight to support clients in their commitment to sustainability.
Over the course of two weeks we met with more than 130 companies and organizations across industries. It quickly became clear there is a convergence of trends influencing the state of sustainability in the U.S. and they are consistent across industries and regions regardless of whether we’re talking about a retail company with locations across the country to a restaurant whose primary presence is in the Northeast. Here are the top three trends I saw consistently throughout my sustainability tour experience.
Beyond renewables, we’re experiencing a big wave of sustainability innovation that carries with it impressive breakthroughs. Take Lutron Electronics, a company specializing in cutting-edge energy-saving lighting and shade control. We met with Lutron on the Washington D.C. tour stop and they spoke with us about how their customers are using smart lighting control systems and concepts like daylight harvesting to save energy and create the optimal working environment for people. They even proved to us that dimming lights by 20% can be naked to the human eye! More and more choices will come with all of this innovation and will open even more opportunities for businesses to continue to invest in sustainability.
Case in point: GameStop pushed sustainability missions through their corporate office by talking about how to engage employees in a different way. Chick-Fil-A hosts bee hives at their corporate headquarters to help give their teams a unique, local experience while also serving the environment. Companies like Haverty’s are thinking about how to deliver to their customers a better overall shopping experience which includes optimized lighting, a beautiful store environment along with a lighter footprint while ingraining sustainability as a key pillar to the company mission.
It was an amazing experience to take a classic American coast to coast road trip this summer and meet with companies all across the country who are leading the sustainability charge. I learned that we are at the next level of a sustainability revolution and businesses are at the forefront of driving real environmental change. Sustainability is evolving to an operational imperative for businesses ingrained within the company mission– not merely something that’s a ‘nice thing to do.’ I saw evidence of this again and again over the course of the trip, and my team and I will continue to apply these insights to our work helping businesses solve their critical energy and sustainability problems and build achievable sustainability roadmaps to support their business success for the future.
Image credit: ENGIE Insight
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