If Facebook were a country, it would be the third largest in the world. With over 900 million users, the social media site now has a market valuation of $104 billion – all because of a clever idea conceived in a college dorm room six years ago.
A good idea taken to scale can be surprisingly powerful. The Environmental Defense Fund’s (EDF) Climate Corps is just that. Each year since 2008, EDF has placed specially trained MBA and MPA students in companies, cities and other public entities -- to develop customized energy efficiency investment plans that cut costs and emissions. To date, this program has identified $1 billion in energy savings, enough to power 100,000 homes each year and avoid the emissions of 200,000 cars.
EDF Climate Corps started five years ago as a good idea, with just seven fellows working in Bay Area companies. When these fellows found $35 million in energy savings, EDF realized we had a powerful model that we could both scale nationally and extend into other sectors.
And now, we’re announcing the 2012 EDF Climate Corps fellows and the 88 organizations – including Facebook – where they will be working to bring energy efficiency to scale. With this class, we will have trained and embedded 285 fellows in 186 organizations. And the power and versatility of this good idea keeps surprising us.
Delivering results across sectors
The EDF Climate Corps model has proven successful across the public, private, and nonprofit sectors. This year we’ve got a more diverse group of host organizations than ever, with tech giants Google and Facebook, industrial companies Caterpillar and Cummins, public school systems in Boston, Chicago and Houston, city governments in Dallas and New Orleans, and even the America’s Cup sailing race.
Engaging human capital
When we started EDF Climate Corps, it was all about technology – lighting, climate control systems and office equipment. Now, more and more organizations are tasking their fellows with developing employee engagement campaigns – organizing office green teams and challenging employees to take charge of reducing their energy use. This is consistent with the trend we see of looking beyond the low-hanging fruit to the organizational changes that can deliver systemic and lasting reductions in energy use and greenhouse gas emissions.
Building the movement for energy efficiency
A growing number of national and place-based initiatives have emerged to capture the huge economic and environmental benefits of energy efficiency. We’re seeing increasing overlap between these programs — including the DOE’s Better Buildings Challenge, the C40 Cities, and the Seattle 2030 and Cleveland 2030 districts, and EDF Climate Corps. By identifying immediate and cost-effective ways to cut energy use and greenhouse gas emissions, Climate Corps puts organizations on the fast track to meeting their commitments under these programs.
One thing hasn’t changed in the last five years: EDF Climate Corps delivers real results for the climate and the bottom line. The program works well regardless of where an organization is on its energy efficiency journey. For hosts that already have a robust energy management program, EDF Climate Corps fellows provide skilled hands and a laser focus on efficiency that gets projects over the goal line. For others, the fellow is there to get the ball rolling: identifying quick wins and building momentum for further progress.
Happy fifth birthday, EDF Climate Corps! Stay tuned to our blog all summer, where fellows, host organizations and EDF staff will report out on the good ideas they have this summer and the surprises that are sure to accompany them.
[Eds. Note: This article was reprinted with permission from EDF]