Rocky Mountain Institute merges with Carbon War Room

Rocky Mountain Institute merges with Carbon War Room

Entrepreneur Richard Branson's Carbon War Room is merging with fellow climate nonprofit the Rocky Mountain Institute.

Two influential non-profits focused on crafting practical, "market-driven" solutions to climate change — Rocky Mountain Institute and Carbon War Room — just eloped.

The two organizations will become a single legal entity with more than 125 full-time employees stationed in New York, Washington, D.C. and Boulder, Colo. Each group's distinctive branding will endure.

"We came to the conclusion that we are highly complementary," Jules Kortenhorst, incoming CEO of the merged organization, told GreenBiz. "Together we have an enormous opportunity to drive marketplace-based transition to a low-carbon economy. It's really a great example of where one plus one can equal three."

Kortenhorst previously served as the chief executive of RMI. The current CEO of CWR, Jose Maria Figueres, is the chair of the new organization's combined board of trustees.

At first blush, the merger announced Wednesday may seem like an unlikely union.

Scientist Amory Lovins co-founded think tank Rocky Mountain Institute more than three decades ago to help companies and communities invest thoughtfully in clean energy and other low-carbon solutions. Entrepreneur Richard Branson created Carbon War Room five years ago to catalyze bold, market-based solutions.

"The two brands are well-known and respected," Kortenhorst said, adding that each represents "a slightly different flavor of making things happen."

From collaboration to merger

Rocky Mountain Institute and Carbon War Room are by no means strangers. The two organizations formally have collaborated for the past year on the Ten Island Challenge.

That initiative focused on helping six Caribbean countries — Aruba, Colombia, the Bahamas, Grenada, Saint Lucia, and Turks and Caicos — develop practical energy alternatives. Most currently have a heavy dependence on expensive, diesel-generated power.

The first potential projects inspired by their joint work are now in the early stages. You could say this process doubled as the courtship for this week's marriage of the two non-profits.

For the most part, little will change as far as strategic focus — other than the combined organization's ability to act more quickly.

"We have certain programs where we will work side-by-side," Kortenhorst said. "Suddenly, we become a partner that has more resources and can bring additional capabilities to the table."

Here are three other areas where businesses and communities can expect the combined organization to "mobilize" their impact (many of which are also part of RMI's "Reinventing Fire" manifesto):

Fleet Efficiency: Heavy trucks currently use about 18 percent of all U.S. oil, or 3.8 million barrels daily. Potential solutions include technologies that can improve truck and trailer aerodynamics, weight and freight load reductions, as well as initiatives to scale sustainable fuel alternatives.

Building Energy Efficiency: RMI's program strives to make one-square-foot of commercial building space 35 percent more energy-efficient by 2025. By 2050, it wants to see all U.S. building become 50 percent more efficient than they are today.

Shipping: Plans call for the combined organization to continue advancing a fuel efficiency rating system for maritime vessels originally developed by CWR. So far, more than 70,000 ships are covered. Companies such as Cargill use these rating to charter "cleaner" ships.