Sustainability execs detail 2014's proudest achievements
GreenBiz Executive Network leaders from Dell, Adobe, McDonald's and more talk about eliminating toxics, energy efficiency and other boastworthy wins.
As 2014 comes to a close, we asked members of the GreenBiz Executive Network, our member-based, peer-to-peer learning forum for sustainability professionals, to reflect on the past year and assess their progress.
They obliged by telling us about many of their major accomplishments in 2014. What you'll read below is a mix of themes. There's some well-deserved bragging (we like to be inspired by success). There are big initiatives that have been launched, most requiring extensive partnerships across entire value chains. And there are great examples of embedding sustainability strategy deep into organizations, ensuring greater action and execution.
Here's what they said when we asked: What was your company's greatest accomplishment this year?
David Lear, executive director, corporate sustainability, Dell
Vince Digneo, sustainability specialist, Adobe
Holly Emerson, senior analyst, Center for Energy Efficiency and Sustainability, Ingersoll Rand
Bob Langert, corporate VP, CSR/Sustainability, McDonald's Corporation
Jeff Farlow, program manager, energy initiatives, Pentair
In 2008, we began collaborating with the U.S. Department of Energy and the EPA to develop a set of energy efficiency standards for pool pumps. The resulting Energy Star standards for pool pumps could reduce pool energy use by as much as 90 percent. With its IntelliFlo products, Pentair's pump line was already achieving this standard. In fact, since 2005 Pentair's pumps have saved over 5.8 billion kilowatt-hours, and counting.
Asheen Phansey, environmental sustainability manager, Dassault Systèmes
Jeff Rehm, senior manager, corporate facilities and global sustainability, W.W. Grainger
Brandy Wilson, director of sustainability, CH2MHill
John Schulz, AVP of sustainability operations, AT&T
Jenny Cross, vice president, corporate sustainability, Mohawk Industries
Scott Weislow, senior director, environmental services, Best Buy Co., Inc.
Deborah Hecker, vice president, sustainability and corporate social responsibility, Sodexo North America
We also launched two impactful enterprise-wide partnerships: with Partnership for a Healthier America we committed to support healthy lifestyles for healthy families by implementing new wellness standards throughout our business; with the Clinton Global Initiative we committed to expanding our impact in local communities by purchasing $1 billion from small to medium-sized enterprises around the world.
Timothy C. Lindsey, Ph.D., global director of sustainable development, Caterpillar Inc.
At Caterpillar, we have a unique opportunity to lead in solving some of the world's most challenging issues associated with energy, water, land, climate and quality of life. Our position as the global leader in providing the products and services needed for carefully extracting resources and developing infrastructure places us at the apex of many issues. As the earth's population grows and migrates to urban areas, needs for sanitation, water, transportation and housing will escalate dramatically and our products will be important tools for addressing those needs.
Our capabilities associated with distributed power generation, using fuels from diverse sources ranging from natural gas to renewable fuels, can contribute greatly to providing energy access around the globe. These systems are often twice as efficient as the conventional power grid with far less greenhouse gas emissions.
According to the U.N., 25 percent of the world's land is "highly degraded." We need to restore the productivity of these lands if we are going to feed the additional 2 billion people that will arrive on the planet over the next several decades. Our machinery can play a major role in restoring these lands to improve ecosystem health, increase land productivity and sequester millions of tons of CO2 naturally in soils and plants.
Developing, launching and bringing to life the Campbell Purpose, Real Food that Matters for Life's Moments.
Josh Henretig, senior director of energy, environment & cities, Microsoft Corp.
In June, Microsoft announced a three-year agreement with the University of Texas at San Antonio to research and develop distributed generation technologies that will transform how data centers consume energy. As part of this research, UTSA students will work hand-in-hand with Microsoft researchers to look into new “fast-start generation” energy technologies such as micro-turbines and natural gas-powered fuel cells to replace the diesel generators used during times of peak demand.
In order to better address the challenges and opportunities in the increasingly systemic areas of sustainability and cities, in October Microsoft announced the joining of its sustainability and CityNext teams to drive greater synergies for enabling impact at scale. We have more than 220 qualified partners on board delivering more than 800 solutions worldwide, and Microsoft improved its ranking from No. 11 to No. 5 on Navigant Research's annual Leaderboard for Smart Cities Suppliers.
In November, we celebrated our off-the-grid, fuel cell-powered data center in Cheyenne, Wyo., going live. The data center will operate from energy generated from biogas, which will be used to power fuel cells. These facilities have the potential to change how the technology industry supports the cloud, giving us more flexibility in locating data centers.
Shannon Schuyler, principal, corporate responsibility leader, PwC; president, PwC Charitable Foundation
We also made great strides on carbon reduction this year. PwC US has a goal to reduce our carbon emissions 30 percent by FY16, compared to an FY07 baseline. We continue to build on our environmental strategy with a variety of approaches, including exploring ways to manage our air travel, being flexible in where we work, improving the efficiency of our offices and leveraging the enthusiasm of our Green Team network. Additionally, 100 percent of the energy we used in our offices in our recent fiscal year came from renewable sources. These efforts helped us meet our carbon reduction goal ahead of schedule, reducing our carbon emissions by 38 percent at the end of FY14. In addition to our focus on absolute carbon reduction, we continue to monitor our emissions by full-time employee. Since our initial measurement in FY07, we reduced our emissions per employee by 52 percent.
But merely reaching our goal is not enough. We know it's important to demonstrate our ability to sustain this level of reduction for the long term. The challenge ahead is to manage our carbon emissions as the firm increases the overall numbers of partners and staff to meet the needs of our clients.
Tom Carpenter, director, sustainability services, Waste Management
Brett Illers, program manager, energy efficiency and sustainability, Yahoo
Paul Murray, vice president, sustainability and environmental affairs, Shaw Industries
Emily Hanning, senior sustainability manager, Outerwall