Where Technology and Service Meet, Innovation Will Follow

By Sergio Corbo, Chief Marketing Officer, Veolia

Technology is not inherently innovative, but in combination with service it has the ability to generate truly innovative solutions. At Veolia, our services shape a more sustainable world. However, by combining those services with technology, our partners are able to solve their environmental challenges more swiftly and efficiently.

Consider the case of a municipal water utility. Cities, counties and municipalities across North America rely on hundreds of miles of underground pipes to deliver reliable wastewater services to their customers. Those same pipes also play a role in preventing wastewater from seeping into the environment and being released into public waterways. Advanced flow-monitoring technology can help these system operators identify when a leak is about to happen, and if it happens, where it is located. This simplifies the process of mobilizing employees, saving the city money and mitigating damage to precious natural resources.

It is this type of application, at the intersection of technology and service, that helps our organization prepare customers for the sustainability challenges of the future.

This relationship works in reverse as well: SourceOne Energy, a subsidiary of Veolia North America, offers its customers a web-based energy management system called EMsys that collects, manages and reports energy information from sub-meters, building management systems and utility invoices. By combining this data with our team of energy analysts, account managers and IT professionals — as well as our global Energy O&M and Energy Advisory Services — we can help our clients develop comprehensive programs that optimize their energy usage while accelerating cost recovery and base forecasting.

Cities and commercial customers are not the only ones that can benefit from the integration of technology and service. Our environmental specialists and field experts also use specially designed software to log and safely handle the various hazardous materials they collect from their customers. This ensures a smoother experience for our partners upon collection, and easy government reporting through our Customer Information Management Solutions secure web portal.

All of this data is great, but it’s only as good as the people using it to deploy the necessary sustainable solutions. As consumer pressures force businesses to become more socially responsible, technology that aids in more effective and cost-efficient service delivery will prove to be more of an asset than ever.

Don’t Let Funding for Our Water System Become a Pipe Dream

By Bill DiCroce, President & CEO, Veolia North America

During the campaign, President Trump frequently described a $1 trillion plan in infrastructure investments to fix crumbling roads, bridges, and airports while creating good-paying jobs. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao also recently outlined several priorities for an upgrade to the country’s infrastructure, suggesting the administration may announce a plan sooner rather than later.

Given the Trump administration’s intention to deliver its first full-year budget to Congress this week, and with apparent plans to deal with infrastructure in a separate bill, we in the water industry want to underscore how important it is to include water and wastewater initiatives in both conversations.

Water issues once seemed a distant concern to Americans, but today we are grappling with myriad crises — from chronic droughts in the West to fast-growing metropolises in the Sunbelt unable to meet surging demand and clean drinking water challenges. Perhaps more important, as our water mains, pipes and overall systems grow older — many were first built in the early 20th century — the bill for replacing or repairing them could approach $270 billion, according to the latest estimate from the Environmental Protection Agency.

Our ability to provide safe, reliable and cost-effective water and sewer services is vital to the U.S. economy. Clean water is a valuable national asset that can attract new investment in manufacturing, research and development and can help differentiate the U.S. in the world economy. How we manage our water resources is of great strategic importance to every citizen. This investment in our infrastructure is vital to growth, and the federal government needs to play a key role in making those investments.

The president has previously said he may favor tripling the funding for the Clean Water State Revolving Fund, a loan assistance authority for addressing wastewater needs that has proven vital to jump-starting key projects. He has also shown support for the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund, a federal-state partnership to help ensure safe drinking water.

These are both strong starting points — as is this month’s announcement that the EPA’s Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA) program will provide $1 billion in credit to finance over $2 billion in water infrastructure investments — but a longer-term, more comprehensive infrastructure bill is necessary to repair and replace America’s many aging water and wastewater systems.

Investment is also needed for training. About one-third of the current water workforce is eligible for retirement, a phenomenon that will slow our efforts to modernize infrastructure and could lead to dangerous quality control issues. State and local governments must work with the private sector, trade schools, community colleges and universities to close this emerging skills gap.

Not only are these jobs important for our water quality and safety, they’re economic drivers. According to a study from the Value of Water Coalition, for every $1 million earmarked for water projects, upwards of 15 jobs are created, either to support water infrastructure design and construction directly, or in related industries.

And here’s the thing about water-related jobs — they can’t be exported or outsourced overseas. These employees work right here, in cities and towns across America.

While healthcare, tax reform and the budget dominate the congressional agenda, we believe it is critical that they find the time to take up water-related issues. Creating incentive programs such as tax credits to facilitate water reuse projects, co-digestion and resource recovery would strengthen already existing sustainability efforts.

Supporting private investment in water and wastewater infrastructure would go a long way to supplement any legislation passed by Congress. Finding the right regulatory balance would encourage innovation by providing incentives for new private investment in green infrastructure and energy derived from the wastewater treatment process.

The American water industry — both the public and private sector — delivers safe, clean water to homes, schools, farms and businesses in cities and towns across the U.S. each day. But the burgeoning infrastructure crisis casts doubt on our collective ability to deliver.

It’s time for all of us to come together — private companies and local officials, state and federal governments — to make water part of our national infrastructure renewal.

 

This piece was originally posted as an op-ed for The Hill. That article can be found here.

A Sustainable Development Expert’s Take on the 10th Anniversary IGEL Conference

By Noam Lior, PhD, Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Applied Mechanics, University of Pennsylvania

The vital urgent challenge: with projected population increase of 30%, to 9 billion within the next 33 years, exponential increase in the demand for resources, the associated large scale of projects, the proven serious impact on the environment, all development must be done sustainably to prevent major deterioration of present and future life quality or even global disaster. For the utter skeptics: at the very least, prepare for damage to the business, and stricter government regulations, monitoring, and enforcement.

Education, for business or otherwise, requires, as much as possible, definitions, methods that are quantitative/scientific, correct data, and wide acceptability, standardization and uniformity. This is especially important for the complex highly multidisciplinary field of sustainable development which is of vital importance to humanity’s survival (or at least well-being), and thus also has a meta-ethical foundation. Education in business sustainability must increasingly and more rigorously address the role of sustainability as a business paradigm, including multi-generational and international/global considerations. Business education should consider and support the evaluation and substantiation of national and international sustainable planning policies, now for example the US new administration’s directions, and the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDG). It should include a description of the dangers of Greenwashing and other sustainability fraud.

Sustainable development requires a scientific approach, close and honest cooperation between all humans, across any borders they drew, vision of the future, and much respect for the environment that we so temporarily occupy.

Creating the Next Generation of Business Leaders

By Erin Meezan, CSO, Interface, Inc.

Last week, on the 10th Anniversary of the formation of the Wharton Initiative for Global Environmental Leadership (IGEL), the organization hosted an energizing conference focused on The Future of Education In Business Sustainability. I was honored to participate on a panel of business leaders including Johnson & Johnson, Interface, Coca-Cola and others, and offer perspective on what skills and experiences are required for future business leaders.

The pivotal point of discussion surrounded how business schools should prepare students for sustainable business management. Should curriculum focus on creating graduates with strong foundational business skills combined with an understanding of how to implement sustainable business practices, such as supply chain management? Or, should schools aim to form ethically-minded, collaborative business leaders who have the capacity to lead the organizational change necessary to solve the world’s greatest challenges? The former approach seems wholly inadequate for creating the next generation of business leaders. But sadly, it’s what most business school programs are focused on creating.

As the Chief Sustainability Officer for Interface, a global carpet tile manufacturer with sustainability at its core, I’ve seen the skills and capabilities needed in our business evolve dramatically over the last ten years. When Interface first began its transition toward a more sustainable business model, we needed business leaders with strong business knowledge who were willing to “learn sustainability.” They needed to know how to implement ideas like zero-waste and closed-loop thinking in our factories. But we never would have started to transform our business if our founder, Ray Anderson, had not recognized that the way we were running Interface, divorced from the consequences of our decisions and their impacts on people and planet, was ethically wrong. He called it a “spear in the chest moment” when he realized our business was fundamentally flawed, and so he set a new vision for Interface. Interface has made great progress to reduce its environmental impacts, and we’ve done it with a fantastic set of business leaders who “learned sustainability.” But as we look toward the future and start creating, promoting and finding the next generation of Interface business leaders, we need something different.

Last summer, Interface’s new leadership team, building on Ray’s legacy, set a new mission for the business – engineer a “climate take back.” In response to the threat of global climate change, we’ve committed to run our business in a way that creates a climate fit for life. And we hope to inspire other businesses to follow our lead. This means, simply, we have to move beyond the mindset of just reducing our carbon emissions – we need to focus on removing carbon from the atmosphere. We’re creating a map for how we as manufacturers can achieve this goal. We’ll focus on how we can source materials, run our operations and create products that remove carbon from the atmosphere. When I think about hiring the next generation of business leaders at Interface to help us lead this revolutionary approach, I think about those ethically-minded, collaborative leaders who can go way beyond implementing sustainable business practices, to designing solutions in our business that help change the world. And I hope that I will be able to find and hire them.

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Wharton IGEL 10th Anniversary Dinner & Conference: The Future of Education in Business Sustainability

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April 25th & 26th, 2017 On April 25th & 26th, founding and current corporate sponsors of IGEL joined leading academics in the field to examine lessons learned in the effort to promote education in business sustainability looking towards the future. … Continue reading

B-School Fundamentals for Sustainability

By John Mandyck, CSO of United Technologies
April 21, 2017

As the chief sustainability officer of United Technologies, I am often invited to college campuses to speak to students about what my company does to advance sustainability in the United States and around the world. And I’m proud of the answer.

People, Communities, and the Environment

The United Technologies sustainability platform consists of three pillars:

People — Among United Technologies’ greatest assets are the expertise, creativity and passion of our employees. We sustain our workforce through opportunity and employee development. In the last twenty years, we’ve invested $1.2 billion through our Employee Scholar Program to help our employees earn 38,000 college degrees.

Communities — We believe that financial performance and corporate responsibility go hand in hand while we strive to improve people’s quality of life everywhere we do business. We support initiatives and employee volunteerism for vibrant communities, STEM education and sustainable cities.

Environment – We believe we can do good for the planet while we do good for our customers and shareowners. Whether it’s developing energy-efficient solutions for green buildings that can change how cities urbanize, pioneering technologies to extend the world’s food supply, or setting the standard for green aviation through sustainable factories and technologies, United Technologies is leading the way to solving some of the toughest environmental challenges of tomorrow.

While we maximize the effectiveness of our environmental technologies, we actively minimize our environmental footprint — in the last 20 years, United Technologies tripled its revenues while lowering greenhouse gas emissions 34% and water consumption 57%, all on an absolute basis.

What does a CSO do?

Often, after outlining UTC’s sustainability program, I am asked, “Ok, but what does a chief sustainability officer (CSO) do every day?” That’s a fair question. Sustainability is still an emerging profession – and no two jobs in this space are the same. In addition to the private sector, large cities are starting to create CSO positions too. CSOs come from all backgrounds – marketing, technology, policy, environmental affairs, and more – and reflect the culture and priorities of their companies.

Some focus on lowering their environmental footprint. Some focus on the role for emerging environmental technologies. Some focus on corporate social responsibility. Some engage with stakeholders to achieve sustainable outcomes. Some focus on thought leadership to bring new ideas forward. We organize our program at United Technologies to do all of these activities.

My day-to-day routine focuses on outreach to key stakeholders – customers, policy-makers, thought-leaders, students and more – to expand the dialogue on three issues important to us: advancing green aviation, accelerating the adoption of green buildings and lowering food waste through cold chain development. To do this, we sponsor research, we convene experts, we share our thinking and we explore possibilities to help the world grow and urbanize more sustainably.

Business Schools and Sustainability

The question of what I do each day is sometimes followed by, “If I want a career in sustainability, what are my options?”

Fortunately, business schools around the country are adopting more and more sustainability-focused classes, as well as entire programs dedicated to corporate responsibility and sustainability. Getting started in one of these programs is a great first step.

Students and business school faculty interested in advancing sustainability curricula should focus on three key areas:

  1. Connect to the mega trends in the world – our global population is expected to grow 35% in just 35 years, and at that point in 2050, nearly 70% of all people will live in cities. These megatrends are redefining our society and our economy with big implications for sustainability.
  2. Recognize sustainability as a business strategy – sophisticated companies realize they can offer a value proposition to their customers by doing good for the planet, which often times can provide differentiation in industries.
  3. Incorporate multiple disciplines into sustainability classes – successful sustainability programs are drawing on multidisciplinary backgrounds in marketing, public policy, business, communications, engineering, science, and more. Many skills and perspectives are needed to help the world advance sustainably.

Making a Difference

Increasingly, workforce entrants are looking for employers who are making a difference in the world. Sustainability is a key way companies can make that difference. And careers in sustainability are a key way business school graduates can immediately make a difference with their careers. Business schools can prepare students for this field by providing the context, strategies and skills to accelerate sustainability around the world.

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To continue the conversation, tweet me @JohnMandyck.

Latest Episode of the Kleinman Center’s Energy Policy Now Podcast, Featuring Andrew Light

Submitted by Andy Stone, Communications Manager, Kleinman Center for Energy Policy

The new episode is a conversation with a former State Department climate negotiator who was involved in the Paris climate deal.  He discusses the current White House debate around Paris, and the implications for global climate cooperation if the U.S. backs out.

The Trump administration has offered conflicting messages on its intention to remain a party to the 2015 Paris Climate Accord.  The question of U.S. involvement reaches a climax this week as senior advisers to the President hash out the administration’s path forward, with potentially far reaching implications for the climate deal, and for the United States’ role as a steady leader in global diplomacy.

In the latest episode of the Kleinman Center for Energy Policy’s Energy Policy Now podcast, former State Department climate negotiator Andrew Light discusses the battle in the White House over Paris, and the fate of the accord without U.S. leadership.  Light, a recent visiting scholar to the Kleinman Center, examines whether it will be possible for the U.S. to meaningfully “maintain its seat at the table” of climate dialogue even as it pulls back from global climate efforts.

Light also provides insights into the negotiations leading to the Paris climate deal, and the unique political environment in the U.S. and abroad that made the agreement possible.  Light is a Distinguished Senior Fellow in the Global Climate Program at the World Resources Institute and Director of the Institute for Philosophy and Public Policy at George Mason University.

An Interview with Maddie Macks, VP of Academics for the Wharton Graduate Association

Submitted by Mary Johnston, WG’18

Mary conducted an interview with Maddie Macks, VP of Academics for the Wharton Graduate Association. Maddie is in charge of Academics as part of Wharton’s Student Government, and is one of the founding members of the Wharton Sustainability Club.

 

Q: Why is Sustainability an important topic for MBAs?

A: First, resources are finite, and many industries including agribusiness, CPG, manufacturing, and energy rely on these materials for their business. My peers, as future business leaders, will be in positions where they are making supply chain, sourcing and operations decisions and will need to steward these resources to mitigate risk.

Second, while the U.S. federal government is currently trending toward deregulation, this is not the trend globally, as evidenced by The Paris Agreement. Many of my peers will be working in international companies where these regulations will be increasingly relevant.

Further, business decisions can have a big impact on local communities. For example, public health can be heavily impacted by water and air quality, and degradation of local ecosystems can impact livelihoods.

 

Q: What are other top business schools doing in their Sustainability Curricula?

A: They are ramping up their sustainability presence, offering certificates and more specific coursework. Many are integrating sustainability more into their core curriculum to ensure all students are educated on environmental issues in business. Almost all top business schools have sustainability-focused student clubs to build a community in the space on campus. Stanford, Sloan, Ross, and Yale are a few prime examples of schools that are increasing their presence in the space, and it’s attracting top students.

 

Q: What does Wharton do well now in terms of Sustainability?

A: Wharton has partnered with IGEL to offer the Environmental & Risk Management Major, which is one of the things that attracted me to Wharton. The Energy Club, Social Impact Club, and Agribusiness Club have sustainability-related programming, and as of this year, we have a group of about thirty students starting the Wharton Sustainable Business Coalition, a new club that will be up and running by Fall 2017. This group of students has also gotten to know each other well during the Energy Club’s clean energy trek to San Francisco as well as several student-run happy hours.

 

Q: What are the biggest opportunities for Wharton to increase the presence of Sustainability in the curriculum in the short term?

A: There are two things I think Wharton can do in the short term.

First, Wharton could incorporate more Environmental Responsibility content into the Business Ethics core requirement. This would help ensure that every Wharton student gets more exposure to how decision-making can have environmental consequences.

Second, Wharton could proactively ensure all relevant graduate coursework from around Penn related to Sustainable Business topics is cross-listed with Wharton to help facilitate students taking these classes. For example, the School of Earth and Environmental Sciences has several great courses.

 

Q: And how about the long term?

A: Wharton has an opportunity to continue to develop coursework related to sustainability and look into hiring more faculty who can teach courses and do research in the area. Wharton has such a huge opportunity to influence future business leaders’ decision-making, and making sustainability more present in Wharton’s curriculum would speak volumes to the issue’s importance. For example, the Environmental Risk & Management Major does a great job covering risk management, and I would love to see innovation and the financial implications of environmental choices highlighted more prominently as well. I also think there are opportunities to offer more sustainability courses as part of the Business Economics and Public Policy, Operations, Information, and Decisions, and Management Majors to name a few. Incorporating more of a focus on sustainability, can help Wharton stay on the cutting edge of business trends.

Simple Solution, Big Impact: #UsedCups

Submitted by IGEL Corporate Advisory Board Member Rubicon Global

Rubicon

As Earth Day approaches on April 22, multinational corporations, governments, nonprofits and NGOs – as well as the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals – continue working fast and furiously to tackle monumental challenges. It’s clear we must establish a more circular economy for the long term well-being of not only the plant, but also business and even society as a whole.

There are big challenges ahead, and in many ways Earth Day serves as a reminder of this. But what can one individual, one organization, even one country do to make a dent in these monumental challenges? At Rubicon, we’ve learned that in order to really make a difference we need to start by doing something manageable and specific. For us, it’s keeping waste out of landfills.

Did you know reuse and recycling is currently the top action society can do today to simultaneously improve the environment, the economy, sustainable manufacturing and to prevent waste from going into oceans?

We know that Americans throw away 25 billion Styrofoam coffee cups and 58 billion paper cups annually. These cups are not recycled, most are not recyclable, and yet we keep using them over and over because many aren’t aware of the environmental impact.

What if this year in honor of Earth Day we keep it simple and simply remember to save #UsedCups?

Think about what you drink out of every day, at home, at work and on the go. Do you opt for the reusable coffee mug or a single-use disposable cup? If you must choose single-use, do you recycle or compost it afterward? These are questions very few people think about on a daily basis, but if people did, they could have a profound positive impact on the environment.

So help us change this bad habit that we’ve developed as a society. We invite you to join us in raising awareness about cup-use and get others to do the same this Earth Day.

Post about your beautiful reusable cups on Instagram, Twitter or Facebook with #UsedCups between now and April 19th and be entered to win two 3-day passes to Sweetwater 420 Fest in Atlanta or an Apple Watch Series 2.

Every reusable beverage container counts. Reusable water bottles, ceramic coffee mugs, perhaps even a sippy cup. Every cup reused or recycled is one less cup in the landfill, so go ahead, show us your #UsedCups!

 

Learn more about the #UsedCups campaign, and follow Rubicon on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.

Interviews: Paving the Way Towards a Future of Sustainability in Business Education

By: Elena Rohner, Graduate IGEL Coordinator.  April 12th, 2017

Solutions for improving sustainability in business education often center on creating integrated, cross-disciplinary courses or concentrations; yet this requires a large investment of time and resources. It can take at least a semester to put together the syllabus, materials and teaching tools for a new course, not to mention the time dedicated to overcoming administrative bureaucracy. Therefore, one of the best solutions that business schools can employ to better prepare students for roles in sustainability is: get them talking to professionals!

I recently interviewed two leaders in sustainability for a final assignment in a course called Leading Change for Sustainability (ENVS 682) taught by Penn alum and Sustrana Sr. Associate, Kim Quick and Penn’s Sustainability Director, Dan Garofalo. One interviewee was Todd Hoff, VP of Marketing and Customer Solutions at CHEP North America. Hoff reiterated, in a more nuanced manner, strategies and take-aways commonly touted in the sustainability world. He also shared stories of achievements and challenges, highlighting the seemingly basic pathways and pitfalls of sustainability that continue to pervade industry and create unsolved barriers to sustainability.

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Here are some of my take-aways from our conversation:

  • People don’t know what sustainability is…
    • Sustainability remains an enigma—a concept widely misunderstood with a different definition according to pretty much anyone you ask. Many business executives define sustainability as a strategic force in leadership where an organization makes impactful choices that preserve economic and environmental resources.
    • Hoff shared that sustainability should not be understood as something separate from the business activities. Business can make a difference through business itself, and as a result sustainability should be embedded in the decision-making and the core operations of the company. Hoff also finds peoples’ confusion about sustainability to be the most challenging aspect of working as a sustainability proponent. He highlights the example of employees confusing a sustainability initiative with office supply recycling. And, while recycling is one facet of “sustainability,” it is only that. A single and siloed leverage point. People fail to understand the need for a multifaceted approach to sustainability. As an example, Todd shared his experience at Brambles, the parent company of CHEP, where they have a multi-faceted sustainability strategy including Better Planet, Better Business, and Better Community. http://www.brambles.com/sustainability
  • Having a growth mindset is key:
    • A lot of class time in ENVS 682 is spent identifying and leveraging strengths and mindset. Hoff, whose team just took the Gallup Strength Finder questionnaire, said his results were: relator, learner, arranger, achiever, and includer. Hoff also highlighted his growth mindset when it comes to work—he is motivated by the work itself and the constant growth and learning involved in his role. It is clear that a successful sustainability, or any business, leader has a growth mindset, strong communication skills, and a talent for seeing and making connections.
  • Adam Grant got it right.
    • In class we saw Adam Grant’s quote, “The stories we tell ourselves shape what we do. If you believe people are fundamentally selfish, you will act in ways that make it true.” This stuck with me, so I asked Hoff what he thought about the quote and whether it held relevance for his work. He agreed with Grant and without me bringing up the concept of positive psychology, Hoff gave a great example of how he lives by this concept every day. Hoff noted his learner strength and that he tries to always stay positive in his learning approach. He said that “it’s all related”—that is, successfully managing a large diverse team and achieving the results he wants to see.
  • Surprise! Money plays a critical role:
    • Hoff highlighted how financials are always a motivating factor in any sustainability conversation. He spoke about the “business sense” argument as an invaluable strategy when working with people who are not on board with a sustainability initiative. In other words, he makes sure to include the environmental benefits of the service or product, but what truly seals the deal is conveying how a client can also make or save money. His strategy is to sell the “Win-Win” concept. In this sense, money is the problem solver—it creates a common ground, a business language that everyone speaks and understands. And many, myself included, agree with this idea.

As I hope was conveyed above, interviews and coffee chats are an incredibly rewarding experience for students in any field. From the student and professional’s perspective, the benefits of an interview are a win-win, including:

  • Students learn insider tips
  • Professionals share anecdotes that highlight key, industry-specific take-aways
  • Both parties build their network

And, the best part about interviews is the minimal infrastructure and planning required—all you need is a phone and 20-30 minutes of someone’s day.

 

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