The Road to A Clean Energy Future

Sue Hall
Chevrolet Carbon Reduction Initiative Advisors’ (Unabridged) Inside Story.

As world leaders gather in Paris for COP21, it’s noticeable how progressive climate leadership is now increasingly driven by moonshot commitments from the private sector. Bill Gates’ Breakthrough Energy Coalition reportedly inspired the US government to double its own R&D budget ahead of COP. Mayor Bloomberg reported at Climate Week 2015 that voluntary actions had lead US GHG emissions to fall below the level which would have otherwise been mandated by the 2009 proposed (but not passed) US federal cap and trade legislation.

So what leads large corporations to make such moonshot climate commitments – and how and why do they succeed?

Along with its Advisors and stakeholder partners, I’ve been privileged to have a front row seat to help drive Chevrolet’s carbon-reduction initiative (CRI) which established a groundbreaking goal in 2010 to invest up to $40 million to reduce 8 million metric tons CO2 through carbon projects across America. This November Chevy delivered on these goals. By empowering radical stakeholder conversations and collaborative partnerships which, as CEO of Climate Neutral Business Network I’ve been privileged to lead, Chevrolet discovered an unexpected – and transformative – road to a clean energy future. Their pioneering work and leadership drove Chevrolet, their clean energy campus project partners, #CleanEnergyU student leaders and myself to the White House in 2015 with our pledges to #ActOnClimate.

Chevy recently published a series of blogs expanding upon how stakeholders – including its campus leaders and our group of Environmental Advisors who guided Chevrolet’s CRI – perceived the significance of the achievement.

University leaders like Prof. Bob Koester spoke to Chevy’s “once in a decade achievement” in opening a new source of capital to power universities’ clean energy future – precedents which their non-profit partner Second Nature is now taking forward to an even larger group of campuses. “We’re building on the shoulders of giants” remarked Second Nature’s President, Tim Carter, agreeing with Advisor Snehal Desai that Chevy’s legacy “will last and endure beyond them”. Why? Because, according to Advisor Janet Peace of C2ES, Chevy created “an entirely new template in the carbon market that multiplied Chevy’s own leadership by empowering others to take the same high road.”

So what is all the fuss about here? What made Chevy’s carbon reduction initiative so transformative? Why were stakeholders so effusive in their praise for what Chevy had achieved – and how did they all pull this off together?

The answers lie in these stakeholders’ own words: their insights from recent interviews were candidly pretty mind-blowing. Everyone just said “you need to write a white paper” on the Chevy case; leaders joining me at the White House Roundtable last month asked how we could expand upon Chevy’s leadership to convene an even broader innovation dialogue amongst leading companies and campuses?

So we decided to publish the unabridged account of stakeholders’ reflections upon the Chevy Carbon Reduction Initiative (CRI). Not a white paper in any formal sense but a candid conversation with the stakeholder leaders whose vision, tenacity, creativity and persistence helped to shape and empower the transformative and unexpected achievements that Chevy delivered with its Carbon Reduction Initiative.

Intrigued to learn how together these stakeholders created a transformative road to a clean energy future? To view a moonshot private sector climate commitment from the “inside seats” — to understand how and why corporations can deliver significant gains for our planet?

Read on… and then ask ourselves, as we shortly leave the hallowed halls of Paris COP21, where these clean energy roads could lead us all from here if we’re to actually deliver on the 2 degree rise goals that our planet needs…

How did you first see Chevy’s $40m 8m ton reduction goal?

Bob Sheppard: When Chevy suggested an 8m ton CO2 reduction goal in 2010, this was twice the size of the US voluntary market. I thought to myself, I don’t even know if they can achieve this!   But they were remarkably resilient and innovative.

So how do you did view Chevy’s leadership with its CRI and Campus Clean Energy Campaign?

Bob S: With Chevy this was MOON SHOT leadership when we were flying biplanes before.

Tim Carter: Yes, with Chevy this was not just incremental leadership, marginal improvements. This was moonshot leadership where Chevy changed the rules of the game to change the shape of the playing field. You don’t see this kind of transformative leadership very often!

Snehal Desai: Chevy’s story tells us about the power of bringing together distinct voices and the ability this generates to make major pivots together – to transform and change the rules of the game.

What do you mean?

Tim: This wasn’t the “here’s a new framework” white paper theory kind of leadership. But “here’s time, dollars on the table and we’ll make it happen” leadership. They created an entirely new paradigm with the wheels to deliver on a new set of outcomes and market precedents. That’s impressive leadership.

Snehal: Chevy’s CRI was significant because it was such an unusual player to catalyze this action. Granted this was done in 2010 when Chevy needed something really innovative to emerge as a new company during an interesting period in its history along with its IPO … but many companies would have seen that context as a thousand reasons not to be this bold but instead use more traditional means to engage their customers/marketplace. But Chevy stepped out in bold innovative ways introducing serious leadership from an unexpected quarter at an unexpected time.

What made Chevy’s leadership transformative?

Snehal: Many companies start with great intentions, but these don’t carry the day …

For me it was when Chevy said the would pioneer a new methodology and fund campus credit projects to accelerate their clean energy performance in our communities – that was the step that took Chevy’s CRI to a really transformative program…


Snehal: When anyone creates a methodology — accepted as credible by the community though its VCS accreditation — they create a legacy, whose sustaining impact here will accrue to Chevy. Here’s why.

Whoever does the hard work to create the meth opens the door of the carbon market capital to introduce an entirely new source of funding to accelerate these clean energy efficiency improvements – not only for the first projects, like Chevy’s campuses, but for all campuses US-wide.

Then the new methodology also opens the door to a financial capital beyond a single company’s own financial resources to accelerate our progress towards a clean energy future in ways that we can now ALL help deliver through our own credit investments. We’re now not just talking about Chevy’s funding powering a cleaner energy future now – but everyone else’s too from the carbon market … Microsoft, Google, Interface… you name it!

Janet Peace: Chevy created an entirely new template in the carbon market that multiplied their own leadership by empowering others to take the same high road. This is why they won the EPA stakeholder partnership award. EPA was impressed that Chevy enabled not only a dozen US campuses to earn this innovative carbon funding but opened the door for so many others – new campuses and more carbon market investors — to expand their energy efficiency efforts through this innovative stream of carbon revenues to pay for them!

Mark Kenber: Right, Chevy could have taken an easy option to just buy $40m worth of forest credits from the US market.   But they were far more sophisticated and sensible: they realized that they are fundamentally an energy company and so they went the extra mile, pioneered the new energy efficiency methodology and empowered the campus efficiency sector in ways that was clearly also strategic for them. This provides the perfect springboard for Chevrolet to now take the next step and become the world’s leading low carbon mobility company.

What’s the proof of this transformation?

Snehal:  The litmus test of any company’s program is its legacy and what that legacy can continue to deliver beyond the company’s engagement itself.   This is not how most executives think about their CSR program… but it’s what real transformative leadership is about.

Companies’ intentions are one thing … but Chevy could have decided to go in some very different directions over the last five years, avoiding the challenges associated with the new methodology development. But Chevy would not have built such a wide reaching, lasting legacy without pioneering that methodology, which will now drive the success of dozens’ more campuses’ clean energy performance projects.

Tim: Yes. Chevy proved that it’s not only possible to change the rules of the game but it’s a necessary outcome if we’re serious about leading the change – and one which only radical collaborations like this one can actually deliver.

Chevy’s success with campuses now gives us the vision that we can change the rules of the game together; the confidence to experiment, to try to tackle another game changing challenge; and the relationship experience to recognize that we are not limited by who or how we can work to achieve such change together.

So why was this initiative strategic for Chevy?

Eban Goodstein: CRI was a bold move for Chevy because it signaled a desire to embrace a new strategic vision. In 2010, GM was emerging from bankruptcy, Chevy had pioneered the introduction of the Volt as the centerpiece for their expansion into an electrified fleet. By 2012, we were no longer seeing the customary active opposition to higher fuel standards either. Chevy was shifting from an unadventurous, defensive dinosaur posture to a company willing to make unexpected bold moves to innovate and lead. CRI represented a profound culture shift – the first bold move ever I’d seen from Chevy! Heck they even had me introduce their 8m ton $40m CRI goal alongside their CEO in 2010 as he announced their IPO to all their employees in the GM headquarters REN center!

Snehal: Right: Chevy also discovered I think was that pioneering this methodology enabled them to channel their $40m new carbon capital into energy efficiency projects that are highly strategic for them as a company. Why? Because the Volt needs a clean efficient grid to maximize its performance. It’s important to recognize that auto companies like Chevy don’t have simple direct access to communities like universities to power their efficiency gains — which is what actually helps drive improvements in the US grid. These influential campuses aren’t part of Chevy’s own supply chain – but they do significantly influence energy performances across their local communities through their leadership – and thus shape the efficiency of the US grid. So Chevy’s new carbon methodology gave them that access, that clout – the clout that dozens of campuses across the country can provide when using this new carbon capital to accelerate their communities’ clean energy efficiency performances. That’s a new way to drive change across a company’s indirect network for sure – and a very valuable one for Chevy!

Janet: From a brand perspective, Chevy also gained some serious traction with millenials by making sure their Advisors were engaged with universities – with leaders like Eban Goodstein and Bob Wilkinson. The fact that they listened to BU student Lindsey Chew… and empowered her to co-design the #CleanEnergyU conversation… and convened this virtual dialogue engaging student leaders with so many clean energy leaders like our C2ES President… this significantly broadened Chevy’s communications through a social media channel that engaged a key millenials in new and exciting ways.   After all, #CleanEnergyU was top trending when we were all dialoguing together in October many days in a row!

So what kind of brand value do you think Chevy gained here?

Eban: The Chevy case shows the kind of impressive bump you can get out of this kind of progressive CRI leadership in terms of effective marketing: look at the dramatic rise in Chevy’s green brand ratings by 2014!

Bob S: Yes; you can see the brand extending its reach as CRI evolved which was stunning: look at the 2010/11 early TV ads and again with #CleanEnergyU when they backed student leaders like Lindsey Chew who asked to convene a virtual dialogue between millennial and clean energy leaders (which embraced a target market which most companies find impossible to reach!) … Heck, Chevy even shared stories that people like my father could understand with their project videos … and this was all the more unusual, given that Chevy’s leadership was coming from such an unusual quarter

Janet: CRI helped Chevy reach a key target audience – new consumers – and reposition as an environmentally friendly brand especially towards the younger generation who are passionate about this.

Snehal: As a result of CRI, Chevy clearly repositioned some dimensions of its brand successfully – otherwise you don’t show up on those Interbrand GREEN brand rankings which are the independent third party brand value metrics.   Jumping up these ratings (into a domain held before by the likes of Nike) was a sign that there had been a shift in the perception of the Chevy brand by 2014, in no small part due to these efforts anchored upon driving towards a clean energy economy.

So what’s the strategic significance of Chevy’s engagement with students?

Dennis Carlberg: Regarding the #CleanEnergyU Twitter dialogue between students and clean energy leaders, Chevrolet smartly partnered with the community they were trying to reach, the millennials themselves — and asked the students how to convene the dialogue.  This was nicely nimble for a large corporation and very empowering for our students. The results were stunning.  #CleanEnergyU was top trending several times this year and convened the only student-led workshop with other clean energy leaders at Climate Week NYC in 2015 – an idea the students originally floated in 2014.

Dave Barbier: Other companies should look at Chevrolet and realize that it’s no longer business as usual to just make money and have a fiscal return on investment. They need to contribute a positive return on our natural capital, and keep up with the new B Corporations: the millennial generation and even my generation are expecting this. For a millennial, it’s ‘show me you understand the bigger picture, your role in it – and partner with us like Chevrolet did’. They engaged with students in dialogue on #CleanEnergyU and empowered them to become the next generation of clean energy leaders. Now that’s a legacy that will be worth remembering for them!

Snehal: Right. #CleanEnergyU was again a great organic concept which was not overly orchestrated… Chevy invited #CleanEnergyU to be co-designed with the student leaders who first proposed it… So it’s been a fascinating initiative and dialogue at the right time and right place… as the recent White House calls [inviting #CleanEnergyU to help promote the Roundtable Campuses Act on Climate discussions that Lindsey Chew, Sue Hall and Dave Barbier attended] demonstrated!

Why is Chevy’s leadership strategic for us here in the US more broadly?

Tim: Look, the majority of our US and campus emissions are energy based. But in 2010 there were no energy efficiency based investments that anyone (companies or campuses) would make in the US carbon market: these credits didn’t exist! So Chevy opened the gateway for the carbon market to finally invest in accelerating US energy efficiency gains, creating a whole new CHOICE opportunity for EE investments on US campuses.

Resham Shirsat: Right. It’s vital that as an energy company Chevrolet focused on energy-based credits and leadership – so many companies just shy away from their largest impacts thinking it will draw attention negatively. The opposite is true.

Mark: Universities in the US have already been leading in some pretty spectacular ways. Take a look at their results: the top 15% of ACUPCC reporting campuses have achieved more than a 5% annual average absolute reduction in energy-based GHG emissions. This is the demanding performance threshold under which they can now qualify for carbon credit capital – using the new Campus Clean Energy methodology which Chevrolet pioneered – to help accelerate their campus clean energy performance still further. So Chevy’s campuses are proof that this level of leadership is not only possible but pays handsome returns.

So these results are stunning. Just compare them to the leadership targets that President Obama just announced for the US and for his government agencies, as “openers” for the Paris Summit: government agencies, if they deliver on Obama’s goals, will have averaged 2.35% annual reductions during 2008/25. The broader US economy wide goals are just 1.35% annual average reductions. Leading US campuses? More than 5%!

Campuses are havens of clean energy innovation and leadership in almost every major city in the US. Their leadership can be used to spur others within their community towards similarly challenging goals to up the pace of innovation in US so that its performance can match those which campuses have already proved is possible! So campuses and students should not only applaud their recent actions– they should raise the profile of their leadership far more publicly!

Eban: Right, Chevy is to be congratulated on its overall CRI project but particularly its willingness to support innovative cutting edge methodologies to channel new carbon financing to accelerate energy efficiency projects on US campuses. If we’re serious about keeping global warming to a 2 degree rise, we need Chevy’s kind of leadership that has broad applicability far more their own operations or supply chain or their first dozen campus projects.   Chevy created an entirely new avenue – a new source of capital from the US voluntary carbon markets — to support serious carbon reductions at all qualifying universities across the entire US.

Dave: The government has been sitting on the side lines for far too long – so we are all taking the initiative to lead ourselves now because we’re tired of waiting.  Government hasn’t figured out how to lead so the private sector is leading us now in partnership with campuses, NGO’s and other stakeholders.  The clean energy leadership we need is coming from companies like Chevy.
The private market is showing the government what the people want because business has to be more responsive to their clients/customers… and that’s what you see happening now

For campuses?

Tim: For universities, carbon credits like Chevy’s provide funding to get energy goals done faster and quicker – so that they can bring forward the timeline to achieve carbon neutrality. If you can earn funding through your own good work in reducing GHGs this gives you the ability to accelerate your progress!

Andy Stevenson: The scale and business case behind Chevy innovations are impressive for campuses: we could see new campus credits up to 1m tons/year as the potential from the campus EE projects sector-wide… with up to a 2.5% increase in return on investment. This can really move the needle for campuses’ EE investments to get them off the drawing board and onto the “get it done now” list”!

Dave: Chevy’s carbon credit funding transforms what we can achieve at UWSP.  My office’s budget is $16k a year; after certification and student intern costs, I have about $6k left to drive change.  Chevy’s revenues transform this picture: we’re investing now in state of the art residential wind turbines that are not only a visible symbol of our GHG reduction progress but will also anchor students’ research to help our community learn which installations will work best on their buildings too!  We’ll be setting up a new behavioral program to reduce our GHG’s even further.

So the value of the Chevy credits goes far beyond the return on investment: it empowers us in far more creative directions and radical collaborations with our community to share our leadership.
Universities have never before been able to earn funding from their carbon reductions: the carbon market was never able previously to channel its capital into energy efficiency projects!  But as a result of Chevy’s leadership, this is now an innovative pathway which all universities can now blaze this same trail!

Bob Koester: Universities have gained access to entirely new sources of capital to drive their clean energy success only three times in the last three decades. First in the 90s with utility incentives; then with the advent of green revolving loan funds; and now with the Chevrolet Clean Energy Campus campaign, which has opened up access to carbon market capital investments.

So why did Chevy make this decision to build the new methodology?

Andy: Chevy did the hard work; they didn’t just go out and buy up what the market had to offer; they realized they were an energy company from the get go; when Advisors told them they needed to purchase energy efficiency credits they listened; when we said it’s going to take you writing a new energy efficiency methodology to get such credits, they said OK. Chevy did the hard work involved in pioneering an entirely new set of EE credits to the benefits of not only their first campuses but the whole carbon market place. Other buyers can invest now because they can stand on Chevy’s shoulders. It’s now up to other companies to lead again in such remarkable ways!

Snehal: What I find most intriguing is this: I don’t think anyone at the beginning in 2010 would have said that by 2015 this is where the initiative would lead us.   Did Chevy see itself standing alongside Apple and Google at the White House by 2015 back in 2010?

Really good companies pivot because they listen and learn fast… That’s the most interesting thing here.

Did Chevy see at the beginning that they were going to convene the #CleanEnergyU dialogue and write and vet a clean energy methodology in order to empower themselves and the whole US carbon capital market to invest for the first time to accelerate energy efficiency gain across US campuses? I don’t think Chevy could have written this playbook down at the beginning and get past go! Executives would have said “what”??

But Chevy got there because as people, Chevy executives, Advisors, NGO partners, campus leaders – we all talked openly about what and why we wanted to do this … and how we could best achieve this 8m ton goal. There was openness in the process that was essential to make this kind of transformative leadership happens…

It needed a steady facilitating hand. Herding cats is not an easy job! Many projects don’t even get this far… let alone deliver… so it was the process leadership which really drove the transformative outcome.

So strategy is 10% what you do; 90% how you do it?   What powers the success of transformative leadership like this?

Tim: Interestingly Chevy set an extremely ambitious goal; and then asked others how they might best achieve it.  Their goals created a great sand box – into which they then invited us all to play. This is what allowed for such innovation and learning to happen inside the frame!

Bob S: Right: it was Chevy asking such open ended questions in response to really big challenges that shaped so creatively what could then be achieved

Andy: Chevy knew the outcome they were after with $40m and an 8m ton goal but they asked big picture open ended questions about how to secure and frame the outcome. This is very unusual – and, as a result, empowering and open to learning and innovation!

Tim: As a result, Chevy had the flexibility to learn as they progressed by engaging with others – rather than holding a preconceived idea about what and how their outcomes needed to be achieved.

Chevy seemed genuinely engaged in a learning process… rather than just “open to stakeholder input.”  They really embraced the open process to co-design from the start… with Chevy this was genuine learning, not the conventional big corporate “wanting their way” with us all.

So transformation is powered not just by what you do – visionary goals – but how you shape and facilitate the stakeholder process as you set about achieving them?

Bob S: right, Chevy’s stakeholder process was a core bed rock – it’s what helped Chevy gain the confidence to push through to take on the hard challenges such as pioneering the clean energy efficiency carbon methodology. The trust they built up with Advisors – which was mutual and unusual – enabled them to power through several walls and steep climbs

Mark: It’s vital to engage stakeholders and Chevy has listened to its stakeholders which is especially important if you’re from a sector part of the problem. It helps you think out of the box to become a part of the solution. Chevrolet has now established itself as a leading auto company on climate action; it now has the perfect opportunity to develop the fleets that will drive the low carbon economy.

Snehal: Chevy’s $40m/8m ton program was not a home grown idea; they really engaged folks outside their world who were more in tune with where the world was going to get counsel from folks like us as Advisors. Often while companies have good intention they miss how the world will see it – and thus their intentions go awry.

But Chevy listened so well: sponsoring the development of a new carbon methodology as we recommended is not an easy thing … nor is writing it!   Often companies say “this is so complicated … let’s go elsewhere”! But Chevy didn’t: they said yes and delivered.

Janet: Empowering Sue Hall to manage their stakeholder dialogue process was central to Chevy’s success: it takes a lot of time hand holding, questioning prodding to work a transformative stakeholder innovation process.   So getting a champion to engage with the stakeholders and keep them mobilized .. a leader for the stakeholders to talk to, someone with the time to convene and lead and make sure everyone is part of the discussions is essential … Sue brought a really broad coalition in: it takes a leader to pull the people together in this way.

Snehal: So it’s been a courageous collaboration on Chevy’s part… working with so many stakeholders in unusual ways. But radical collaboration is what’s needed now. The world is made up of folks who know far more than you – and their contributions together add up to far more reach and impact than any company could achieve on its own.

So, to recap briefly, how did you see Chevy when you first joined in 2010?

Eban: An unadventurous, defensive dinosaur

Bob S: Well, no-one knew them…

Andy: An old school manufacturing company

Snehal: In 2010 if you’d asked folks who was a leader in the auto industry, they would have thought of Ford or Toyota.   In 2010 GM was emerging from this slumber – but they were also hot on the Volt – and recognized that this carbon reduction initiative was a way that could help showcase where they were trying to go in the future as a company.

Tim: People on the surface originally would have said “Chevy? No way!”… Now they’re not saying this … they’re looking at the results that this collaboration has achieved… particularly when radical collaboration is the only way that these solutions we need are going to happen!

Mark: I thought this is fantastic – about time! And how surprising that it’s a US car company bringing this initiative… So fantastic – they believe in climate change.  Then I asked: how does this link to their core strategy… the knotty problem of transport emissions … could there be a 2030 vision for zero emissions vehicle?

What’s the next step to connect this to their fleet?

How do you see them now?

Bob S: Now? One of the leaders alongside Google and Apple making a White House pledge!

Eban: Right, GM is now stepping up alongside Google, Apple and other leading US companies to join the White House in calling for strong outcomes from Paris COP. They’re no longer perceived as a stodgy old car company: look at the company they’re keeping by 2015 as CRI reaches its goals!

Andy: Chevy has seen the flexibility inherent in their business model and they’ve driven pretty aggressively towards a low carbon future since their product isn’t indelibly tied to a fossil fuel future. They’ve invested in the Volt with significant, major R&D investment – and followed through with CRI in similarly bold and innovative ways … which is why they’re standing alongside now Google and Apple at the White House by 2015.

Snehal: Yes, but how did Chevy stand alongside companies like Apple and Google at the White House making a pledge for the climate in 2015? How did they get here so fast?

To my mind, it was CRI which allowed Chevy to jump into this very different conversation. Honestly, it would have taken Chevy forever to get in this elite circle of consideration if they had done it purely by conventional means… It would have been a 15 year journey to get to that White House platform with just “the better car” route… CRI leapfrogged them to a completely different level of visibility and leadership in just 5 years.

Why is SN taking Chevy’s campus CEC forward?

Tim: We’re taking Chevy’s legacy forward at Second Nature because university Presidents are itching to take forward innovative, paradigm shifting initiatives like this one that change the game for campuses! I think we can scale Chevy’s successful program, expanding across the SN network exponentially.

Art Frazier: Initially I was surprised at Chevrolet commitment to its $40-million, 8-million-ton mission, given everyone’s preconceptions of big industry. But they followed through and did what they said they would. Now, I’m telling all my colleagues on other campuses that this is a ground-breaking new way to advance their sustainability goals.

Snehal: This just demonstrates again the power of radical collaboration: when a company connects with people to make the change they seek, it will last and endure beyond them. Chevy served as catalyst here – and Second Nature is now naturally placed to expand on its success. Chevy laid the groundwork to demonstrate proof of concept: SN can take the program forward now to an even broader group of campuses … That’s just awesome …

NGO’s often benefit from industry support to get new things going: sometimes it’s just a check to support them. Much more rarely it’s pioneering contributions like Chevy’s which NGO’s would then want to adopt to further their own programs – which is Chevy’s legacy for sure.   It’s pretty rare for a corporate program to be taken up by NGO – that’s the unusual part for me … it’s an unstated endorsement of the best kind … a bit like the White House calling recently to ask how come #CleanEnergyU was top trending on twitter so many times this year and how they could take advantage of its success.

What do you all hope to see going forward from here?

Andy: Chevy’s challenge going forward for other companies is what stays with me: Chevy has thrown down the gauntlet to challenge other companies to identify which energy-based sectors and innovations are strategic for their businesses – and move the needle again like Chevy by opening the doors for the carbon capital markets to accelerate innovation in yet more mission critical clean energy domains.

Tim: For me, what’s truly remarkable here is the legacy that Chevy has created: at Second Nature, as we take this program forward, we’re building on the shoulders of giants here. Chevy’s work didn’t just serve Chevy’s interests or even the dozen campuses they funded: Chevy started something here which will serve the greater good far more broadly as dozens of new campuses come together with new credits purchasers to expand this campus energy efficiency market exponentially. It’s much easier for other companies and campuses to follow their lead now: the really hard work has been done.

Roxane Beigel-Coryell: We need to innovate. We need to take those risks to partner and build new initiatives like ours with Chevrolet to build a better future. It’s going to require sectors partnering radically together in this way… and putting our necks out on the line in ventures that may or may not work. But we have to try since business-as-usual won’t create the future we need to secure. It’s becoming evident that it’s been the businesses like Chevrolet that have stepped up to make a big stand – they really value sustainability and a clean energy future.

Bob S: I don’t think I will see again in my professional lifetime the kind of leadership – the sheer scale, $, commitments, diversity of team – that Chevy pioneered with its Carbon Reduction Initiative.

Snehal: For GM to be standing at the White House by 2015 along with these other corporate leaders is emblematic of how far Chevy’s come in just 5 years. Chevy or GM standing at the White House making a pledge to support action on climate change is about as mainstream as it gets… and that’s the perception on the street now.

Baseball, apple pie and Chevrolet as the old TV commercial put it… that’s the heart of America.

So if the heart of America is now standing alongside Apple and Google taking pledges to confirm that carbon and climate change matters, what does that say about where we are – and how far Chevy has come – in the last 6 years?

That GM and Walmart are in these conversations tells us how far we’ve come: this is the hard cut… this is middle America… that’s how far we’ve come.

This article is dedicated to the Chevy Advisors and Partners Who Co-Created the Carbon Reduction Initiative, including:

Chevy Advisors:

  • Mark Kenber, CEO of The Climate Group
  • Bob Sheppard, sustainability consultant, formerly with Clean Air-Cool Planet
  • Janet Peace, senior vice president, policy and business strategy, Center for Climate and Energy Solutions
  • Eban Goodstein, director, Bard College’s Center for Environmental Policy
  • Andy Stevenson, formerly with National Resources Defense Council and Citadel LLC
  • Snehal Desai, global business director, Water & Process Solutions, Dow Chemical Co.
  • Bob Wilkinson, professor, UC Santa Barbara
  • Sue Hall, CEO, Climate Neutral Business Network

Campus Leaders from Ball State University, Valencia College, Portland State University, Spelman College, University of Illinois at Chicago, University of Wisconsin – Stevens Point, Boston University, Rochester Institute of Technology, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Grand Valley State University, and Southern Oregon Universityincluding:

  • Bob Koester, professor, Ball State
  • Dave Barbier, sustainability director, UWSP
  • Dennis Carlberg, sustainability director, Boston University
  • Resham Shirsat, sustainability director, Valencia College
  • Art Frazier, sustainability director, Spelman College
  • Roxane Beigel-Coryell, sustainability director, Southern Oregon University
  • Tim Carter, president, Second Nature

With thanks also to AASHE and USGBC for their partnership leadership…

Without all of whom this clean energy road would not have been possible.

Sue Hall
CEO, Climate Neutral Business Network