By Michael Perry, IMBA Alumni, April 2013 intake
You don’t typically see words like “greenhouse gas” and “energy efficiency” in the same places that you see “profitability”, “market incentives”, and “shareholder value”. However, many organizations are increasingly recognizing the financial advantages to “greening” their business models. As investments in energy efficiency have become increasingly quantifiable, a critical mass of companies has capitalized on these opportunities to refine business processes, to free-up capital in operating budgets, and to benefit from enormous gains in CSR and public relations. At the forefront of this movement, you will find the Environmental Defense Fund and their Climate Corps Fellowship Program.
Unlike most environmental organizations, the EDF overtly seeks to partner with corporate and industrial giants. Through its Climate Corps Fellowship Program, the EDF recruits top-level MBA and MPA students to go and spend a summer working on energy initiatives with these companies, as well as with governments and smaller organizations. So why would an environmental organization recruit MBAs and rub elbows with the perennial “bad guys” in their field? On their website, the EDF argues that “economic prosperity and environmental stewardship go hand in hand.” Further examination reveals a dogged pragmatism at the heart of the organization which is explicitly nonpartisan and guided by a mission to align environmental objectives with market-based incentives. As a Climate Corps fellow myself, I am working firsthand to balance that alignment and build the financial case for investing in environmental objectives.
I went to the on campus presentation in December 2013, organized by the IE Career Management Center, and decided to apply. After a lengthy online application and a few skype interviews, I was offered a spot working out of the EDF’s Chicago office with a local real-estate-investment firm called Urban Innovations. UI manages a portfolio of 11 Class B office buildings in downtown Chicago. The primary objective of my fellowship is to survey the commercial properties, identify potential energy efficiency projects, and ultimately make a compelling business case for green-lighting these investments. Additionally, I am working to construct a financial budgeting/analysis tool that will provide the organization with the in-house capability to conduct these financial analyses in the future.
At the halfway point, many attractive investment and operational improvements have been identified, but there is still much work to be done. I am way outside of any organizational silos, working with experts across all levels of the organization, running countless DCF analyses, giving numerous PowerPoint presentations, and ultimately working to convince an organization to adopt my recommendations and help them refine their processes. In short, the experience is shaping-up to be a great epilogue to the IMBA experience. I am drawing enormously on both the hard and soft skills that we developed while cutting our teeth at MM31. As I head into the second half of the fellowship, I am excited for the opportunity to deploy those skills in a practical context in order to drive organizational profitability as well as environmental sustainability.
Editor’s Note: Applications for the next edition of the Climate Corps (Summer 2015) will be open in late 2014 for current IMBA students (April 2014 and November 2014 intakes). For more info please contact firstname.lastname@example.org