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Our Keynote to EDF's Incoming Climate Corps Fellows

On May 23rd our Senior Consultant, Asheen Phansey, from the Boston office spoke as the keynote speaker to the Environmental Defense Fund's (EDF) Climate Corps incoming Fellows.

The Climate Corps Fellowship is a storied EDF program that brings together an arsenal of top talent, resources and expertise to help organizations meet their sustainability and energy goals. Since 2008, Climate Corps Fellows have assisted over 400 organizations in challenges involving energy efficiency, renewable energy, and energy management strategy, resulting in $1.5 billion in energy savings and 2 million megatonnes of CO2 reductions identified.

The Climate Corps Fellowship program is an example of what EDF’s president, Fred Krupp, described as “innovation that gives people new ways to solve environmental problems,” in a recent Wall Street Journal op-ed. Asheen’s speech was delivered during the Fellows’ three-day intensive training program before they join nearly 100 different private, public, and nongovernmental organizations to implement these shared-value innovations.

Asheen's keynote centered on Sustainserv's motto, "Inspiring Meaningful Change," an idea critically relevant to the EDF Climate Corps Fellows who will be working within a variety of organizations on corporate sustainability.

After defining and outlining the purpose of materiality assessments, Asheen discussed examples of materiality results for several Sustainserv clients, such as the Boston-based financial services firm State Street Corporation and the Switzerland-based global chemical firm Clariant.  He stressed how each materiality process has many common, universally applicable elements, but each resulting set of material topics is unique to the firm and its industry.

On an individual level, Asheen recommends that fellows create and maintain an open dialogue with internal and external stakeholders and engage with the organization's supply chain, such as procurement, facilities, and vendors. When speaking with these stakeholders, fellows are encouraged to learn about the relevance of issues like the chain of custody of raw materials and the scorecarding and auditing of suppliers.

Asheen also recommended engaging with customers and customer-facing colleagues, such as salespeople, marketers, and customer-engagement teams. He introduced the idea of "Net Positive" as one way to include customers in a firm’s corporate responsibility metrics. Net Positive is a new movement that attempts to measure the ways a business can put more back into society, the environment, and the economy than it extracts. Asheen urged fellows to consider this bigger-picture perspective in their Climate Corps work.

Finally, Asheen discussed collaboration among a company’s peers and competitors, citing precompetitive collaborations such as the IAEG, a trade association focused on aerospace sustainability, and the Sustainable Apparel Coalition, and industry group committed to improving the social and environmental record of apparel and footwear. Both are examples of fiercely competitive organizations working together to improve the world; Asheen entreated the EDF Climate Corps Fellows, the next generation of our responsible leaders, to maintain the relationships they have formed this week to create a network of peers—even as their professional paths diverge and interrelate in diverse ways.

On the evening following Asheen’s keynote speech, Sustainserv’s Managing Partner Matthew Gardner and Consultant Heather Vickery joined Asheen in attending the EDF Climate Corps reception to hear the former EPA Administrator for the Obama Administration, Gina McCarthy, inspire the audience of EDF Climate Corps Fellows and special guests to keep their chins up and continue to progress on climate issues.

In a heartfelt and hilarious speech that could only be delivered by a former official, Gina described how states and cities are great proving grounds for innovations created by the private sector, which are then systematized into market changes at the federal level. At times of limited federal progress on issues such as climate change, Gina entreated us to focus on these innovations from companies and their surrounding regions.

Sustainserv wishes all EDF Climate Corps fellows the best in their corporate sustainability work within their respective organizations!