Notes from 2010 Net Impact Conference

November 8, 2010

by Kevin Wooster, MBA/MS student at the Erb Institute, Class of 2013.

“Your job is not to create more NGOs.”
These are just a few of the words of wisdom Majora Carter shared with Net Impact members duringtheir conference’s closing keynote.
Majora went on to explain that those seeking to help communities in need too often rely on non-profitapproaches that require continuous contributions of capital. In lieu of this approach she argued weshould focus on creating for-profit project and business models which will sustain themselves and enrichthe community. It seems the old proverb still holds: “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day.Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.”
Later in her speech, Majora also made a terrific observation regarding social and environmental justice.As she pointed out, the more marginalized people are economically, the easier it is to marginalize otheraspects of their lives. Not coincidentally, Majora and others now focus on improving local communityeconomies, or as Majora puts it “Home(town) Security” as a first step towards achieving social andenvironmental justice.

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Building a Better Bloomberg: 3 Steps to increasing energy efficiency while maintaining functionality and personality

July 27, 2010

Brian Hartmann

by Brian Hartmann, EDF Climate Corps fellow at Bloomberg,  Erb  ’12

This Blog is cross-posted on the EDF Climate Corps site: Innovation Exchange.

On my first day as an EDF Climate Corps fellow, I walked into the Bloomberg L.P. offices in New York City and was completely blown away by the remarkable lighting displays throughout the building.

A quick tour revealed that the building has three primary functions:

  • Office space
  • Data centers
  • Broadcast studios

I immediately realized that the bright, colorful lighting in the building was primarily installed for its artistic value and not for its functionality. I understood that my goal for the summer was to find ways of increasing energy efficiency for Bloomberg, and removing this type of lighting would be an easy way to do just that.  But it wasn’t that easy. By recommending that the lighting be replaced, I would be taking away from the building’s aesthetics, a unique part of the company’s culture. I knew that I needed to dig around for other options that wouldn’t compromise the building’s multiple purposes – not even the artistic ones. Bloomberg has already reduced its energy consumption by 11 percent in three years, while simultaneously adding space and employees. I figured that if Bloomberg could benefit the environment while expanding its business, I could certainly get creative with my dilemma.

After the tour, I went back to my desk determined to develop a plan for tackling this complex situation. I came up with three rules to help structure my approach, and I have used them to formulate recommendations.

  1. Look for changes that affect the entire building. I started by looking into what major components were used in all three types of space. I realized that focusing on mechanisms, such as ducts and HVAC systems, would yield substantial improvements and prove cost effective. These components have a large scale effect on overall energy efficiency because of their presence throughout the entire building. Cross-building projects seem complex at first, but are manageable and lead to substantial improvements in energy efficiency.
  2. Separate by primary use. My next step was to look at the different parts of the building. I started with the office space, concentrating on the lighting. By breaking the building apart and focusing on manageable situations, it was easier to find meaningful efficiency gains. The key was focusing on specific projects that could be accomplished, instead of getting bogged down by the differences between the spaces.
  3. Work within the culture. When determining projects, it was important to look through the lens of Bloomberg’s vibrant and energetic culture. The building’s interior aesthetics and design are an important part of what makes the Bloomberg experience so enchanting. In an attempt to keep that experience in tact, I decided to install lower watt lamps and ballasts that use less energy and do not affect the building’s aesthetic charm.

Following these three steps for identifying energy efficiency improvements in a multi-purpose building with a unique culture has allowed me to formulate a structured plan, focusing on high priority initiatives that lead to meaningful improvements.

ErbWire: Net Impact at Ross Oct 29-30

May 17, 2010

Thought in Action at the Erb Institute

Save Oct. 28-30 for the Net Impact Conference at U-M

The Ross School of Business will host the 18th annual Net Impact Conference, “20/20 Vision for a Sustainable Decade,” Oct. 28-30 at the U-M. The Net Impact Conference is the only gathering in the world to bring together graduate students and professionals to explore the latest ideas, tools and careers in areas of corporate responsibility, sustainability and social entrepreneurship.

Erb students and other U-M organizers are developing many of the 100 breakout sessions being offered under the broad categories of corporate impact, energy and clean technology, impact investing, international development, social innovation, natural resources, and urban revitalization and community development. More than 2,500 professionals and students are expected to attend the conference.