Communicating Corporate Social Responsibility to a Cynical Public

Read the full story in MIT Sloan Management Review.

Corporate social responsibility has gone mainstream. But unless corporations communicate their CSR achievements wisely, they risk being accused of greenwashing.

Shaping a green procurement strategy: Q&A with Yalmaz Siddiqui

Read the full story in GreenBiz.

At least 45 countries have embraced national policies requiring public agencies to buy greener products and services. Businesses are using similar commitments to drive more efficient and environmentally sensitive supply chains.

While the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED system has become a commonly used guidepost for green building, there is no equivalent today for sustainable procurement. The Sustainable Purchasing Council aims to make the process simpler, with input from the nonprofit community and big companies like Office Depot that are creating strategies of their own.

Yalmaz Siddiqui, co-chair of the SPC steering committee and senior director of environmental strategy for Office Depot, offers advice for how to “buy better.”

The impact of energy efficiency program information and incentives

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Residential retrofits are widely viewed as a key resource to improve the national economy and strengthen the nation’s energy future by saving homeowners money, creating local jobs, and reducing building energy consumption. However, there has been only limited success in engaging large numbers of homeowners to pursue comprehensive home energy improvements. To increase the market penetration of home retrofits, national programs like the Department of Energy’s Home Energy Score (HEScore), and local programs like the Kentucky Home Partnership (KHP), have recently been developed. When successfully deployed with existing energy efficiency programs such as the Tennessee Valley Authority’s (TVA) In-Home Energy Evaluation (IHEE), national energy efficiency goals that once seemed unattainable may now be within reach.

While national, regional, and local efforts to increase the market adoption of home energy retrofits have expanded, the impact of these programs is not clear. To explore the effectiveness of these types of programs, Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) partnered with TVA and KHP to conduct a survey of homeowners that participated in the KHP program. A primary component of this survey was to also pilot the HEScore. In this pilot, a subgroup of homeowners that participated in the KHP program were also given an initial HEScore with a incentive tied to the increase in their HEScore after the retrofit was complete. The TVA IHEE program provided an infrastructure for the delivery of both programs and was available to all groups of homeowners to utilize in addition to the KHP and/or HEScore incentives. Metrics such as the percentage of homeowners that completed a retrofit measure, total retrofit investment, and the total number of retrofitted measures were evaluated to determine program impact and are described in this report.

Wiping out top predators messes up the climate

Read the full story in New Scientist.

Wiping out top predators like lions, wolves and sharks is tragic, bad for ecosystems – and can make climate change worse. Mass extinctions of the big beasts of the jungles, grasslands and oceans could already be adding to greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

Why companies are fueling the rise of green gaming

Read the full story at GreenBiz.

Who said going green had to be boring?

Maybe the same people who believe games are just entertainment.

Both myths are being shattered by the growing phenomenon of green gamification, the use of games to make sustainability fun and rewarding. This growth is being accelerated by forces ranging from the government’s Green Button promotion of energy usage data to the digital generation’s strong desire for smartphone apps that allow them to manage resource consumption.

Much as Nike+ Fuelband is turning exercise from a chore into a cool activity, a suite of green web and mobile apps are transforming the way people approach environmental stewardship. From startups such as Leafully to corporate alliances that increase energy efficiency, gamification is emerging as a powerful weapon to advance sustainability.

Actual and Estimated Energy Savings Comparison for Deep Energy Retrofits in the Pacific Northwest

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Seven homes from the Pacific Northwest were selected to evaluate the differences between estimated and actual energy savings achieved from deep energy retrofits. The energy savings resulting from these retrofits were estimated, using energy modeling software, to save at least 30% on a whole-house basis. The modeled pre-retrofit energy use was trued against monthly utility bills. After the retrofits were completed, each of the homes was extensively monitored, with the exception of one home which was monitored pre-retrofit. This work is being conducted by Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) for the U.S. Department of Energy Building Technologies Program as part of the Building America Program. This work found many discrepancies between actual and estimated energy savings and identified the potential causes for the discrepancies. The differences between actual energy use and modeled energy use also suggest improvements to improve model accuracy. The difference between monthly whole-house actual and estimated energy savings ranged from 75% more energy saved than predicted by the model to 16% less energy saved for all the monitored homes. Similarly, the annual energy savings difference was between 36% and -14%, which was estimated based on existing monitored savings because an entire year of data is not available. Thus, on average, for all six monitored homes the actual energy use is consistently less than estimates, indicating home owners are saving more energy than estimated. The average estimated savings for the eight month monitoring period is 43%, compared to an estimated savings average of 31%. Though this average difference is only 12%, the range of inaccuracies found for specific end-uses is far greater and are the values used to directly estimate energy savings from specific retrofits. Specifically, the monthly post-retrofit energy use differences for specific end-uses (i.e., heating, cooling, hot water, appliances, etc.) ranged from 131% under-predicted to 77% over-predicted by the model with respect to monitored energy use. Many of the discrepancies were associated with occupant behavior which influences energy use, dramatically in some cases, actual versus modeled weather differences, modeling input limitations, and complex homes that are difficult to model. The discrepancy between actual and estimated energy use indicates a need for better modeling tools and assumptions. Despite the best efforts of researchers, the estimated energy savings are too inaccurate to determine reliable paybacks for retrofit projects. While the monitored data allows researchers to understand why these differences exist, it is not cost effective to monitor each home with the level of detail presented here. Therefore an appropriate balance between modeling and monitoring must be determined for more widespread application in retrofit programs and the home performance industry. Recommendations to address these deficiencies include: (1) improved tuning process for pre-retrofit energy use, which currently utilized broad-based monthly utility bills; (2) developing simple occupant-based energy models that better address the many different occupant types and their impact on energy use; (3) incorporating actual weather inputs to increase accuracy of the tuning process, which uses utility bills from specific time period; and (4) developing simple, cost-effective monitoring solutions for improved model tuning.