The Energy it Takes to Listen: EDF Climate Corps fellow finds savings at Cisco

By Jeff Cheek, EDF Climate Corps fellow at Cisco Systems, MBA Candidate at Melbourne Business School, University of Melbourne, Member of Net Impact

The conference room on Cisco System's San Jose campus had nearly reached capacity, with 700+ interns listening intently to CEO John Chambers. For 45 minutes, Chambers offered up one piece of wisdom after another. "The hardest part about communicating…" he paused for added emphasis, "is listening." A simple statement, but incredibly pertinent to my summer work as an EDF Climate Corps fellow at Cisco Systems.

Back in May, when half of the 51 Climate Corps fellows gathered at EDF's San Francisco office (the other half congregating in New York) to participate in a crash course on energy efficiency best practices, I quickly discovered that almost no one had a background in energy efficiency. I met bankers, marketing managers, engineers and sales people, but no energy efficiency consultants. So then what makes an MBA student a good fit if he/she has no prior experience? With Climate Corps' success to date, EDF is proving that energy efficiency is not rocket science. When equipped with a simple toolkit, a passion for the environment and a good set of ears, MBA students with little to no experience in energy efficiency can deliver big results.

Since Cisco had previously hosted two EDF Climate Corps fellows, my task was not to identify savings but to strategically address a way to harness more energy efficiency gains with less effort. By listening to Cisco employees, I learned that internal champions at Cisco are driving efficiency solutions on their own, but there is no standard process for communicating these best practices across the whole company.  With this in mind I:

1. Built a financial model designed to standardize financial analysis and project selection metrics, as well as provide a single location for project data to be stored, tracked, and compared.

2. Prepared case studies to be distributed internationally to gauge best practice implementation rates.

3. Designed a strategy for all tools to be merged onto a network to drive process automation and deliver improved functionality.

A key takeaway from the many interviews I conducted – Cisco employees are naturally driven and competitive and are delivering effective efficiency solutions on their own. Harnessing their collective creativity will produce dramatic results when best practices are shared throughout Cisco's global locations, it's just a matter of communicating them across the organization in an efficient manner.

Coming to this conclusion did not require a degree in engineering, just a good set of ears and the time of helpful Cisco employees.

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