LEEDing the Way at PepsiCo

EDF Climate Corps fellow | July 7, 2010


By Peter Petropoulos, MBA candidate at Booth School of Business, University of Chicago, 2010 EDF Climate Corps fellow at PepsiCo, Member of Net Impact

On my way home from the EDF Climate Corps training I attended in May, I found myself just trying to grasp the sheer capacity of the network I had just joined. This year, EDF Climate Corps has sent 51 MBA students, from top business schools, to leading companies across the country where they are spending their summer finding ways to improve business practices through energy efficiency solutions. In the heat of the moment, I wrote a blog about my experience at thetraining and my anticipation for the summer as an EDF Climate Corps fellow at PepsiCo. That moment seems like history now.

I’ve spent the last two weeks at one of PepsiCo’s facilities in Dallas where my charge for the summer has been a mouthful to say the least. I’ve been asked to identify the minimum standards for LEED certification, perform a gap analysis between the facility and certification, and develop a project roadmap including costs and ROI.

There is no doubt that PepsiCo is a sustainability leader in the corporate world. Walking into PepsiCo for the first time and realizing that its LEED Gold certified headquarters is just up the street from my project was a bit intimidating for a student  searching for environmental opportunities. Luckily, I realized early on that the company’s internal experts would be some of my most important resources.

I have been attending productive meetings with facilities managers, LEED APs and engineers – where theyall presented ideas on how to best investigate our energy-saving opportunities. 

I began by studying the five areas of LEED certification:

  • sustainable design
  • energy efficiency
  • water use
  • air quality
  • material and resource policies

No one person is likely to be an expert in all these disciplines, as they naturally fall into different areas of responsibility across departments of the company. As a result, there is a real need for a uniting entity to create synergy between these areas. Again, we see the value add of the EDF Climate Corps program. Who better to break through these silos than a tireless MBA student from outside the company hierarchy?

When not in meetings, I go where any Chicago Booth MBA student would – to the numbers.  I hunted down all the available utility bills and compiled data for the facility’s electricity, natural gas and water usage. I then used the Energy Star web site to compare this facility to others in the same class and climate. Many facility staff believed that the building was far from LEED energy standards. Using these numbers, my analysis debunked that myth. We now know exactly where the building ranks today and the level of improvement it needs to reach.  After all, you can’t manage what you don’t measure.

My next steps are to assess the different areas of the LEED certification rating system and evaluate PepsiCo for any potential gaps that may exist. I also plan to obtain cost estimates for needed upgrades from vendors and add up the return on these investments.

I’m now hoping that  at the end of the summer I will find a few other EDF Climate Corps fellows that would be willing to form a study group for the LEED AP exam. Any takers?

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This content is cross-posted on Vault