An EDF Climate Corps Fellow’s Take on Business Model Innovation

EDF Climate Corps fellow | July 12, 2012

Fellow: Alicia Cushman, 2012 EDF Climate Corps Fellow at The JBG Companies, MBA Candidate at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business

Organization: The JBG Companies (JBG)

Opportunity: 9.2 million square feet of commercial real estate space and one eager MBA student

Summary:A Whole Different Kind of Innovation (Wall Street Journal, June 18th)," declares that business model innovation is "crucial to meeting the challenges associated with energy use," perhaps even more so than technological innovation. Naturally, as an EDF Climate Corps fellow working with The JBG Companies this summer, I had a few thoughts of my own on the matter.

The recent Wall Street Journal (WSJ) piece “A Whole Different Kind of Innovation” argues that "new business models may not be as sexy as new technology," but are equally as important.

As an MBA student focusing on energy use at a real estate investment firm, the subject matter struck a chord with me. I've found myself on the frontlines of business model innovation here at The JBG Companies. I speak from firsthand experience when I say it's more than just an idea. It's a thriving movement that's saving millions of dollars for the companies smart enough to join.

After receiving intensive energy efficiency training from EDF Climate Corps, I was eager to sleuth out opportunities to save money for JBG from day one of my fellowship, looking anywhere I could. I set a secret goal for myself to find $10 million in energy savings. I planned to wrap it all in a pretty bow, stun senior management with my eco-business prowess and call my summer fellowship a big success.

My ego received a humbling blow when my supervisor handed me a 170-item list of energy efficiency projects already "in the works" at JBG and a 2-year database of utility information…before introducing me to the company’s 16 LEED Accredited Professionals.

Corporate sustainability goals are old news for JBG. Energy audits? Done. LEED-certified buildings? Check. LEED AP staff members? Sixteen of ‘em. It even has employee incentives for reduced energy use.

JBG is a leader in business model innovation, quietly giving life to a new model of sustainable business. As a result, the company has emerged from the recent financial crisis at the top of its game. My real challenge at JBG won't be convincing senior management that sustainability and energy efficiency are smart business moves. It will be supporting JBG in its quest to maintain and grow its already-strong culture of sustainability.

Stay tuned to Cushman’s page on our Web site, as she will report back on the ultimate results of her fellowship this fall.

EDF Climate Corps places specially trained MBA and MPA students in companies, cities and universities to develop practical, actionable energy efficiency plans. Sign up to receive emails about EDF Climate Corps, including regular blog posts by our fellows. You can also visit our Facebook page or follow us on Twitter to get regular updates about this project.