Business Brains

Not your average summer internship

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A class of 26 MBA students from the likes of Duke University, Stanford University, Cornell University and Yale University spent their summers helping ...

A class of 26 MBA students from the likes of Duke University, Stanford University, Cornell University and Yale University spent their summers helping Fortune 500 companies figure out ways to save more than $54 million in operating expenses simply by addressing energy efficiency.

The effort was backed by the Environmental Defense Fund's Climate Corps program, which trains business students how to analyze energy efficiency for their "host" company and develop projects that could improve it. The projects identified over the past summer, if enacted, promise to save up to 160 million kilowatt hours per year (or roughly the amount of power it takes to run 14,000 homes). That equates into a potential reduction of 100,000 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions. Incidentally, approximately 97 percent of the programs identified during the first year of Climate Corps have been acted upon.

Here are some specific metrics from 2009:

  • At Cisco, the fellow identified potential savings of $1.8 million (or 18 million kilowatt hours of electricity annually) related to increasing the ambient temperatures in the company's data labs.
  • The participant at TXU Energy found ways to reduce usage in the company's two main office buildings by 10 percent and 30 percent respectively. This will save it about $200,000, or 2.3 million kilowatt hours of electricity.
  • Lighting retrofits and HVAC upgrades suggested for SunGard's headquarters office, if replicated throughout the entire company's 7 million square feet of office space worldwide, could save the disaster recovery services giant more than $5 million per year.

Hmmm, act as a host company for an MBA intern and save money related to sustainability? And, at the same time, show off your sustainable culture to potential future hires? Seems like a smart human resources strategy to me.

To find out more about Climate Corps or to look into hosting a fellow in 2010, visit this link. The program hopes to place 50 students the next go round.

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Heather Clancy

Section Editor

Heather Clancy has written for United Press International, ZDNet, Entrepreneur, Fortune Small Business, the International Herald Tribune and the New York Times. She holds a degree from McGill University. She is based in New Jersey. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure