Ecocentricity Guest Blog: Energy Burden – Combining Social and Environmental Lenses for Impact
This week, Michael Oxman, managing director of the Ray C. Anderson Center for Sustainable Business and Professor of the Practice for the Georgia Tech Scheller College of Business talks about the the fact that Atlanta has one of the highest concentrations of energy burden among major metropolitan areas in the United States. With funding from Georgia Tech Strategic Energy Institute’s Energy and Policy Innovation Center and the Georgia Tech Center for Serve-Learn-Sustain, students and faculty from the Scheller College of Business and the School of Public Policy are conducting the study (with input from a range of stakeholders) to identify potential solution platforms.
While I have worked in the corporate responsibility/sustainability domain for some time, it has only been since I began in my current role that I find myself consistently asking, “What would Ray do?” At risk of preaching to the choir, Ray C. Anderson was inspirational in many ways, but for me what stands out was his willingness to buck conventional wisdom and forge greater impact from corporate sustainability solutions by ensuring that they were also practical and commercially-minded (i.e., doing well by doing good).
I think this mantra is reflected well in John’s recent post on leveraging the triple bottom line where he also notes that all three prongs should work together, rather than independently. That is, in a sports-minded analogy, you don’t set out to load the bases with three singles only to end the inning with all runners stranded, but rather to deliver multiple runs and perhaps even a grand slam!
Calling out these issues by no means implies easy solutions. Some homes require structural or safety-related repairs before energy efficiency measures become practical, and upfront costs are often prohibitive for low-income households. In addition, other household economic “burdens” may be even more pressing than energy. However, this topic suggests an increasingly “material” sustainability issue for energy providers, City planners, policymakers, funders, and community organizations. It also offers an important collaboration opportunity between proponents of stronger action on climate change with those principally focused on alleviating poverty. While a number of low-income, energy-related programs are already underway, the scale of the challenge and opportunity suggests we can do more. So, paraphrasing John in his triple bottom line post, let’s work together to raise the bar!