Shelley Keller is vice president of strategic initiatives for Exelon, the nation’s largest electric and gas utility. As the architect of Exelon’s environmental sustainability plan, her goal is to assist the company in reducing, off-setting or displacing 15 million metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions by 2020, which is the equivalent of removing 3 million cars from the road. She developed a three-pronged sustainability strategy that includes reducing her company’s carbon footprint, helping customers and the community reduce greenhouse gas emissions and offering more low-carbon electricity in the marketplace.
What benefit does sustainability have for businesses?
Stakeholders, shareholders and regulators expect companies to make these investments and the efforts to be sustainable. They know they run the risk of being behind the curve if they don’t invest today. More than 40 percent of the greenhouse gas emissions are caused by businesses and industries; you cannot create that much waste and not be part of the solution. Those who avoid the issue are denying the inevitable.
Has the recent decrease in fuel costs slowed businesses’ ambition to look into alternative energy sources and sustainability?
That’s temporal. It’s hard to isolate the cost of fuel when there are so many economy issues going on. Time will tell, but that’s pro b-ably had an impact. The fuel cost has changed the economics of the situation. Companies are holding off on big projects that require a lot of capital. However, more and more businesses are putting an emphasis on sustainability as irrefutable scientific evidence shows the need for a change. We haven’t gotten to the point where there’s a national price tag on carbon. This is when to get involved in sustainability when there’s no other choice.
Why do you think more businesses don’t invest in sustainability?
There’s a host of reasons companies don’t participate in sustainability. The way they view the topic the complexity of the problem holds them back. They look at the expense of some sustainability plans and say, ‘That’s more than we want to spend.’ They don’t see that there are many sustainability practices that require no or little capital. Renewable energy sources have issues with intermittency like wind it’s not attractive in all areas because there isn’t a way to support it. However, despite some of the limitations on renewable, they must be incorporated.