The Environment+Energy Leader honoree program is an annual list that recognizes the environment and energy “doers” who break trail in creating new solutions, programs, platforms, best practices and products to help their companies – or other companies – achieve greater success in commercial and industrial environment and energy management. Meet the Honorees… is an ongoing series that will feature one E+E Honoree from 2022 each week. See the complete list of 2022 Honorees here.
Meet Jim Boyle, CEO and founder of the Sustainability Roundtable Inc (SR Inc). Jim’s responsibility is to lead the creation of shared and sustainable value for customers, investors, suppliers and host communities as the organization works to align business with life. “Day to day, this means working to provide servant leadership to customers, team members, investors and suppliers, as I seek to recognize and magnify their dignity in and through our shared work,” Jim explains.
Tell us about your biggest environmental challenge and how you are addressing it.
Jim Boyle: Our greatest challenge is our greatest opportunity, which is to bring together globally scaling companies so that together they can help democratize the financial and environmental benefits of utility scale renewable energy through aggregated VPPAs in a manner they could not if they were acting alone. This requires an optimization of process and transaction structure that we describe as “VPPA2.0” and it has enabled companies participating in SR Inc’s Net Zero Consortium for Buyers (NZCB) to cause multiple 100+ MW wind and solar projects in the US and soon in Europe.
Are there others at your organization you’d like to point out who also deserve recognition?
JB: SR Inc member-clients have made SR Inc’s Net Zero Consortium for Buyers (NZCB) the leading platform for Buyer Aggregated VPPAs in the US and soon in Europe. It has been the quintessential team effort, but Sean Kinghorn, now head of sustainability at ServiceNow and previously head of sustainability at Intuit, and Andy Smith, global sustainability manager at Cisco, played the all-important role of first Aggregated VPPA customers back in 2018, attracting many others to follow.
On the service team side, on a team of stars, David Osborn, SR Inc COO and senior advisor — a 20+ year veteran of helping public company CFOs understand new opportunities — and Brittany Doherty, SR Inc’s managing director, have proved masterful in helping to coordinate dozens of global companies into efficient and repeatable processes.
What trends do you expect to see in the market in the next few years?
JB: It is terrific to see the development of important new web-enabled data services and analytic companies like LevelTen Energy (the Seattle-based leader in VPPA proposals) and Boston-based Re-Surety (the leader in existing renewable energy projects) with which SR Inc is proud to partner to help provide unmatched data and analytic support to corporate buyers.
Hopefully, new software and analytic companies will follow their lead and focus on how they can help corporate buyer-advisors and buyers fashion ever more buyer-favorable long-term renewable energy commitments to accelerate the financing development of renewable energy. Responsible long-term corporate contracting requires professional assistance, and nothing would help the utility scale PPA market to scale in the US and around the world than having the number of professional buyer-advisors for corporate renewable energy to grow from about 20 to 2000. That, plus outstanding new data and analytic solutions, is what is needs to happen to help buyers buy in a timely, global and repeatable manner that keeps creating better experiences for the buyer.
Tell us about a favorite hobby, passion or book you’ve read recently that has had an impact on you and your work.
JB: Donnella Meadows’s 1999 essay entitled “Tipping Points: 11 Places to Intervene in Complex Systems” has had a big impact in how I prioritize my thinking and efforts. Meadows died too young and inspired the Meadows Institute at Dartmouth. She argued that next to “transcendence” that enables an individual to transcend the conceits of their time and recognize all thinking as reliant on mentally constructed systems, the most leveraged way to help cause cascading change in a complex system is to propose a new framework of perception.
Although she was a progressive scientist who respected the role of administrative state in contemporary society, Meadows cited the example of Ronald Reagan and his success in reframing American politics through relentlessly promoting the idea that the key question was not what government should do but rather how government was, itself, the problem. What some have called the “Reagan Revolution” successful reframed government as the problem.
That has left me asking for years: what is the re-frame we need as we address human-caused climate breakdown? What I have come to believe is that the most influential thought leaders in more responsible business (like Rebecca Henderson at Harvard Business School who wrote “Reimagining Capitalism In A World On Fire” in 2020 and Andrew Winston who joined with long-time Unilever CEO Paul Polman to write “Net Positive: How Courageous Companies Thrive By Giving More Than They Take”) are writing and providing examples of a fundamental re-framing of what is most effective in business without stating what the fundamental re-framing is. It goes deeper than the long-term, multi-stakeholder (as opposed to shareholder) approach to value creation. I think it is close to what Steven Covey argued in “The 8th Habit: From Good To Great” in 2007 when he argued business needed to move from the “Industrial Age Paradigm” of extraction and control to a “Knowledge Age Paradigm” based on motivating people on the basis of their intrinsic values.
The specific opportunity that I think the boldest business leaders have in 2022 is to move beyond a need-based seeking of greater efficiency (as if our greatest need is to optimize an imagined machine) to a care-based offering of greater dignity to each and every stakeholder. I have begun to explore this “Net-Positive” approach to centering dignity on SR Inc’s Sustainable Leadership blog. It is an opportunity that Dr. Donna Hicks at the Kennedy School in MA has led on with her 2017 book “Leading With Dignity.”
Editor’s note: nominations are now open for this year’s E+E Honorees. Nominate a colleague — or yourself — for the 2022 E+E today.