Social Enterprise Perpectives: Corporate Social Responsibility

I spent my summer working to promote corporate social responsibility in the profit-driven construction marketplace with a non-profit organization called Advanced Energy.

About Advanced Energy
Advanced Energy is committed to creating environmental and economic benefits through innovative approaches to energy. Though based in Raleigh, North Carolina, the organization maintains strong connections to Harvard Business School. COO John Morrison is an HBS alum, as are two members of the board of directors.

Currently, operations at Advanced Energy are divided among three major programs:

* North Carolina Green Power is an innovative state-wide program giving consumers the opportunity to buy electricity generated from renewable sources.

* Industrial Solutions works with utilities and large industrial customers to improve the energy efficiency, quality, and reliability of industrial production.

* Applied Building Science (ABS) is committed to “making the spaces in which we live, work, and learn healthy, safe, durable, comfortable, affordable, and environmentally responsible, as well as technically practical, economically feasible, and available to all.” ABS is divided into three teams:

– Building Performance works with large
production builders and building products manufacturers

– Healthy Buildings Resource Center focuses on improving public housing

– Research and Diagnostics studies homes and conducts building science research

The Project
I was brought in for the summer to help the Building Performance team craft a new business plan. The team had reached an important inflection point, having recently partnered with $9 billion building products conglomerate Masco Corporation to create Environments for Living – a program working with the nation’s top residential builders. The tremendous success of that program had expanded the scope of Advanced Energy’s work to new levels, reaching over 15,000 homes in 2003.

While achieving phenomenal success with the Environments for Living Program, Advanced Energy began focusing on broadening its approach to bring about even greater change.

The Summer
The goal of the summer was to develop and fashion a strategic plan. I began by interviewing Advanced Energy employees from all divisions of the company. Through these interviews, I came to understand Advanced Energy’s inner workings, corporate culture, and values. I studied the industry, using industry publications, analyst reports, and interviews with key industry players including builders, agencies in the same space as Advanced Energy, and Masco representatives.

Throughout the internship, I met weekly with a team of key employees within the Building Performance group, as well as Advanced Energy’s COO. These meetings enabled me to tap into the wealth of industry knowledge contained within the team, and were critical in ensuring that the plan we developed meshed with the needs, goals, and skills of the organization. Working collaboratively with the team, I created a document outlining an actionable business plan for the group, focusing on drivers that are valuable both to builders and to Advanced Energy’s mission.

I had a fabulous summer, working with a team of committed and talented individuals. I was able to learn a great deal about the on-the-ground challenges of applying techniques for corporate social responsibility. I recommend the experience to any RC’s looking for a meaningful HBS summer work experience.