By: Brenden Millstein, Co-founder & CEO and Raphael Rosen, Co-founder & President
The climate conversations of 2017 seemed as extreme as the weather itself. On one hand, in a dramatic reversal, the Trump administration declared it would remove the United States from the historic Paris Climate Agreement, citing negative economic impact. On the other, New York City Mayor Bill DeBlasio announced an ambitious plan requiring buildings in his city to significantly reduce carbon emissions, no matter the cost. Regardless of where you sit on these issues, one fundamental fact has been largely absent from the conversation: to be viable, climate solutions must be profitable.
We live in a capitalist society. Markets matter. And while unchecked capitalism drives many of the challenges exacerbating our climate conundrum, aligning environmental goals with market forces may prove to be our salvation. The challenge lies in harnessing capitalism’s relentless focus on financial growth in a climate-conscious direction.
Of course, we support those across the globe contributing immensely to solving the climate problem through social change initiatives, but large scale social changes can often take decades to mobilize and our climate requires action today. Working within the existing economic paradigm is the fastest way to progress.
The tragedy of ‘business-as-usual’ is that it’s often bad for business in the long term, even if it makes money in the short term. Behavior change in many business sectors doesn’t always have an immediate financial reward, and commercial real estate is no exception.
The World Green Building Council estimates that over 30 percent of global carbon emissions come from buildings. And a recent article by experts from Rocky Mountain Institute establishes a little-known fact that buildings consume over 41 percent of the nation’s total energy use. In larger cities like Chicago and New York, this figure reaches almost 70 percent. Much of this energy consumption is energy waste, and therefore can be eliminated if owners see reducing their demand as easy and profitable.
At Carbon Lighthouse, we see this as a dual challenge and opportunity — we can’t achieve our mission of stopping climate change without eliminating these emissions, but to do that we must unlock significant financial value to get building owners on board.
As entrepreneurs in the technology and energy sectors, we know that delivering profits is the only way to succeed. That’s why we’ve dedicated the last seven years to developing a viable business solution for building owners that recasts energy from a passive resource to a value creator that reduces carbon emissions at the same time.
Our model guarantees returns to landlords. Yes, Carbon Lighthouse actually makes money for building owners or we pay them. We’re able to do this thanks to our powerful proprietary technology, CLUES®, the culmination of hundreds of sensors, vast amounts of original building data and machine learning — analyzed and acted upon by our talented team of engineers. Our ongoing service then ensures revenue is realized over a long period of time.
We’ve come a long way, having worked in over 500 buildings nationwide and already eliminating the emissions equivalent of six power plants, with five more under contract last year alone. But we’re just getting started. By 2020, we’ll have cut the equivalent of 50 power plants, and will be on track to eliminate 50 more every year after that.
We are inspired by our fellow entrepreneurs finding innovative, market-driven solutions to this pressing challenge confronting humanity. Capitalism helped cause massive environmental damage, but it can also propel our planet’s restoration. It’s up to us to make it happen.