I’m working with partners that have a real financial stake in what happens. I’m helping to educate corporations as to how to best position themselves for the future.”
Kohl's Department Stores, a major department store chain, and Whole Foods Market, the world's largest retailer of natural and organic foods, are in a neck-and-neck race to outdo one another—and not over revenues. Instead, these two major U.S. businesses, and many others like them, would each like to hold the number one spot for voluntary annual green power usage—and all to the benefit of a cleaner environment and increased use of renewable energy nationwide.
Allison Dennis is one of the prime movers behind these initiatives. Dennis is communications director for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Green Power Partnership (GPP), a voluntary program that encourages governments, educational institutions, and businesses of all sizes to use renewable power sources. It does so by focusing on the barriers to adoption of green power and by providing recognition for environmental leadership. That includes publicizing the National top 50 Purchasers List: a tally of the partnership's leading purchasers.
"At one point, we'd have Kohl's on the phone one day, and Whole Foods the next, saying, ‘Who's ahead?’ Finally, Kohl's upped their green power to 50 percent. It makes our day when our list creates that kind of competition."
And the numbers tell the story. GPP works with more than 1,200 organizations, 300 of whom joined under Dennis's watch. Over the past year, despite the 2009 economic recession, the top 10 GPP partners increased their voluntary commitments by more than 1.5 billion kilowatt-hours. Overall, EPA Green Power Partners are buying nearly 18 billion kWh of clean power annually, equivalent to the annual carbon dioxide emissions from more than 1.6 million average American homes. That's about the same number of homes in Phoenix, Arizona.
Dennis handles publicity, recruiting, and media outreach. She also sits on EPA's Work Group for green building, serving as a voice for renewable energy, and contributes to the work of other organizations, helping to influence renewable energy standards.
How did VLS influence Dennis's career path? "The first class in Energy Law and Regulation sparked my interest in renewables. And the MSEL course in environmental writing enabled me to understand judicial opinions and get a grasp on the background and history of an issue. That gives me an upper hand at EPA and when communicating with the press."
Dennis says the MSEL gave her a deep understanding of environmental laws and policies, and the ability to better communicate issues to nonlawyers and people who don't work in those fields.
Back in Washington, where "the VLS ‘brand’ is well known and respected," Dennis is excited about the huge potential of voluntary programs like GPP. Mandatory programs are significant, she says, but there is always something companies can do that goes beyond what's required by law. "I'm working with partners that have a real financial stake in what happens. I'm helping to educate corporations as to how to best position themselves for the future. It's a very unique position to be in."