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Mindy Lubber
Mindy Lubber

Bringing Our Leadership to Bear in a Low-Carbon Economy

PG&E is committed to being transparent and open in all its dealings on the environment. We also seek a variety of viewpoints on this complex and challenging issue. Our relationship with Ceres—a national network of investors, environmental groups and other public interest entities working with companies to address sustainability challenges such as global climate change—is one of the ways we achieve this. We believe in continuous learning and improvement, and we have learned a lot from Ceres on how to keep raising the bar, as the following conversation shows.

Mindy Lubber is president of Ceres. An environmental lawyer for 28 years, Lubber has built public interest groups, served as an environmental litigator, ran a socially responsible investment firm, and worked for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

What is your mission at Ceres?

Lubber: I've been a change agent, and my sense of how we most effectively make change right now is by bringing different players to the table, working collaboratively, looking for unique solutions and getting to "yes"—and that's what we do at Ceres. Ceres is an organization that strives to build sustainability ethics and practices into the largest corporations in the world.

How do you define sustainability?

Lubber: Sustainability means the ability to keep building our planet—and I don't mean this only from an environmental perspective. It means having the resources we need to move forward. It means using our resources smartly. It means developing sustainable companies that take into account environmental justice and worker rights and safety. It means being able to build a future economy—as well as a future environment—that can sustain the kind of work and businesses we want to run.

What does it take to translate this into action?

Lubber: When I hear PG&E Corporation's CEO, Peter Darbee, talk about the fact that his leadership on global warming has motivated his workforce at PG&E to go above and beyond their job performance, that's about building a sustainable and smart corporation.

The challenge is to ensure that this is ingrained in all parts of the organization and is used to drive innovation and creative thinking going forward.

You often talk about sustainability as a corporate governance issue. What do you mean?

Lubber: It's very clear to the board members of hundreds of companies that there are huge financial implications involved with taking on, and being part of, solutions for global warming, water shortages and loss of biodiversity—all of which have a profound impact on whether businesses can keep growing. For years, the climate issue was viewed as only a scientific and environmental imperative—not one of shareholder value or financial transparency. And disclosure is critically important, as is finding ways to articulate your position clearly; both enhance credibility and provide opportunities for new partnerships and joint ventures.

What caused the "tipping point" on climate change? Why do so many people care about this issue now?

Lubber: I believe we are now at critical mass in word—not deed. I still don't feel like the world is acting fully on ways to bring down our carbon footprint by 70 percent. But we have acknowledged the problem and there is awareness and clarity around the issue. How did it crystallize? I think part of it was just time. I also think Hurricane Katrina was a horrible marker in our lifetime, particularly when scientists were saying that storms are more intense because of global warming and the change in our ocean temperatures. Other things—like a heat wave in Europe that killed more than 20,000 people four years ago and a slew of forest fires in California that cost people their homes—were very vivid. They made people realize what the real-life consequences of this are and could be. And, I think "An Inconvenient Truth," Al Gore's film, was very influential. It worked its way into the modern-day media and is being discussed by kids and lay people who are not scientists.

What should the utility industry be doing to make a difference?

Lubber: The utility sector needs to be looking at every opportunity that can be gained from energy efficiency and demand management. PG&E is really leading here. People should use energy smartly and use less of it. We are a long way from having maximized our energy-efficiency capability.

When it comes to the environment, how do you see the relationship between companies and communities?

Lubber: We have a long history in our country of putting our environmental problems in the communities of the people who could least afford them. PG&E's willingness to tackle environmental justice issues, set goals and look at what the company is doing and the impact it has on communities speaks to its leadership—not only on climate change, but from a broad sustainability perspective.

What would you like to see from PG&E going forward?

Lubber: I think it is important for PG&E to clearly identify its goals and targets for things like customer energy efficiency, renewable power and greenhouse gas reductions. And, it is extremely important to quantify the business benefits and growth opportunities of achieving these objectives. There is a real opportunity to support and advance the linkage between economic growth and environmental protection. I think it has been borne out in a lot of what PG&E has done; sharing this information more widely will drive others to follow.