December 8th, 2009
Olympic Rower, head of the Conservation Law Foundation, Super-secretary of Commonwealth Development under Mitt Romney, and now head of Serrafix, Doug Foy has been a trailblazer since his first stroke. With his nuanced background combining law, policy, and private industry, Doug’s career has all the trappings of a “g(re)enius.” Sitting down with Doug in person to get a better handle on the hip and fairly ambiguous notion of “sustainability,” Doug’s hour of insight gave material enough for an entire week’s worth of digestion.
Sustainability: Before the language of sustainability, there was the language of litigation. Decades of legal battles paved the way for future policy and business strategies to emerge. As an example, Foy mentions his participation in the 1983 Boston Harbor cleanup—noting how the case really “triggered” the whole concept of sustainable thinking. Urban initiatives such as Boulder’s Smart City and Renew Boston are coming together as the sustainable face of cities, the roots of which, indeed, began with litigation.
RGGI – a Benchmark for National Cap & Trade: Instrumental in developing the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) during his tenure as Secretary of Commonwealth Development, Foy’s work backs his belief that states are laboratories of innovation. Refusing to wait for Washington, Foy took action at the state level and crafted RGGI, now recognized as the standard for Washington to (hopefully) surpass with a future emission reduction program at the national level. Interestingly, RGGI engaged EU support prior to that of the federal government. Doug recalls confronting the foreign notion of the U.S. as a federal monolith, eventually gaining EU support by pointing to the fact that, at the time, RGGI and its Western counterparts accounted for 2/3 of U.S. GDP. In RGGI, Foy and his team provided the U.S. government with a standard that has turned out to be a success story. We will have to wait until the spring of 2010 to see whether Congress will choose to build off RGGI’s platform.
View with CO2: The future of sustainability must come from an integrated base, which is to say, state and federal agencies must communicate with one another. Sustainability requires both intra- and inter-agency communication such that sustainable initiatives from one agency are not offset by inefficient policies of another. In Foy’s view, the best way to facilitate communication is to employ a common CO2 lens. Today, many of these large agencies – DOE, HUD, DOT, to name a few – function like silos: unable to see the lateral effects their policies have on fellow agencies. The path to a sustainable future lies in the effective integration of state and federal policy in terms of energy efficiency and reduction. Thus, Doug recommends every initiative be scrutinized through a common CO2 lens to ensure that policies at both the state and federal level work symbiotically toward the shared goal of a sustainable future.
The Take-away? Learning how to grow with less will mean learning how to listen with more.