Case Study Companies

The report, Business of Innovating: Bringing Low-Carbon Solutions to Market, features in-depth case studies of eight low-carbon innovations from four multinational corporations:

Alstom SA

Alstom’s history, dating back to 1928, is that of “an industrial and technological adventure which has continually carried the Group towards excellence.” Today, Alstom Power engineers, manufactures, and constructs power plants and their various components, including boilers, turbines, generators, and auxiliary equipment. Close to 25 percent of the world’s electric power generation capacity relies on Alstom technology and services. Alstom Transport develops and markets the most complete range of systems, equipment, and services in the railway sector,including record-breaking very high-speed rail (reaching 357 miles per hour (mph)). Headquartered in Levallois- Perret, France, Alstom has more than 96,000 employees in over 70 countries. Sales in Fiscal 2010 totaled nearly €21 billion ($29.8 billion), of which Alstom Power represented €11.7 billion ($16.6 billion) and Alstom Transport €5.6 billion ($7.9 billion).

In response to (and to some degree in anticipation of) the demand for deep reductions in fossil fuel carbon emissions, Alstom has devoted considerable resources to pioneering alternative, and specifically low-carbon, energy solutions. The company spent €700 million ($993.2 million) on research and development (R&D) in 2010 and expects to continue this high level of investment, focusing on key low-carbon technologies in Alstom’s Power Sector business (carbon capture and storage, renewables), in its Transport Sector (new very high-speed rail platform, products for developing countries), and its Grid business (ultra high voltage and smart grids).

The main drivers of Alstom’s focus on the environment come from a combination of market forces— customers defining the environmental solutions they need today and in the future; the broader societal mandate for all companies to behave in a responsible fashion towards the environment; and, in some countries, regulatory mandates to reduce carbon emissions. This focus is evidenced by actions and energy solutions rolled out over the last decade, including Alstom’s $130 million investment in solar power company BrightSource Energy and joint construction of the 392 megawatt (MW) Ivanpah project in California’s Mojave Desert—the world’s largest solar power plant under construction today. Alstom is also conducting numerous development projects leveraging its proven technologies in wind turbines, transmission and distribution technologies, hydropower, and nuclear energy. Alstom publicly supports smart international climate and energy policy that would stabilize and reduce GHG emissions, and promote additional investment in low-carbon innovations.

Learn more about Alstom, by reading the full case study.


Daimler AG

Daimler AG is one of the world’s largest producers of passenger vehicles (cars and light-duty trucks), freight trucks, and buses. The company pioneered diesel engine technology in the 19th century and today is developing new diesel engine advances that reduce air pollution and emissions and increase fuel economy.

The company was built on a merger between two of the companies that originally founded the automotive industry. Daimler Motoren Gesellschaft (DMG) was founded by Gottlieb Daimler and Wilhelm Maybach in 1890 to build small, high-speed vehicle engines based on a stationary engine technology developed by Nikolaus Otto. Benz & Co. was founded in 1883 by Karl Benz, widely considered the “inventor” of the automobile for having created the Motorwagen, which was patented on January 29, 1886 as the first “automobile fueled by gasoline.” (Previous automobiles were steam-powered modified carriages or coaches). Benz patented his work first and then patented all of the processes that made the ICE feasible for use in automobiles.

Diesel engines, first introduced by Rudolf Diesel in 1897, have an inherent efficiency advantage over gasoline engines. With a thermal efficiency five to seven times greater than competing steam engines, these engines were rapidly adopted for a wide variety of industrial uses. Diesel engines use diesel fuel, which has a higher energy content than gasoline (10 percent more energy per unit volume), and use compression (rather than a spark) to ignite the fuel. Between 1910 and 1940, diesel engines were adapted for use in commercial and passenger vehicles; in 1924, Benz and Daimler partnered to build the diesel engine for the first commercial vehicles (two years before they merged to become Daimler-Benz) and introduced the first commercially successful diesel passenger car in 1936.

Daimler AG, 125 years later, is still one of the world’s most successful automotive companies. In 2010, it sold 1.9 million vehicles, employed more than 260,000 people, and had revenues of $97.8 billion ($140.8 billion). Daimler is working on next-generation vehicle technologies and has enhanced its passenger car, van, and bus fleets with these innovations. Its heavy research and development (R&D) investment has resulted in demonstrated breakthroughs in alternative drive technologies such as the B-Class F-CELL, the Concept Blue Zero E-CELL PLUS, and the Vision S 500 Plug-in HYBRID. Since the end of 2009, Daimler has produced about 200 of the B-Class F-CELL hydrogen fuel cell vehicles, placing them in customers’ hands in Germany and the United States at the end of 2010.

Through innovations in its current vehicle and engine technologies, Daimler intends to reduce CO2 emissions in its European car fleet by nearly 40 percent from 1995 levels by 2012, and 45 percent by 2016. In its trucking business, Daimler Vision 2020 sets a goal of reducing carbon emissions by 20 percent by 2020.

For a maker of premium cars, balancing regulatory compliance with the preferences of its primary customer base for luxury, exceptional quality, safety, service, acceleration, and high performance is not easy. But rising consumer demand for environmentally sensitive luxury cars and unprecedented fuel prices at the pump—along with increasingly strict emission standards—have encouraged Daimler to take a long view of the technological alternatives that would meet market and regulatory demands over the coming decades. As a leader in automotive innovation, Daimler looks to achieve dramatic growth, in part, by significantly improving the fuel efficiency of the almost two million vehicles it sells each year, reducing GHG emissions and helping customers save money. The BlueTEC diesel engine system and the Freightliner Cascadia commercial truck design represent two solutions that emerged from Daimler’s commitment to meeting future emission requirements.

Learn more about Daimler, by reading the full case study.



Hewlett-Packard is arguably the most successful garage startup in history. Founded in 1939 by Stanford classmates Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard out of a garage in Palo Alto (a spot that now boasts a California historical registry plaque as the “birthplace of Silicon Valley”), HP has grown to become the world’s largest information and communications technology (ICT) company. In 2011, it ranked 11th in the Fortune 500, with more than 320,000 employees in 170 countries and revenues of $126 billion.

HP develops and manufactures computing, data storage, networking hardware, software, and ICT services. The company’s product lines include personal computing (PC) devices, enterprise servers, related storage devices, and a diverse array of printers and other imaging products. The company ships more than one million printers per week, 48 million PC units per year, and one in every three servers sold worldwide. Like many successful technology companies, HP has widely changed its product and service offerings over the years, driven less by any particular “core offering” (HP’s first product was an audio oscillator for use by sound engineers) and more by the need to
continuously innovate in a rapidly evolving industry in order to help its customers succeed at what they do.

HP has achieved this success while consistently earning top “Greenest Companies” rankings from Newsweek, among others, and comprehensively linking its brand with its commitment to sustainability. Today, the company is committed to reducing the GHG emissions from owned and leased facilities to 20 percent below 2005 levels by 2013 on an absolute basis. HP continues to take responsibility for all of its products at the end of their functional life, and increasingly designs every new product to make it easier to reuse or recycle parts. Collaborating with the Lavergne Group, HP has kept more than 210 million HP ink cartridges out of landfills, while manufacturing more than one billion new ink cartridges with recycled plastic content. This alone has brought a 22 percent reduction in the carbon footprint of HP’s manufacturing processes. Combining HP’s culture with its sheer volume of product (in 2010, HP shipped an estimated 3.5 products per second), and it becomes clear that few other technology companies have the same opportunity to capitalize on low carbon-innovations with a similar scale and scope.

It is estimated that the ICT industry can apply its technology and expertise to cut global GHG emissions by as much as five times their own direct impact in this same timeframe. To achieve such meaningful GHG reductions, low-carbon innovations from these companies will need to target carbon reductions both in their own sector as well as to generate a range of valuable innovations targeting energy and emissions reductions in other industries.

As the ICT sector’s impact on global carbon emissions has become clearer, HP has directed considerable time, talent, and resources to better understanding its products’ carbon footprints in use and to do what it can—a constantly evolving set of possibilities—to reduce those footprints. This includes the specific goal to reduce the energy consumption and associated GHG emissions of all its products to 40 percent below 2005 levels by the end of 2011, a target the company achieved in March of 2011.

One of HP’s stated objectives is to use ICT to “replace carbon-heavy behaviors and industries with alternatives that will use less energy and generate less carbon—all while increasing productivity and lowering costs.”7 To accomplish these goals, HP had to rethink the role its products play in its customers’ overall business processes. Two low-carbon innovations at HP illustrate the potential for this rethinking: Visual Collaboration, which addresses a new opportunity for reducing customers’ costs and carbon footprint, and Managed Print Services, which changes the way printing is done in the business environment.

Learn more about HP, by reading the full case study.


Johnson Controls, Inc.

American journalist and essayist H. L. Mencken wrote: “The man who devised the thermostat…in my private opinion, was a hero comparable to Shakespeare, Michelangelo, or Beethoven.” That man was Warren Johnson, a serial inventor and entrepreneur as well as a conservationist. Of the more than 50 patents he filed, most were for devices that tried to capture otherwise wasted power generated from air, steam, or water pressure. But the invention that launched his now 125-year-old company was a simple electric room thermostat. While a professor in Wisconsin, Johnson installed his “electric tele-thermoscope” in his classrooms to keep students more comfortable—and to end interruptions from the janitor checking the rooms’ temperatures. The invention sparked public awareness, and launched an industry based on optimizing building performance and energy efficiency.

By the 1950s, thermostats were the building and construction industry standard. Large buildings had hundreds of thermostats, valves, dampers, and other control devices, each of which had to be checked for optimal performance several times a day. In 1956, Johnson Service Company introduced the pneumatic control center, which made it possible to monitor all of a facility’s temperature control devices from one location. During the 1960s, the company expanded its technological capabilities through a series of acquisitions, including refrigeration and heating controls manufacturer Penn Controls in 1968, with plants and subsidiaries in Canada, the Netherlands, Argentina, and Japan. In 1972, Johnson introduced the first mini-computer system dedicated to building control, which could reduce fuel use by as much as 30 percent—a much-needed innovation as oil prices began to rise. In 1990, the company introduced the Metasys® building management system, which integrates management of a building’s environment, energy use, lighting, fire safety, and security. In its current iteration, the system has Web and wireless connection capabilities. In 2005, the company acquired York International, a global supplier of HVAC and refrigeration equipment and services, effectively doubling Johnson Controls’ Building Efficiency business. Today, Johnson Controls is a leading provider of equipment and controls for HVAC and refrigeration, and of building security systems. The company is also an ESCO, providing an array of cost-effective measures to achieve energy savings (see Sidebar: Johnson Controls’ Building Retrofit Business, next page).

Expanding its technology and manufacturing expertise into the rapidly growing automotive business, the company acquired Globe-Union, the largest U.S. manufacturer of automotive batteries, in 1978. Three years later, company sales surpassed $1 billion. Expansion into the automotive business continued through 1985: The company entered the automotive seating and plastic container industries by acquiring Michigan-based companies Hoover Universal and Ferro Manufacturing, making Johnson Controls the leading independent supplier of automotive seats. The company’s automotive interests evolved from components to seating systems to cockpit modules to complete interiors. The business greatly expanded in 1996 with the acquisition of automotive interiors and electronics maker Prince Automotive. By 2000, Johnson Controls was providing seating, overhead systems, electronics, and door systems for 35 million vehicles each year. The company’s Power Solutions division has been the world’s largest maker of lead-acid automotive batteries since 1985, and a pioneer in advanced battery technology. In a joint venture with French battery company Saft Groupe SA (a leader in high technology lithium-ion batteries), Johnson Controls-Saft is a global producer of lithium-ion cells and batteries for electric drivetrain vehicles.

This case study examines how Johnson Controls brought two low-carbon innovations to market: by developing a new business model to pursue building energy retrofits with a service offering for the private sector, and by developing and mass-producing the innovative start-stop automobile battery.

Learn more about Johnson Controls, by reading the full case study.

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