A Day in the Life of RMI

A sunny, clear sky, unobstructed views of Mount Sopris, and the sprawling 900-plus acre Windstar Land Conservancy (home of RMI’s Snowmass office) welcomed fifteen friends, supporters and collaborators to a two-day event, “A Day in the Life of RMI.”

The event offered participants clear insight into issues RMI is tackling, and an opportunity to work in a spirit of authentic co-creation.

“Our work doesn’t lend itself to sound bites. It’s more complicated than that, and it’s more important than that,” said Michael Potts, RMI CEO, as he welcomed the intimate group.  “For this reason, we wanted to bring this group together to engage around the tough issues we will face as we prepare to launch our most ambitious work yet.”

This ambitious undertaking is Reinventing Fire, RMI’s forthcoming book. But, as RMI Consultant Eric Maurer explained, “Reinventing Fire” is far more than just a book—rather, it is a vision and collection of initiatives to get the U.S. off fossil fuels by 2050, by focusing on the four most energy intensive sectors.

“Reinventing Fire does more than lay out a vision,” Maurer said. “It is about catalyzing change toward that vision. That’s why we are leveraging the power of business, and changing the mindset of the people who make the rules, to lead the transition to a future powered by efficiency and renewables.”

A key theme arose: risk. Transforming design, busting barriers and spreading the innovations that dramatically enhance efficiency require industry leaders to rethink their basic business models.

So why would a business leader tackle this thorny problem in the first place?  

“Amory Lovins has historically argued that it’s not about motivations, it’s about outcomes,” Potts said. “And, in this spirit, we see four compelling reasons to transition to the U.S. off fossil fuels—the economy, the environment, national security, and restoring U.S. competitive advantage.”

When the question, “What is your primary motivator?” was posed to the group, a vast majority by show of hands indicated that they were compelled most by protecting the environment for future generations (it was not hard to argue with this consensus given the landscape outside). However, in the free market where cash is king, all agreed that creating enduring economic advantage was the most powerful motivator for business leaders.

“Many of us feel a personal motivation to help create a better world, and truly care about the macro-economic picture in regards to the environment, and national security and competitiveness,” said Brad Mushovic, RMI’s VP of marketing and communications “But Reinventing Fire is just as compelling from the micro-economic perspective. Through both research and our consulting work we show that efficiency makes good business sense.”

Many of the participants were impressed at the depth of analysis. “As you send Reinventing Fire into the world and engage the stakeholders that play a role in making this change a reality,” one commented, “you need to give them some of the tools to spread your message. So often sustainability mission statements are diametrically opposed to a company’s operations.”

All agreed that—in spite of tackling four extremely diverse sectors—the concepts that provide the backbone of Reinventing Fire are very universal and applicable. “If we can influence major corporations to adopt even a few of the key components and build them into their own strategies,” said another participant, “then we will have a big impact in how energy is generated and used in the future.”