Coline Roux joined ecobee as senior sustainability manager in late 2022. Now that she has had time to settle into the role, we interviewed her to learn more about her job and ecobee’s planet positive efforts.
ecobee Citizen: Can you tell us a bit about why you chose to join ecobee?
Coline: ecobee is a dream place to work for me. You can be a sustainability manager at a bank, insurance company, or even an oil and gas company. At ecobee, you get to do that same job, but working for a company that helps people save energy and reduce their carbon emissions. I also get to interact with passionate people who joined ecobee for the same reason I did: its planet positive mission to improve everyday life, while creating a more sustainable world.
I think that one of the things that makes this role at ecobee unique for me is that we focus more on our environmental and social actions and our impact, rather than on reporting and communication. One of the questions we often ask ourselves is, "What would be awesome?” This goes back to ecobee's origin of looking for a simple, cost-effective way to help people easily reduce their home energy use. The company didn't need to follow the trend and go green. As one employee put it, "we were green before green was cool."
I believe our products will continue to bring new innovations to save more energy and use energy when it is cleanest.
ecobee Citizen: What are the main sustainability themes that ecobee focuses on?
Coline: There are so many. In fact, one of my first tasks was to identify and consolidate all the initiatives that had been launched, both at the corporate level and by employees. “Ecopeeps”, as we refer to them internally, often take time out of their busy schedules to organize volunteer events with community partners, work on proposals for the company's long-term vision, or create an internal newsletter on sustainability from scratch.
There are three main pillars within ecobee’s Planet Positive mission:
- Energy Conservation encapsulates how our products empower customers to reduce their impact on the environment by saving energy. To date, our customers have saved 27.8 TWh of energy, which is enough to take all of the homes in the cities of Los Angeles and Chicago off the grid for a year.
- Sustainability Built-In relates to the footprint of our products and operations, from manufacturing to packaging to shipping.
- Social Impact is all about impact on our communities, from our HQ in Toronto, to where we sell our thermostats, to where we have utility partnerships, and where we manufacture our products.
The average lifespan of an ecobee thermostat is 4x longer than a smartphone, or over 10 years.
ecobee Citizen: Can you give examples of some key initiatives?
Coline: Energy conservation often refers to our smart thermostats and software, and how they enable people to automatically save energy when they aren’t home, but it goes beyond that. For example, through our Community Energy Savings feature, customers can help bolster the power grid during peak periods and avoid potential power outages by reducing load demands.
Within the Sustainability Built-In pillar, the first step is to build products that last. Electronic waste (or e-waste) is a growing challenge for the environment. Planned obsolescence, including frequent upgrade cycles, contribute to high replacement rates of electronic devices that end up in the landfill. The most recent United Nation’s data indicates the world generated a staggering 53.6 Mt (million metric tons) of e-waste in 2019, which is growing by an average of 2 Mt a year.
To fight this issue, ecobee designs devices that last. The average lifespan of an ecobee thermostat is 4x longer than a smartphone, or over 10 years. We achieve this partly through a “one million cycle test”. Through extensive thermostat testing in our lab, we simulate a full 10 years of turning your heat on and off, which amounts to subjecting the thermostat to turning the furnace on and off over 1 million times. The first ecobee smart thermostat was released in 2009 and some are still in customers’ homes to this day.
Our multipurpose smart home devices are also designed to offer more value so that you can buy less. We ensure easy disassembly and repair and resell thousands of thermostats annually through our certified refurbished program. Finally, we develop smaller packaging and use more compostable materials, such as tapioca starch trays in our newest smart thermostat boxes.
Our Social Impact focus is equally important to the two other pillars. Our Donate Your Data program allows over 200,000 ecobee customers to share anonymized thermostat data with hundreds of researchers around the globe who are studying how to create a more sustainable and healthier future for communities.
And through our Income Qualified (IQ) program, ecobee partners with utilities to donate thermostats to families who struggle to pay their utility bills.
ecobee Citizen: What is your vision for ecobee’s sustainability efforts in the future?
Coline: I believe our products will continue to bring new innovations to save more energy and use energy when it is cleanest. We will also continue to strengthen our voice as a clean energy advocate. We will continue to move forward by incorporating sustainability as a key element in new product development from day one, including more recycled content, eliminating what is not absolutely necessary, and thinking about the entire lifecycle of our products, from the consumption of the servers hosting the data to end-of-life recycling programs. I also see ecobee as being increasingly involved with community partners, in an effort to combine our strengths to get people to act.
More generally, we often say that “the more we grow, the greener it gets”. I think the implication is not only the more homes that save energy, but also that the more ecobee becomes a major player, the more we will be able to influence the technology industry toward more sustainable practices.
Finally, we will continue working on formalizing our long-term vision and objectives and to build a greener future, hand in hand with our parent company, Generac.
The more we grow, the greener it gets.
ecobee Citizen: Any other thoughts you want to share with us?
Coline: I learned that for the Inca people, Pachamama, Mother Earth, is a goddess who provides food, support, and shelter to its inhabitants. I like this way of seeing things. I personally think, like International Women's Day, that Earth Day should be celebrated every day, but I am in favor of key moments where people can reflect on "what I, personally, am doing to help make our planet a better place." Earth Day is 53 years old this year. Let's hope that each year pushes more and more people to take action against climate change.
To learn more about sustainability at ecobee, visit our Sustainability page.
About Coline Roux
Coline Roux specializes in sustainability and climate change strategy. She is passionate about helping organizations make business a force for good, maximizing their environmental and social impact while ensuring sustainable growth. Coline has spent the last 15 years working between Europe and Canada. She joined ecobee as Senior Sustainability Manager in 2022.
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