December 9, 2011 - From the December, 2011 issue

WindMade Connects Consumer Demand with the Energy Behind Production and Operations

WindMade is the first global consumer label identifying products and companies made with wind energy. As consumer consciousness grows, programs like WindMade aim to raise corporate investment in renewables by growing demand through highlighting production and operations information. TPR is pleased to present the following interview with Robyn Beavers, the project manager of WindMade and part of the Emerging Segments division of Denmark-based Vestas.

Robyn Beavers

"WindMade is really bridging the gap between the companies who procure wind energy for their operations and the consumers who want more choice of renewables" Robyn Beavers

What led Vestas to create Windmade, an independent nonprofit?

WindMade is the world’s first global consumer label for companies and products that use wind electricity. Vestas started to notice two trends. One was that non-traditional customers for wind, mainly some business-to-consumer brands or business-to-business brands, were starting to become more proactive in procuring wind energy. Two, we also started noticing that more and more customers wanted to buy products that are made with responsible and clean energy.  Vestas then collected a bunch of data from companies and consumers around the world and the data showed that our hypotheses were indeed correct.

WindMade is really bridging the gap between the companies who procure wind energy for their operations and the consumers who want more choice of renewables; it’s a label that companies can earn through third party certification and which they can start using to communicate their clean energy investments in a clear and tangible way to their stakeholders.

What is Windmade’s market strategy to realize the label’s potential? 

Vestas, one of the world’s largest wind energy companies, brought in founding partners from around the world to build credibility for the WindMade brand. Bloomberg, PricewaterhouseCoopers, the United Nations Global Compact, WWF (which is the leading sustainability NGO in the world), and Lego are all founding partners. Each of these stakeholders represents one piece of this story and movers behind the growth of renewable energy and so we came together and created an independent nonprofit that is based in Europe to get the process rolling. The idea was born in Vestas, and Vestas was a funder and cheerleader, but it was a collective partnership that made it happen.

What are the metrics that will confirm WindMade success?

The metrics change over time. We wanted to build a movement, and we were trying to build a consumer movement to shift our dollars towards companies that are into wind electricity and other renewables. Our first area of focus was getting our diverse stakeholders who have aligned incentive. We all had to want the same thing: more renewable energy in the world. Then we had to agree to work together to deliver results. We pooled together a group of leading sustainability experts to develop a technical standard, and we made sure that standard was credible and smart. It needed to be built on a consensus, and it needed to be something that everyone around the world from several different industries would be okay with, which is hard to do.

The most recent and important metric was getting the first global brand to sign up to become wind made. Our initial goal was five global brands, and we got 15. The next metric going forward was having a significant number of labels out there and the consumers actually reading the labels and responding to it. My dream is that WindMade will one day be able to start measuring and connecting the amount of new clean megawatt-hours resulting from a company’s involvement with WindMade while linking those MWh’s to actual consumer purchases. Collecting hard data that shows that more people buy more things made with wind will be a powerful argument in favor of companies to procure clean energy for their operations.

Are there analogous initiatives/labels that inspired and influenced how Windmade was launched?

We were aware of the different types of labels, but we noticed about every 10 years there was one really solid label that everyone knew. There are the three arrows for recycling, the no testing on animals bunny, and then the most recent one is fair trade, which is literally a global standard for fair trade standards.

Elaborate on the 15 companies you brought together to collectively pioneer Windmade?

We call them WindMade pioneers. They all represent different industries, and I think they showcase the broad spectrum of industries that care about what types of electricity they procure and are actually doing something about it. We had, for example, Deutsche Bank, representing the financial industry. We had Motorola Mobility, talking about the mobile world. We have a stylish hearing aide company from Denmark; we had a wool and textile company from Uruguay. We had our first WindMade solar company, G24 Innovations, which has one huge wind turbine parked right next to its manufacturing facilities in Wales. Lego, Bloomberg, Vestas, and PWC were all WindMade pioneers and founding partners. We had Method Home Products, a stylish cleaning products company. It was a really exciting and eclectic showing.

You were using your WindMade Pioneer launch in New York City recently to brand WindMade. How would you judge its success?

It was a crucial launch that added credibility to our initiative. We can consider it a success off our press hits, news stories printed, and also quality of what they were saying. We had a large write up in the Financial Times, Bloomberg, and Fox news.  Overall it was an even split between business media and the general sustainability blogs.


WindMade is also a community. It was great to have all our pioneers all in one place to start sharing best practices. Some of us have windmills next to our factories; some are procuring green credentials through voluntary markets; some are signing power purchase agreements. It was a community-building event for this group of pioneers that will hopefully foster more interesting and aggressive growth for corporate renewable energy procurement.

Elaborate on the challenges of creating a recognizable and valued label on a global scale.

The global nature is the hardest part, but it is also why this is so needed. If you are a company and you keep operations in several countries, you usually have different energy contracts in different countries. In terms of procuring renewable energy, it can be very diverse as to what your options are. In Mexico, power purchase agreements are your best option; in the US there is the voluntary market. Europe has had wind power forever, so they are more comfortable with putting up a windmill here and there. But this remains different and confusing, and you need to know currency exchange rates across different markets to really understand if that clean energy you’re procuring is really contributing to growth and is actually clean and sustainable. To meet our objectives, WindMade’s technical standard is more performance-based than prescriptive; our criteria outline how our certifiers can evaluate the energy produced through various methods in different markets and then they combine it into one percentage that is relevant anywhere in the world.  Receiving approval on the technical standard to a lot of hard work from our collected group of experts, lots of public feedback, and some test runs.

What do you believe will lead the consumer market to accept Windmade as credible?

We’ve made sure it’s a credible label and it’s not ‘greenwashing’. WindMade is supported by great brands, and now we are just making sure it catches on. There are different ways to engage people with the label, through social media and creating a network of partners. Our best advocates are our partners; many of them are the best consumer advocate experts in the world. It is a lot of work, but it can be done.

What tasks remain before Windmade is deemed a market success?

The biggest task ahead is getting companies certified. It is complicated at first, and we need to make sure they understand how it works. There’s a lot of grunt work. We want to make sure we are signing up companies all over the world. As I mentioned before, every country has its own renewable energy procurement options and systems, so it is hard to get various global players on the same page when we initially reach out to them.

The second challenge is we also need to activate the consumer market all over the world. We want people to be excited about WindMade, demanding it more, and providing the true reward to our members: increased revenue and brand value from their customers.

Regarding background, Robyn, what experiences have you had that have been beneficial in launching Windmade?

I have taken business school marketing classes, and I happen also to be working under one of the most brilliant marketing minds I’ve encountered, the Chief Marketing Officer Vestas, Morten Albæk. Windmade has had a good vision and required a lot of creativity from strategic, execution, and marketing angles. I was learning every day. 

But at the end of the day, the success of something like this still comes back to rolling up the sleeves, working hard, listening, and being determined to push it through. When you start with a new idea and are asking other parties to do something they haven’t done before, it’s a journey you take together. It was a true partnership exercise so I learned a lot about cross-industry collaboration.

In closing, you clearly have had quite an education in sustainability. You worked to reform Stanford’s civil engineering program to align more with sustainability. Then you worked for Google; then Stanford’s business school; and, now Vestas and Windmade. Share what have you learned regarding 'real' sustainability?

I’ve learned that delivering results is the most powerful persuasion method possible. You have got to show and prove. There are so many great technologies and tools out there so the real innovation need now is creative problem solving and find the right combinations of these tools.  I truly believe that, especially when it comes to sustainability, you have to keep showing and delivering results, working hard, and never assume something can’t happen.


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