Helping Companies Avoid ‘One Size Fits All’ Approach to Sustainability Solutions

In a new business venture, OnePointFive, Neil Yeoh ’20 MEM is building a multidisciplinary team of experts that can create tailored strategies to a company’s unique, and complex, sustainability challenges.
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Neil Yeoh leads a workshop during a Climate Braintrust event at the World Economic Forum’s San Francisco office in 2018. 
Neil Yeoh ’20 M.E.M. understands as well as anyone that solving the world’s sustainability challenges will require experts working together across many disciplines. Over the past decade, he has examined these problems from a few different perspectives: as an engineer, as a management consultant, and, more recently, as an investor in climate solutions. 
 
Last year, wanting to further expand the range of his expertise, Yeoh enrolled in the Yale School of the Environment’s (YSE) midcareer degree program, hoping specifically to deepen his understanding of climate science and policy. 
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Neil Yeoh ’20 M.E.M.
But even armed with those additional skills, he knows that no one person has all the answers. That’s why Yeoh recently launched OnePointFive — whose name refers to the 1.5-degree C warming target that experts say society must stay within to avoid the worst global climate impacts.
 
The business model for OnePointFIve differs from traditional sustainability advisory models in that it recruits experts from many disciplines to help companies achieve their own sustainability goals. Many firms try to hire employees or sustainability teams with a “breadth and depth” of experience in order to address a variety of challenges, Yeoh says.
 
“This is costly and presents a human capital challenge when certain skillsets cannot be found.”
 
Not every client has the same needs, he says. Depending on their sustainability goals, some are looking for chemistry expertise, and/or finance help. Others are looking for data science insights, and/or systems design. OnePointFive aims to offer experts who can provide these more customized, more relevant services.
 
“A lot of the solutions needed to create systemic change will require cross-disciplinary, flexible experts,” he says. “With OnePointFive I wanted to assemble the right talent to partner with organizations as sustainability-experts-in-residence to develop and execute sustainable solutions.”

For instance, one of the company’s first clients was a skincare company that required expertise in green chemistry and ingredient sourcing in order to achieve its sustainability goals. “We have been able to pre-vet and mobilize professionals who provide a particular expertise and who, as a result, produce better results,” Yeoh says.
If there’s a strong market we could eventually become a marketplace for sustainability experts — a matchmaker for solutions.
— Neil Yeoh
This leaner approach is particularly resonant now, he says, as companies are facing potential budget shortfalls and many more people are working remotely. 
 
During his professional career and while working with clients as a Yale student, Yeoh says he frequently found that many companies simply weren’t equipped to achieve their sustainability goals, whether it was materials sourcing or managing climate risks. Some might’ve had the engineering or science expertise but lacked the expertise to make the finances work, while others had business expertise but came up with solutions that weren’t based in good science.
 
In one Yale class, for instance, he produced a cost-benefit analysis for a footwear company on the use of recycled polyester. That experience, Yeoh says, illustrated just how much progress needs to be made on the marriage of business and the environment — even in large, well-established multinational corporations. 
 
So far, the OnePointFive team is comprised of 10 experts from different disciplinary backgrounds, including biomimicry, environmental engineering, design, data science, communications, corporate strategy, and finance. (The group includes graduates at YSE, Yale School of Management, and Yale School of Engineering & Applied Science) Yeoh hopes to double the team in the next phase of growth
 
“I believe that clients deserve the right talent to solve their particular sustainability challenges, without overpaying for expertise that does not fit their needs,” he says. “If there’s a strong market we could eventually become a marketplace for sustainability experts — a matchmaker for solutions.”

To learn more about OnePointFive, visit the website.
– Kevin Dennehy    kevin.dennehy@yale.edu    203 436-4842
 
PUBLISHED: July 27, 2020
 
Note: Yale School of the Environment (YSE) was formerly known as the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies (F&ES). News articles posted prior to July 1, 2020, refer to the School's name at that time.