Innovate To Thrive
Story By: Brian Elvir
Photo Courtesy of Edison
CEO of Edison, Pedro Pizarro, leads the California’s energy industry with bold leadership. His vision is to create a new wave of transition from greenhouse gas into clean energy, as well as a new wave of Latino talent in energy.
The name “Edison” is one that is connected most to the foundation of the United States energy industry. Since 1889, Edison has been at the forefront of electricity distribution and central to the development of a public works infrastructure. For more than 130 years, Edison International has defined innovation in the U.S. energy industry concurrent to the country’s technical and economic challenges stemming from long-distance power management to the Great Depression.
Continuing with that trend, Edison International’s President and CEO Pedro Pizarro is currently leading the company to contend with a new wave of challenges presented by climate change and high population growth.
Granted these are not the only challenges that CEO Pedro Pizarro has faced. During his childhood Pizarro suffered from debilitation back pain that required multiple surgeries. Surviving was a humbling experience that he feels taught him “flexibility and resilience.” Another hardship he has faced is climbing the U.S. corporate ladder given its long-established bias towards minorities. For example, the Alliance for Board Diversity points out that as recently as 2016 minorities account for less than 15% of Fortune 500 board seats.
Being a Hispanic from Puerto Rico, Pizarro feels that “diversity of thought” is important in leadership and key for innovation to thrive. He therefore hires his executive team from various backgrounds and trains them how to understand and neutralize unconscious bias. Pizarro’s group also developed LEAD, a program that provides employment and supports upward mobility to Latinos at Edison. To guarantee they hire the country’s best talent, Edison’s Scholar program awards $40,000 scholarships to 30 of the most excelling high school students in the South California area, many of which come from Latino immigrants and the first in their families to attend college.
Pizarro’s own upbringing illustrates diversity as essential to effective leadership. His parents had counterbalancing personalities; his father being introverted while mother more extroverted. Pizarro feels that they directly influenced his leadership style and his “approach is colored by them.”
He routinely encourages his team to give candid feedback and promotes constructive debate as a deterrent to cultural prejudices in the workforce.
Pizarro’s focus on diversity is evident in his educational and work portfolio as well. He graduated from Harvard University with a Ph. D. in chemistry and has experience across all types of industries, including management consulting, business development and operations.
Pizarro finds that his scientific background and various management roles have given him a unique perspective which he shares and encourages at Edison International.
The main challenge Pizarro and his team are confronting at Edison International is the transition to a clean energy future. California is enacting an aggressive strategy to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) and significantly cut emissions 40% lower than in 1990 by the year 2030. Efficiency plans are being implemented to modernize California’s grid in support of electrified buildings and vehicles as well as a customizable interface to allow customers more control over energy consumption.
Presently Edison International is taking on the statewide challenge of its recent wildfire epidemic. Pizarro asserts that, “the impacts of climate change like prolonged drought and increased severity of weather events have exacerbated the problem.” Similarly, the devastation of Hurricane Maria in his native island of Puerto Rico is directly linked to this climate change. Pizarro and a team of 5,500 workers from Edison Electric Institute are helping in restoration efforts.