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Blog Post

Our Climate Journey with Kavitha Kadambi

“Sustainability, to me, is about making good, environmentally-friendly choices accessible to all, not just the select few.”

Kavitha Kadambi
Associate General Counsel

Kavitha, Associate General Counsel for Zum, brings 15+ years of corporate generalist, public procurement, and commercial legal experience. She joined Zum in 2023 and works closely with cross-functional teams to help the company achieve its objectives while identifying and mitigating risk.

1. Sustainability

At Zum, we’re revolutionizing student transportation in order to build a green, sustainable future. What does sustainability mean to you?

To me, sustainability is all about making long-term, environmentally-friendly changes as easy and as mindless as possible. If everyday decisions are too difficult, we simply won’t make them on a daily basis, and we have to.

For instance, when I buy new clothes, I look for something that’s responsibly made, with sustainable materials. I’m fortunate that I have the resources to make those decisions—but responsible-made, sustainable clothes are more pricey and options are limited. For half of my career, I worked at big law firms. In those roles, there’s a certain dress code, but it was harder to find suits, heels, etc. that were both affordable and made the right way. At Zum we have a less formal dress code, which makes it easier for me to keep a wardrobe inline with my values. But I am aware that not everyone has that option. So sustainability, to me, is about making good, environmentally-friendly choices accessible to all, not just the select few.

At Zum, I’m proud that we’re doing that—we’re not just serving wealthy communities, but school districts in all different states and families from all backgrounds. In fact, the families that use public transportation are often some of the more disadvantaged, so Zum is making safe, efficient, clean-powered transportation more accessible. That’s sustainability to me.

2. Climate Change

Climate change is the single greatest threat to our way of life, but it can sometimes feel abstract, far away, a problem for another time. How has climate change affected you personally?

Well, I was born and raised in California, but a few years ago, I was living in Austin, Texas when the state had a big power crisis. You may have read about it in the news: winter storms triggered the worst energy infrastructure failure in the state’s history. Un-winterized natural gas infrastructure, as well as wind turbines, caused a failure of Texas’s power grid (which is separate from the national grid and not subject to federal regulation). Millions of people were without power. People died, and the failure cost Texas billions of dollars.

Weather patterns are getting more intense, but the bigger issue here was a lack of sufficient energy infrastructure. That’s something that we, as a society, are going to have to address, or things like this will continue to happen. It’s not enough to simply invest in clean energy: we need a resilient enough grid that can weather similar storms.

Thankfully, Zum is contributing to this effort as well, by deploying buses equipped with V2G charging technology. Once our electric buses are out there, they’ll be able to plug back into the grid and supply power to the local grid when they’re not in use. Ultimately, that lowers peak power demand and can help strengthen the grid if there is ever another emergency.

3. Leadership

What can Zum do to be a leader in sustainability, to spearhead the charge in the fight against climate change?

Having worked at many companies before Zum, not all of which have really been dedicated to a mission, it’s nice to see Zum walk the talk. One of the core values here is quality—doing things the right way—and I really see that from all the employees. People care about the way things get done, whether that’s the drivers or the employees at the yards.

At a high level, I think the best thing we can do is keep innovating and driving the industry forward. We’re setting the example for all other transportation companies. When we prove the value of electrifying our fleets, they’ll electrify theirs. When we turn buses into mobile batteries, others will do it, too. These actions, in aggregate, help drive things in the right direction.