Corporate Services Lead
Energy and Sustainability Services
As I talk to companies around the country, I’m hearing a single refrain about what we could do most to improve the impact of real estate and facilities sustainability efforts: adoption.
By adoption, I mean the ability to take a project that worked in one part of the portfolio and do that project again and again to create the financial and environmental payback that comes from scale. Like when Wal*Mart de-lamped vending machines in its break rooms and saved a million dollars in energy.
More and more, the sustainability managers in our workplaces are suffering less from the ability to come up with good ideas. What they need now is delivery. Fortunately, this is where Corporate Real Estate (CRE) departments have a real advantage. Corporate real estate teams are used to the idea of having to reach out to facilities around the globe.
An effective sustainability program should be a combination of basic operating standards, high-gain projects, and the occasional major investment. You can’t run your whole sustainability program on solar power (not any time soon, anyway) – only a handful of locations are probably good candidates for solar. But if you can globally deploy controls, behavior changes, and space design standards that minimize the demand for real estate, that is real change.
So how do we achieve adoption? This is where change management comes in. Better to have 95% adoption of good ideas than 5% adoption of amazing ideas! Your program needs infrastructure to spread knowledge about what works, to incent good behavior, and to monitor performance via good data. Are your leaders engaged? Have you assigned accountabilities and decision-rights?
One of my clients realized early on that the key to success across a global portfolio was to build assessment tools and to work with his company’s leaders to develop the business case for their action plans. He built a library of how-to’s – for everything from fixing air leaks to preventive maintenance to re-lamping to cogen (and, yes, even solar). He built a database of advice and is taking the program on the road via key stakeholders. His company won’t hire an army of managers to cover the globe (and I suspect yours won’t, either). But by working smart, he gets leverage.
Every corporate sustainability report I read has good examples of one-off projects at this or that facility. But to drive real change with even a single project of any complexity, I count on 2 full years of careful stakeholder engagement. With accountable leadership and support, that is how we will win this battle.