Return to SIOR Pulse Blog

10 Steps to Sustainability Success

Business Services & Best Practices Market Trends & Analysis Technology & Innovation Societal & Environmental Issues

This article is the first post from SIOR and's joint venture -  Thought Leadership series. Watch for additional articles, as well as upcoming interviews and coverage from SIOR's  conferences, Thought Leadership and SIOR Live.

Every year in the United States commercial organizations spend over $350 billion on energy, and it's estimated that more than $70 billion is wasted due to inefficient buildings, outdated lighting, underperforming HVAC systems and so on. Globally, the total energy spend/money wasted totals are far higher. With such staggering math and projected growth rates in mind, it is quickly evident that sustainability is not a trend but rather an authentic, long-term business driver yielding value creation opportunities, ROI dynamics, market differentiation, enhanced productivity and recruiting, and increasingly, mandated compliance.

Ultimately, we all must engage with sustainability on some level. Moving forward, we will need a baseline competency in the various facets of sustainability (i.e. energy efficiency, environmental sensitivity, electricity, gas, alternative energy sources, supply and demand, pricing, compliance, etc.) as well as an understanding of who the true subject matter experts are and how we can best partner with them when necessary.

No matter what role(s) you play in the CRE world, here are ten low- to no-cost business-friendly yet impactful ways you can engage with sustainability. Success is within your reach!

  1. Establish written organizational Green Guidelines. Several guidelines templates can be located via simple Google search or by contacting various CRE-industry organizations. Have everyone in your firm read and abide by them. Publish them and let your respective customers and peers know what you stand for and what you are striving to achieve. Seize the corresponding PR opportunity. And remember – they are merely guidelines.
  2. Appoint an in-house Sustainability Steward or Chief Sustainability Officer (CSO). Seek qualified volunteers based on demonstrated interest, or as an opportunity to provide professional enrichment. They should proactively champion and coordinate in-house sustainability efforts alongside other responsibilities. It could be on a dedicated or rotating term basis so that over time many members of the organization gain a “hands on” command of the topic.
  3. Establish your “carbon footprint.” A free carbon footprint calculator for business can be found here: Use your results as a benchmark against future improvement.
  4. Provide regular employee/tenant engagement. For optimal results, provide periodic training and/or ‘achievement’ contests with fun events and prizes. Also, establish on-site visibility with commemorative plaques or other materials or programs.
  5. Proactively manage plug loads. Conscious consideration for what gets plugged in, where, and why should be practiced at all times. Increased utilization of multi-outlet surge protectors will help while also protecting devices and equipment against power surges and spikes. Likewise, increase utilization of Energy Star equipment and devices. Recent studies by the New Buildings Institute have shown that office equipment can reach as high as 40-60% of all electricity consumed in office buildings.
  6. Pursue environmentally sensitive products from local sources. Whenever possible, purchase furniture, fixtures, equipment, materials, even cleaning supplies, from local sources that are environmentally sensitive and certified from a variety of vetted and known sources. Also, recycle on-site materials for alternative uses where practical.
  7. Move away from mass print and distribution. Embrace digital delivery of your content as a means of reducing cost and being environmentally sensitive. Similar considerations include not printing email attachments and having video conference calls vs. travel.
  8. Subscribe to various “green” reports, blogs, e-newsletters and resources. For timely, in-depth business sustainability insights and coverage, there are several quality resources available with more coming every day. This is a great means of self-education. Some recommendations include SmartBrief for SustainabilityEnergy Manager TodayUSGBC(national plus local chapter resources) and Noesis.
  9. Embrace the cloud. Consider outsourcing all or most of your on-site IT environment (not just for power savings but also for strategic data management and disaster recovery considerations). This would eliminate in-house high-energy servers and leaving desktop computers on “24/7” for remote access. A recent Google study found that a typical company or organization that migrates to the cloud could save an estimated 68–87% in energy for its office computing.
  10. Establish / utilize benchmarks, metrics and analytics. Monitor your usage and establish status quo metrics so you can clearly identify change and improvement which in turn supports the setting of subsequent goals and budgets. Progressive improvement is a reward all by itself!

Over time, any combination of these thoughtful sustainability measures will help ensure your firm’s sustainability focus and success.