Ways to Save: Building a Sustainability Roadmap

October 11, 2023 | By: Ashley Simien, CMCP, BOMI-HP, and Blair Powell

Building a successful and effective sustainability program requires careful planning and consideration. Developing a sustainability roadmap will help you better define your goals, assess your property, and continue to succeed once your initial goals are achieved. This roadmap has many aspects to consider, but the foundation of any successful sustainability program is built by working with your service partners and engaging with tenants and owners.

Leveraging Partnerships for Sustainability Goals

Achieving sustainability goals is a team effort, and fostering strong partnerships with service partners and tenants is critical in driving sustainability initiatives. At NCR Global Headquarters (NCR GHQ), managed by Cousins Properties, our vendors play a crucial role, as we ensured the introduction of a Green Cleaning Program when transitioning our cleaning contractor. This program guarantees sustainable products and equipment, prioritizing air quality, health, and the environment. We established clear expectations and metrics through open communication and collaboration to ensure successful implementation and ongoing management.

Our tenants actively participate in our recycling and composting programs, resulting in significant waste diversion. Together, we have recycled over 1200 pounds of glass and diverted an average of 4,000 pounds of food waste per month through partnerships with our food service provider.

Even small-scale initiatives like our K-Cup composting program, recycling around 90 lbs. per month, demonstrate their potential impact. At NCR GHQ, we collaborated closely with tenants and our food service provider to develop comprehensive recycling and composting programs, minimizing food waste and utilizing BPI-certified compostable items.

A robust collaboration between Cousins property management staff and tenants was at the heart of this successful endeavor. Recognizing the impact of food waste, both parties devised practical solutions and instilled a culture of sustainability. For a weekly event with a significant crowd, we launched a targeted glass bottle recycling initiative, promoting proper recycling through visible signage and accessible collection points.

Our management and engineering teams play instrumental roles, adhering to company policies, tracking utilities, and collaborating with service partners for benchmarking and reporting. Analyzing monthly utility reports and benchmarking energy performance, we identify improvement opportunities and remain accountable to our sustainability commitments.

Working closely with utility providers and sustainability consultants, we leverage their expertise to drive sustainability improvement. Our comprehensive sustainability report reflects our commitment to transparency, providing stakeholders with credible information on our environmental performance and progress in energy efficiency and waste reduction initiatives.

Engaging Tenants and Owners

The buy-in and active participation of both tenants and owners are pivotal to the success of our sustainability programs. At NCR GHQ, we’ve found that education and communication are vital to fostering this engagement. We regularly share the progress and outcomes of our sustainability initiatives, helping our community understand the benefits of their participation.

For tenants, our sustainable practices often mean improved comfort and wellness. For instance, our DOAS system improves indoor air quality, enhancing well-being and productivity. Furthermore, our LEED Platinum and ENERGY STAR certifications demonstrate our commitment to maintaining a high-quality, environmentally responsible workplace, which can boost tenant satisfaction and retention.

As owners, we can benefit from reduced operational costs, increased property values, and potential financial incentives for green building practices. For example, our sustainable strategies have resulted in enormous savings in utility costs. Additionally, green buildings often command higher rents and enjoy lower vacancy rates, contributing to our bottom line.

Building a Sustainability Roadmap

Embarking on a sustainability journey requires a well-defined roadmap. Here are a few key steps you can follow to build an effective sustainability program:

  1. Establish Clear Objectives and Goals

The first step is to define what you want to achieve. Ensure that your sustainability goals align with your organization’s mission, values, and stakeholders’ expectations. For example, our objectives focused on energy efficiency, water conservation, waste reduction, and promoting health and well-being. These goals provided a clear direction for our efforts and guided us in identifying the necessary programs and technologies.

  1. Conduct a Baseline Assessment

Evaluating your current performance is essential to understanding where improvements are needed. Conduct an energy audit to identify inefficiencies, assess water usage patterns, and analyze waste management practices.  We partnered with Blue Ocean Energy to conduct monthly utility reports, providing valuable insights into our energy performance. Additionally, collaborating with our waste vendor, Waste Pro, allowed us to evaluate waste diversion strategies and identify opportunities to reduce our waste impact.

  1. Develop a Strategic Plan

Develop a strategic plan based on your objectives and the insights gathered from the baseline assessment. This plan should outline the initiatives to be undertaken, the technologies to be employed, the resources required, and the timeline for implementation. Consider both short-term and long-term initiatives to ensure a comprehensive approach to sustainability.

  1. Implement the Plan

Start with small steps such as upgrading to energy-efficient appliances in common areas, installing solar panels, implementing a recycling program, or introducing green cleaning practices. Monitor your progress closely and make adjustments as needed to ensure the successful implementation of your initiatives.

  1. Monitor and Evaluate

Ongoing monitoring and evaluation are crucial to track your initiatives’ effectiveness and identify improvement areas. Regularly review utility bills, track waste output, and seek tenant feedback. Use this information to fine-tune your strategies and make continuous improvements that align with your sustainability goals.

  1. Communicate and Celebrate Success

Share your progress and successes with your stakeholders. Regularly communicate the outcomes of your sustainability initiatives to build support and engagement. This showcases your commitment to sustainability and enhances your property’s reputation as a sustainability leader within the community.

Throughout this process, strategic partnerships are essential. Working with energy consultants, green technology providers, and sustainability-certified contractors can provide the expertise needed to implement your plan effectively. Moreover, partnering with your tenants and engaging them in your sustainability efforts can drive more significant results.

Building a sustainability program is a strategic process that demands commitment, collaboration, and a willingness to innovate. By following these steps and cultivating key partnerships, you can create a program that enhances your property’s sustainability performance and substantially benefits your tenants, owners, and the broader community.

The Path Towards a Sustainable Future

Cultivating sustainable practices in CRE is an environmental imperative and a significant opportunity to reduce costs, enhance building performance, and improve tenant satisfaction. NCR GHQ exemplifies how sustainability programs and technologies can seamlessly integrate into CRE properties to produce substantial benefits.

We’ve created a model to guide other properties on their sustainability journey through our commitment to energy efficiency, water conservation, waste reduction, and continuous innovation. But the journey does not end here. As technologies advance and our understanding of sustainability evolves, so must our approaches. We must continually seek new strategies, tools, and partnerships to push the boundaries of what is possible.

Our success so far proves that a culture of sustainable excellence is achievable and immensely rewarding. By embracing sustainability as an integral part of commercial real estate practices and nurturing strategic partnerships, we can collectively shape a sustainable future that benefits our industry and the environment. We invite all CRE professionals to join us in this critical endeavor. The path towards sustainability is a journey worth undertaking, and every step taken is a step towards a greener future.

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