New trends in Green Buildings and sustainability Reporting: Integrity versus Applicability

According to the most recent GreenBiz State of Green Business report, an increasing number of environmental performance results will be both reported and explained in the form of an Integrated Report (IR). An IR accounts for the inclusion of absolute environmental costs, which are “tallied by compiling companies’ individual impacts, such as carbon emissions, water consumption and waste, and assigning a cost to each impact.” Very few companies have yet to factor these considerations into their accounting systems, let alone report such information to investors. But GreenBiz notes that as governments begin to regulate carbon and as the climate change causes shifts in the monetary value of resources companies rely on, environmental costs will become a bigger lever for success or failure.

When it comes to addressing environmental costs, the areas of requiring the most attention occur outside the corporate office, in sectors such as operations, facilities, fleets, energy and real estate. The buildings sector is one part of the climate change equation with the greatest potential for significantly reducing greenhouse gas emissions and addressing environmental costs. The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) estimates that buildings are responsible for more than 40% of energy use internationally, one-third of greenhouse gas emissions and 30% of raw material use. “Greening” corporate real estate can help achieve deep cuts in greenhouse gas emissions both rapidly and cost-effectively, while simultaneously allowing companies to better manage and measure their environmental performance.

The recent trend of integrative reporting is already accounting for this component by urging companies to provide a basis for identifying and quantifying the projected benefits from investments in green building, and by fueling interest in integrating building sector reporting standards under the GRI and other frameworks.

Given investor and consumer consciousness of labeling programs, it is no surprise that as sustainability reporting develops to include these factors, many companies also seek certification to better communicate their green building initiatives. Studies show that because of investor and consumer awareness, certified buildings often lead in business activity; for instance, PNC Financial Services Group’s LEED rated facilities opened more than four hundred additional consumer deposit accounts and had more than three million more in consumer deposit balances per facility per year than non-certified properties. Overall, certifying a facility can exponentially improve a company’s financial performance and help to lower its operational costs.

Yet, the green building certification process remains a huge barrier for many businesses seeking to incorporate green building in their sustainability strategies. Programs such as LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) can add millions to construction costs while promising to cut other expenses. The additional costs of hefty certification fees and the soft costs of consultants and other hires leave little room in the budget for improving a buildings’ sustainability performance post-certification. And because corporations sometimes require various property types (whether owned or leased) to operate their business, there may exist drastically different conditions for each building seeking certification. Frustration over costs, building limitations and impracticalities of requirements consequently causes some businesses to throw their facilities to the wayside with certification.

But if the operation and management of corporate real estate plays a significant negative or positive factor in a company’s social responsibility, citizenship, or sustainability actions, then this shouldn’t be the case. Some may find that they can no longer afford to ignore the certification procedure – through certification they can more effectively address the critical role of their real estate assets.

One way that CSE is helping companies to achieve this in a less costly manner is through SERF, or the Society of Environmentally Responsible Facilities. SERF was designed in an effort to avoid many of the issues encountered with green building certification – mainly that it can be cost-prohibitive, timely, and oftentimes inaccessible. With SERF, integrity no longer trumps applicability – users avoid settling for a single trophy building by applying one rating system along an entire building portfolio at a much lower cost.

SERF offers an approachable method for certifying all facility types, whether that is a leased office or a warehouse, a small urban building or a large rural one. The process itself saves time and money by moving away from reliance on third-party consultants and commissioning agents for documentation (although all SERF documentation is verified by a licensed architect or engineer before certification is granted). Better yet, it’s flexible. Users can better address their sustainability goals by choosing to certify a building through a prescriptive pathway or a performance-based pathway. A dynamic scoring system also offers criteria that are considerate of building environment and limitations. The result? There’s no need to beat your head against the wall to achieve simple, streamlined results – you can have your green building and flaunt it too.

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Scan your sustainability!

So, you have a sustainability strategy. Great first step. But you do not know how to communicate it. You want something innovative, fresh and interactive? Scan it! QR Codes can be an important tool to promote your sustainability strategy.

The real key behind QR codes is to think creatively when you review your printed communications and then decide how you can transform this to an interactive and attractive web page. Through a QR Code you can provide immediate access to concise information in a user friendly way. What better way to promote your sustainability strategy?

Imagine your product on the shelf, and every consumer having the opportunity to see what you do in terms of your sustainability strategy, simply by pressing a button on their smartphone. Not sure this will reach many people? Numbers might convince you otherwise. IDC say 144.9 million smartphones were sold worldwide in Q1 2012, while total 2011 sales were 491.4 million units.

Imagine the countless possibilities. You can use it to engage your stakeholders and inform them for your sustainability report; engage with consumers, while communicating your product’s sustainability features, such as its water/carbon footprint; use it to promote your sustainability related campaigns.

If you need more information on how to use a QR code for sustainability, check out our new service

“PLAYING” SUSTAINABILITY

Although up until now people have been forced into a behavioral change, time has proven this method inefficient. And though progress has been made in the field of sustainability, there is still a long path to walk upon. How innovative can one be in order to accelerate sustainability?

To answer this question, a second one is posed: Would you rather pay a carbon tax or play a carbon game that incentivizes you to reduce your emissions? Yes, sustainability is moving towards its “gamification”, a game-motive which calls upon people to promote sustainability in their everyday life. In the world of games, people tend to create a “perfect world”, one they feel proud of. By bringing the game into life, people are asked to change their lifestyle, socialize and promote the idea of sustainability; lead the world to a change.

Sustainability Brands mentions: “Developed in conjunction with Guerillapps, the game features Farmville-esque slick graphics and addictive gameplay. Most importantly, it bridges the gap between the digital and physical world by connecting with TerraCycle’s real-life recycling and charitable programs. The results are impressive.”

The trend has also entered the world of enterprises, with enterprise gamification which is focused on organizations and employees. Susan Hunt Stevens, CEO and Founder of Practically Green, has already developed “a gamification platform for helping companies optimize their sustainability programs. Practically Green’s engaging web and mobile interface employs game mechanics such as leaderboards and badges to challenge people to form groups, take green actions and measure their environmental impact at work.”

The importance of clean technology: World Technology Summit 2012

Clean technology has emerged as an umbrella term encompassing the investment asset class, technology, and business sectors which include clean energy, environmental, and sustainable or green, products and services. Clean technologies are known to improve the lives of people in both developing and developed countries, and therefore investments can render a nation competitive, offering added value to its citizens.

The World Clean Technology Summit will bring together world leaders in renewable energy, exhibitors, investors, scientists and clean technology providers from around the world to engage, interact with each other, exchange business contacts, forge partnerships, and pave a way forward for a sustainable future.

The Following are objectives for the World Clean Technology Summit:

  • Create a shared understanding of the role governments, private sector, non-Profit, academic and the media play in promoting clean technologies to achieve a sustainable future for all
  • Provide a platform for companies, investors, Governments, foundations, academicians and civil society organizations to share the efforts they are undertaking to promote clean technologies and to publicize new commitments to action
  • Inspire new forms of public-private, private-private partnerships, public policy measures, and associated business and development opportunities to overcome environment and development challenges at the country and international levels.

Every year, Pilot International continues to provide a Global Platform for Advancement of Innovations and Clean Technology for a Sustainable World.
The growth and success of our events is testament to Pilot Internationals’ determination to provide a global platform for effective dialogue on renewable energy, clean technology and environmental innovations, as well as to achieve 3 of the millennium development goals, such as, the DG3: Promoting Gender Equality& Women Empowerment, the MDG7: Ensuring Environmental Sustainability and the MDG8: Developing A Global Partnership For Development.

For more information you can visit www.pilotinternationalconferences.com

Twitter: Sustainability’s Playground

Twitter hit 500 million member in February of 2012 and some of the users of this micro-blogging service are corporate executives.

According to Susan McPherson, senior vice president with Fenton, a public-interest communications and CSR consultancy, Twitter is well suited for those in the CSR and the sustainability arenas.

“The mantra of corporate social responsibility is transparency and open communications,” McPherson told The Guardian, “and social media channels like Twitter can lend credibility to these communications.”

CSR practitioners are using Twitter to network with their peers, promote their peers, remain up-to-date on news and trends and connect with stakeholders. Our company utilizes this medium to communicate trends in the industry as well as to disseminate information regarding our training programs.

While it’s hard to measure the value of social medial on sustainable business, it keeps consumers informed and involved with the sustainable companies they support. Utilize this forum to connect with thought leaders to expand your knowledge base or provide your consumers with up-to-date information.

Is your company’s sustainability officers on Twitter? Do you engage about sustainability on Twitter?

We do. Follow us : @CSE_Network