Saturday, April 5, 2008

Your Green Grade

Last week some colleagues and I met with an well known organization to work through ways to green their real estate portfolio. We all came armed with lots of ideas, and at the end of the day walked away with a list of solid projects that they could start on tomorrow. Very productive. Afterwards, the sustainable champion asked me a question that I get every once in a while... he asked, "What grade would you give my company on their sustainable practices?"

Thinking of an answer for him made me think carefully. I mean, a grade is effectively a comparison score. Should I compare this organization against all other firms globally? Or just companies in the same industry? Or should it really a comparison against other companies in the same region? This organization participates in the Carbon Disclosure Project (at least their parent company does) and so I could look there for answers, but I chose a different tack.

I decided my "grade" for this real estate group should be based on the following:

  • Size and volume of projects they were actually doing versus talking about,
  • If they had a vision statement or mission to share with the organization,
  • Whether they had a set of green guidelines that outlined their specific priorities and goals for the organization,
  • How much the company at large really knew real estate's green initiatives (sign of a communication or change management strategy),
  • Whether they were coordinated with other groups in the organization like HR, IT, Communications, Social Responsibility or Sustainability executives, on the green front and
  • If they were fully leveraging their "sphere of influence" with brokers, developers, contractors, architects, food service providers, carpet manufacturers, furniture dealerships, etc. by greening their vendor contracts, RFPs and leases.

This particular company fell short on many of these items, but I have to commend them on their willingness to roll up their sleeves and get started. Many companies are still overwhelmed by the whole idea of "getting green" and have not even made the first step by asking, "What should we be doing?" And most companies haven't even budgeted for the time it takes to think through the full range of issues that come up. My question to these gun-shy companies is... How long can you afford to resist getting green? Let me warn you, I'm a harsh grader. It's time to up your score.

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