Crafting a Sustainability Plan

Often we hear the word sustainability thrown about but what does that actually mean to workplace experience, real estate and facilities management?  On the executive side of the house it could mean an overall strategy for the entire organization to bring in customers and eliminate added cost, but could also mean something as simple as your individual office getting a certification from the local town/city.  I once worked at an organization that had an OKR that just said sustainability.  Not only is that not an OKR, because it isn’t measurable, it doesn’t really hold you accountable to anything and allows you to say something is sustainable because you believe it to be so.  So let’s go over a game plan so that you can enact a solid sustainability plan for your workplace.

green plant

Goals and frameworks 

I’m a big believer in setting measurable goals and looking toward existing frameworks.  And so this should always be your starting point. When I worked with on setting goals we all got together and had a brainstorming session with key stakeholders.  What is it we hoped to accomplish with our sustainable goals, what was our budget, what parts of the business would this touch, etc.  There’s a big difference in wanting to eliminate a few thousand pounds of carbon through practices versus zero carbon versus a holistic corporate social responsibility (CSR) plan for the entire organization. 

So first start with what it is you are trying to accomplish.  There is nothing saying you can’t start small and get bigger later.  There are several templates that you can use to start this process as well from the more robust and technical ISO system to following the playbook from LEED, BREEAM, or even Tenant Star (The lesser known sibling to Energy Star that you see when you buy a new washer/dryer).  Most of these are much more involved and if you’re starting from scratch in a smaller business you may want to check out your local township on what certifications they have.  These often list items like buying recycled printer paper, utilizing compost in addition to recycling, and other easily attainable and measurable goals that can go a long way.

Audit new and existing practices

Whether within the brainstorming session and finding your why or utilizing a feedback loop on what policies you decide to enact, it is always important to check to see that your goal and or ‘improvement’ is actually working the way it was intended and is adding value to the business as well. 

Let’s take procurement for example.  One of the easiest and most impactful ways to lessen your carbon footprint and offer value for customers.  Ask yourself are you utilizing local vendors or shipping it in from across the sea?  Are the goods recycled, can you purchase recycled?  Companies like Reseat refurbish furniture while a company like Queen of Raw lets you buy textile backstock at a discount which saves it from going to the landfill. Implementing companies like this into your preferred vendors adds to your sustainability aims, adds value to recruiting/retaining staff who rank sustainability high in their value system and saves you money but are often not as convenient or as bespoke as other large multinational brands. 

So it’s important to really look at your systems and see what you are willing to compromise on.  Nobody can beat Amazon two day shipping, but by implementing your new sustainable solution you may see opportunities outside of sustainability such as asset management and stocking correctly.

Do your research

I got my MSc in Facilities and Environmental Management 7 years ago.  Much has already changed and so many more terms, processes, and focuses (everything from CSR, ESG, new orgs offering new innovations).  LinkedIn is amazing because you can follow subject matter experts and stay in the know. If you follow me and search my contacts there are a ton of very innovative folks in the space doing some amazing things like the aforementioned Reseat and Queen of Raw to companies growing packaging material out of mycelium (the root like structures of mushrooms). The Living Future Institute, LEED, BREEAM and many others to include Collective share insights on these things as well to keep you in the know so I also recommend you give them all a follow and attend their webinars if you’re seriously interested in sustainability within the built environment.  If you’re starting your next sustainability planning and need a sounding board or recommendations don’t hesitate to drop me a line.

Learn more about our Author: Jonathan Johnson is an operations, facilities and workplace professional based out of Denver, Colorado who has founded facility start-ups and had stints at Flexport, Bolt Threads, Sirius XM + Pandora and Guild Education. He is currently a consultant offering fractional facilities and commercial real estate expertise to small and medium sized organizations. He has a MSc in Facilities and Environmental Management from University College London and speaks frequently at conferences such as World Workplace and is a military veteran serving in the United States Air Force with the 1st Special Operations Civil Engineering Squadron serving in both OIF and OEF.

*Disclaimer: This post was not generated by A.I. It is indeed written by a real life human. A pretty cool human in fact.