How to Succeed in Making the Business Case for Sustainability

When it comes to sustainability, the business case is workable from all angles. Not only is it far more cost effective to invest in sustainable practices, but it keeps workers happy. On November 7th, the UW Green Greeks learned from two women, Annie Thomas and Katie Secrist, who work as consultants at Sustainable Business Consulting, located in Seattle. Essentially, what they do is help different companies integrate sustainability into their business model. They do so by assessing sustainability efforts across all departments and listening to what the business is struggling with and offering assistance where they can.

 

So, what does the next generation of business look like? Regarding Generation Y and millennials, 88% of grad students and young professionals factor an employer’s CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) score into where they want to work. 88% would consider leaving their job if their company’s CSR performance no longer held up. Therefore, people want to support sustainable business and are not interested in supporting companies that are lacking in this area.

 

There are several universal barriers that need to be overcome for business to make the switch. People are frequently overworked and do not have the time to implement any changes. Sometimes people don’t feel empowered and experience a sense of apathy and loss of enthusiasm. So, what is the solution?

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Several big-name companies have implemented changes that have greatly improved the quality of their business. For example, UPS stopped taking left turns on delivery routes and saved $50 million. Washington State Convention and Trade Center installed more than 6,000 energy efficient lighting fixtures, which saved them more than $120,000. The simple things make a huge difference.

 

The argument here is that it’ll always be worth it to make a change. People will be happier coming to work and the company will save a considerable amount of money.

 

Thank you, Katie and Annie, for your wisdom and expertise in this field. It’s inspiring to know that there are strong players making the business case for sustainability in our community every day!

 

sbc-picTo learn more about Sustainable Business Consulting and the work that Katie and Annie do, click HERE!

Speaker Highlight: JR Fulton and a History of UW Sustainability

At our most recent meeting, the Green Greeks got to listen to an experienced speaker, JR Fulton, about his role in keeping the UW campus sustainable. He has been passionate about sustainable buildings as soon as he found out that without proper information and execution, buildings can be incredibly detrimental to the environment. He has worked with Housing and Food services for quite some time as an architect and previously spent time living in an Eco Village in Scotland. Thanks to JR’s presentation, we were able to learn a lot from him about sustainability from an operational perspective.

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To construct a sustainable building, it’s vital to understand the concept of resiliency. The building need to be able to respond to the climate and be future-proofed to be able to anticipate change that could challenge the design of said building. Sustainable buildings also need to have a high-performance ranking; they must be energy efficient, healthy, comfortable, cost effective to operate, and durable.

 

There is a sustainable building standard called LEED, which stands for Leadership Energy and Environmental Design. It is run by the US Green Standards Board. The University of Washington has 36 LEED accredited buildings on campus, which is something to be proud of! Mercer Court even has a rainwater system used for laundry; domestic water is not used at all when the system is working properly. There is always room for improvement, and our campus si already off to an amazing start.

 

So, how does one keep a building both accessible and efficient? Effective engineering. For example, it’s not necessary to strictly limit hot water use, as long as the water heaters are efficient. It is the little details like this that increase the longevity of these buildings and inspire further innovation.

 

The trick, as JR explains, is to use every sustainable resource available.

 

These techniques are being implemented on campus, as we speak, in the North Campus housing construction

 

As far as the future goes, Fulton believes society will move towards eco districts, which entails an entire neighborhood that is hooked together energy-wise. The UW campus is an ideal place for this sort of system.

 

Thank you JR Fulton, we are so thankful to have you working towards a better future here on campus.

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Speaker Highlight: Advice from Candi Mabee, A Sustainability-Loving House Director

A former professional opera singer, house director, and a passion for sustainability? What’s not to love about Candi Mabee, who blessed the Green Greek Representative Program with her presence at our meeting this week. We learned a lot from her experience as a sustainability-loving house director, and are very thankful to have her here in the Greek Community at UW.
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Candi Mabee, the house director at Phi Mu, is quite an inspiration to us all. In her single year working with Phi Mu, she has driven Phi Mu to the highest standard of sustainability. She understands a green lifestyle as the right thing to do for the future and our Earth. In the past as a house director she has focused on the zero waste initiative, meaning utilizing compost and recycle systems to save money and protect the earth from methane gas release.

 

In order to ease the process of ensuring everyone in the chapter is doing their part, Candi recommends getting the kitchen staff on board, having the system set up so everything is easy and ready to go, accountability of individual members, and to prioritize communication about what goes where. This includes signage, frequent social media posts, and educational programs at chapter meetings. In regard to talking to house moms/directors about sustainability practices, Candi suggests coming prepared with research on cost benefits and how your house is doing, understanding the motivations of the house director, and working with them to find a solution. The key is constant communication.

 

Candi also recommends shopping at wholesale retail centers, such as the Costco on Aurora, for chapter necessities. Specifically, the Costco business center as they have the necessary compostable utensils and mealtime staples for an extremely reasonable price, as seen below:

Sustainable item Cost
12oz world centic cold cups $15.99 for 200 units
12oz cold cup lids $7.79 for 200 units
Clamshell (late plates boxes) $18.59 for 100 units
9″ plate $19.99 for 250 units
12 oz world centric hot cup $12.69 for 200 units
12 oz hot cup $16.09 for 200 units

Following Candi’s presentation, the Green Greeks had the opportunity to explore our own case studies and apply the tactics and tools Candi presented to  us to see the applicability of her experience and prepare for real life situations.

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Thank you Candi for those helpful hints. Your efforts have not gone unnoticed and we appreciate your impact here on campus!