5 May 2010 – The 3 Pillars Network has released the results of its online survey asking respondents whether sustainability programs work, and if not, what holds them back.Consisting of three questions, the survey responses were divided into two groups – for businesses and landlords.

The responses will be integrated into the Optimising Sustainability Conference next Thursday (13 May) and addressed by panel of senior sustainability managers.

Following are highlights of the responses.

Where, with regards to sustainability, has your organisation been stuck?

Responses included:

  • Project management.
  • It’s not part of the overall ethos, and there is no actual formal sustainability program! We operate in one sector of the environmental space, so everyone assumes that we operate sustainably – but we don’t – it’s an add on and people see it as something extra they have to do – and all think they are too busy to do that little bit extra (because it’s so hard to switch off the photocopier at night if last to leave).
  • While there are many disparate groups trying to enact sustainability, lack of a consolidated effort across the organisation has stymied our sustainability objectives.
  • Finance.
  • With senior management buy in and delegation of action.
  • Engagement of site employees.
  • Sustainability is bandied about within my organisation from more of a marketing aspect rather than truly embracing sustainability.
  • Moving from paper to digital newspapers.


What, or who (position, not name) has been the single biggest obstacle to improved sustainability performance within your organisation, in your view?

Responses:

  • Management.
  • People who think they know everything and are perfect already and are not willing to be told differently – from the CEO down to the sales managers.
  • Group Managing Directors (DR’s to the CEO).
  • External adviser.
  • Chief Operating Officer.
  • Procurement.
  • The Directors have been the biggest obstacle. They do not understand wholistic sustainability and only focus on financial performance.
  • Strategic planner, communications officer.

Personally, what has been your biggest challenge?

Responses:

  • Getting people to understand that environmental sustainability programs can be managed like any other project type and that it is not an area that is only for the greenies.
  • Maintaining the rage – being told by CEO to reduce my personal commitment to behaving sustainably (closing blinds, turning off photocopier, sorting recycling, etc.), because I would get frustrated when others didn’t walk the talk (yes they all talk it) and I would raise my concerns and be told that people found this amusing and would purposely do the wrong thing to get a rise from me.
  • Trying to get more involved in the cause – I’m only permitted to work on it after hours…
  • Organisation commitment.
  • Keeping morale up despite often feeling set back.
  • Working with procurement.
  • My biggest challenge is persisting with the message of wholistic sustainability and encouraging adoption of total business sustainable practices. I’m encouraging a move towards adopting a Balanced Scorecard approach.
  • Reconciling this with the fact that we work in an environment agency!

Landlord Survey Results

Where, with regards to sustainability, has your organisation been stuck?

Responses:

  • Board level engagement, the setting of targets, engagement with third party managers, lack of knowledge from asset and fund managers.
  • In recent times, access to capital for sustainability projects has been tight. Not because money is not available, there has been a desire to keep capital expenditure down under tight economic conditions. This has eased somewhat in 2010, however there is still competition for capital and accessing funds to achieve sustainability outcomes is an incremental process that takes two or three years. This can tend to slow things down, but is typical in the industry. Budgets are given and then taken away or reduced to meet short term financial targets. It’s nothing to do with a lack of commitment, just a response to financial conditions. Government funding grants have helped drive outcomes however they have only targeted the office sector. There are a lot of opportunities in the retail sector however there is no funding available. The Federal Government should be lobbied to provide funding for energy efficiency projects in the retail sector. Another area where we sometimes get stuck is in the capability of our service providers to deliver sustainability outcomes in their service offering. There still seems to be a shortfall between what we need as a building owner to meet targets and what can be delivered by suppliers particularly in the areas of energy monitoring, building tuning and waste reporting. This tends to leave gaps and inconsistencies in our public reporting where some service providers do this well and others do it poorly. It depends on which capital city you are in. There needs to be a greater focus from service providers on all levels to improve their service offering around sustainability to meet the needs of their customers.
  • Where building owners are not interested in improving the sustainability performance of their asset or where they are not willing to invest, for example not putting in metering and monitoring systems to optimise asset performance.
  • Making commitments in the good times, even though they were qualified with an “we are already doing this”, but then wanting or needing to back away from them because of lack of action. Or discovering on more detailed investigation, that it might be done in the majority of cases, but not 100per cent of the time, and that is isn’t supported by a management approved policy.

What, or who (position, not name) has been the single biggest obstacle to improved sustainability performance within your organisation, in your view?

Responses:

  • Lack of fund manager engagement.
  • As above, it usually comes down to access to capital, so senior management making decisions on capital budgets sometimes make progress slow. It has been more evident under tight economic conditions.
  • No single person, but more the overloading of building engineers with other responsibilities and them having no time to dedicate to energy efficiency.
  • In my experience, the CEO/MD will always be the most pivotal person, be they a barrier or driver.

Personally, what has been your biggest challenge?

Responses:

  • Time. The role of the asset manager is very diverse.
  • The biggest challenge as a sustainability manager has been staying on top of everything going on, that is implementation of projects; seeking funding grants; compliance with regulation (EEO, NGERS and preparing for Mandatory Disclosure); maintenance of environmental ratings (NABERS); ensuring new developments meet design intent and environmental targets; corporate sustainability reporting and investor surveys. I wouldn’t have it any other way!
  • Convincing owners to invest in energy efficiency even though tenants benefit through lower outgoings and are not willing to pay more face rent.
  • One of the biggest hurdles has been moving thinking at the executive level from “old school” thinking of sustainability as an environmental and possibly corporate philanthropy approach to an understanding (and then willingness to act) of a more holistic practice of sustainability as guided by external stakeholders including analysts, governments, the community and industry leading peers.