Climate Corps 2010: Do CEOs Care About Energy Efficiency?

EDF Climate Corps

Climate Corps 2010: Do CEOs Care About Energy Efficiency?

Twenty-five hundred companies report to the Carbon Disclosure Project, 195 have made aggressive sustainability commitments and over 10,000 corporate facilities are in the pipeline for LEED certification. 

Given this increased focus on environmental performance, you might expect the C-Suite to work closely with facilities managers to track progress. However, 80 percent of facilities professionals report having no formal plan for managing energy use -- leaving literally 1 trillion dollars on the table, according to a McKinsey study.

Fortunately the company for which I am working, SAP, does not fall in that camp.

In my first week as an EDF Climate Corps fellow, I attended “The C-Level View of Facilities Management,” a panel discussion hosted by SAP, Facility Manager Larry Morgan and the International Facilities Management Association. Speakers were Peter Graf, CSO of SAP; Maisie Greenawalt, VP of Marketing at Bon Appétit; and Scott Pine, CFO of Fenwick & West. The panel outlined the journey from an early 90s “environmental initiatives as compliance avoidance” attitude to a more modern focus on corporate KPIs (key performance indicators) that are grounded in societal, environmental and financial benefit.

From an on-the-ground perspective, the panel emphasized the importance of tapping into employee enthusiasm. Frequently, corporate CSR programs start with grass-root employee efforts, leading executives to realize “Hey, we have a sustainability program!”

Here are three emerging trends that facilities managers should prepare for:

  • The “unwiring” of the enterprise equipment as lights, computers and building systems move towards adapting smart grid technology
  • An increased need for transparency and data sharing
  • A demand for personalized workspace and schedules as Gen Y-ers join the corporate ranks

In the weeks since the panel, I have seen SAP walk the talk. SAP’s corporate sustainability report is groundbreaking because it allows users to comment, question, tag, tweet and generally dialogue directly on the site. Also, SAP is investing in energy -- efficiency for facilities worldwide, which is made easier by instituting more relaxed financial requirements for sustainability projects (a seven-year payback requirement versus four).

Finally, I met and worked with some of the company’s 150 “Sustainability Champions.” These volunteers operate in over 20 countries and are approved by their managers to spend 10 percent of their time working to reduce SAP’s environmental footprint. 

So far in Palo Alto, the volunteers have focused on cafeteria waste reduction and the promotion of an SAP-wide “Commuter Challenge.” Furthermore, Graf recently hosted a “state of the company” address on sustainability in order to further engage the community in this dialogue.

So while you may not see a CEO swapping out light bulbs anytime soon, it is already clear to me that the C-Suite is starting to tune in to the huge top-and bottom-line opportunity that is sustainability.

Emily Martin is a 2010 EDF Climate Corps fellow at SAP and a Net Impact member. She is an MBA candidate at Kenan-Flagler School of Business, University of North Carolina, and MEM candidate at Nicholas School of the Environment, Duke University. This content is cross-posted at the Environmental Defense Fund Innovation Exchange Blog. Further coverage of the Climate Corps program is available at GreenBiz.com/edfclimatecorps.