EcoPerspective's Blog

Building strong business reputation through environmental credentials

Sustainable buildings – the dress rehearsal

Sitting listening to a conference on green buildings, reminded me that what most people mean by sustainable buildings are buildings  designed to be sustainable not buildings that are actually sustainable.  This is not a criticism of designs, more that the focus needs to shift to looking at how buildings actually perform.

I was at a dress rehearsal at the royal hall for a show recently and even after weeks of preparation things still went wrong, it was only when the performers were actually performing on stage with all the lights and costumes could you see what worked and what didn’t.  And so it is with buildings.

The big question is how can we get actual buildings to be sustainable, fulfilling the aspirations of the design team and clients alike?  This is the elephant in the sustainable building agenda and not many people are really tackling it.  It’s not easy, partly because of the way the whole industry is set up.  Site visits to completed buildings are now the norm but what if design teams knew they would be visiting the building five years later. Or, I am not suggesting this as a workable solution but what if design and construction teams were accountable for a building’s actual performance five years after completion. 

Happily the show went well but not without changes to props and running orders.  We don’t have dress rehearsals for buildings but we do have more and more buildings out there that were designed as low carbon.  We urgently need to have an open and honest look at what really works and what doesn’t, it’s only then can we be sure that when a building is built it has the best possible chances of being sustainable in its lifetime.

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Green IT

Green IT Strategy

I recently got talking to someone who works in IT strategy and surprisingly found we had a lot in common, she suggested I wrote a  blog on Green IT –  it’s difficult to know where to start such a big subject but here goes.    It’s all about strategy,  people, communication and cultural change. I’ll throw the green buzzword out too – out goes Green IT, in comes strategy.

The key message is that a green IT strategy does not need expensive IT equipment, it is about looking for opportunities that IT gives to improve the environmental performance of a business – this can be anything from out of office accessibility to webinar facilities and environmental communication.

A lot of it’s about people – making it easier for people to choose the resource efficient option.  Making equipment switching off out of hours and double-sided printing the default.  Then it’s about communicating and recognising that this is about cultural change.  There’s no point putting in new equipment without recognising the need to win hearts and minds.

Control and influence

What does IT control and what does it influence? – it clearly controls the IT equipment so important to get that right in the long term but let’s have a think about what it influences – how a business works, how effectively a business works, communication within a business, the products…….. it may only be influence but the potential environmental gain is usually very significant.

And finally

To be effective a Green IT strategy needs to be part of a broader company environmental strategy, with objectives and targets to reduce carbon and waste and to add in my favourite soap box if you can measure it all the better.

Hope you enjoyed reading this I would love to hear some of your IT and environmental successes and comments.

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‘We don’t say no’

I am now enjoying working in our newly converted office with a great reclaimed floor and roof slates, sheep’s wool insulation, low energy lighting, easy to use heating controls and ecological paint.

What struck me during the work was how the builder’s attitude made it work. Their approach was ‘we don’t do no’ so even though some of the ideas such as sheep’s wool insulation or reusing the slates were something they hadn’t done before, they just gone on with it. This reflects what I see in organisations I work with – it’s winning the hearts and minds that does it.

It’s great to be working under a newly refurbished slate roof that should last another 100 years and to have flooring that was guaranteed to be over 100 years old. It highlights that good quality materials can last far longer than a few years.

And no these extra sustainable features didn’t cost a significant amount more than the alternatives – and they enhance rather than detract from the quality of the space. The benefits far outweigh any little effort need to source these products. It really wasn’t that difficult and it truly is an office space to last.

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Food for thought -The marzipan layer

When I was at Base (a conference for sustainable business) last week one of the speakers mentioned that the marzipan layer of people, typically in their late 30s to mid 50s are often the hardest to win over when rolling out staff environmental engagement programmes. Although I don’t like to generalise or be ageist, I had to agree – working with a cross section of businesses large and small, I am always struck at how in general those in their 20s and 30s assume that an environmental approach is an accepted part of the way to do business, and want to know how to do it, not why.

It demonstrates to me that environmental considerations and carbon is becoming, and will become, embedded in mainstream business and not on the nice-to-have fringes, just as awareness of climate change has dramatically increased and moved to centre stage.

It also challenges those working to engage staff to know the audience and tailor the approach to where they happen to be, not where we want them to be. Getting the marzipan layer, often middle management, on board is key to effective implementation of any environmental programme.

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Poll on the benefits of environmental strategies in business

Here’s a poll on the drivers for implementing an environmental strategy in a business.  Give it a go!

http://polls.linkedin.com/poll-results/76404/ioljs

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Using the head as well as the heart

Using the head as well as the heart

Many people see green as a good thing, the challenge is to take green from the heart to the head.   Too often if something is seen as green, it is assumed that it must be the best environmental solution.  This is often not true.

Take solar panels – they are great but in most cases only once the nitty gritty has been addressed – the heart wants the solar panels but the head needs to say ‘hang on a minute let’s make things efficient first – how much is it going to cost and what are we going to save both environmentally and economically?’  Of course solar panels can be an important visual statement but usually only where other measures are in place.

This is where knowledge is key, knowing what approach will have the biggest benefit to both the environment and your business.

Tip: ask the question – is this the best environmental approach, how much will it cost and what are the benefits?  If these add up then it will work for your business and the environment.

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