Tag Archives: environmental management systems

Green Ideas Construction, green building opportunities, LEED

Strategies For Capturing Green Building Opportunities

In the early days of green building, some contractors differentiated their companies with marketing claims that highlighted the number of LEED Accredited Professionals on staff. Although many of them had little or no actual experience with LEED-certified projects, a phrase added to a statement of qualifications document — such as, “We have 30 LEED APs on our team” — was enough to help win projects. That is no longer the case.

Many contractors now have multiple LEED APs on staff, so it is no longer a differentiator. Owners are now more sophisticated and informed about what green building really means. In the future, this fundamental strategy will become harder to keep in effect as continuing education requirements are introduced that require ongoing education in order to keep an individual’s LEED accreditation current.

In order to secure green building projects in the future, contractors will have to get creative in demonstrating their commitment to sustainability in more specific and credible terms. There are two key strategies that successful market-ready contractors should implement in order to remain competitive.

Green Building Manual
Creating a simple green building manual is an easy way for a contractor to show prospective clients that they have thought through the green building process. It can also be an effective way to demonstrate the specifics of how the contractor will go about constructing a green building if done properly. Effective green building manuals should include, at a minimum:

* Sustainable office operations document.
* An environmental impact statement and policy.
* Construction activity pollution prevention program.
* Construction waste management policy.
* Indoor air quality — during construction policy.
* Material sourcing and purchasing policy.

Environmental Management System
Over the last decade the Associated General Contractors of America has actively promoted and encouraged its members to develop a comprehensive Environmental Management System (EMS), but relatively few have actually developed an EMS or even an effective alternative way to manage their regulatory responsibilities. In its basic form, an effective EMS for a contractor or construction manager would include the following elements:

* Incorporate appropriate measurements for various site practices.
* Establish a template for EMS reporting (measurement and accounting) on all projects.
* Provide employees on all projects with access to federal, state and local standards, and regulations pertaining to each project.
* Incorporate the desired green building or LEED standard credits into each project.
* Provide the necessary tools to efficiently supply clients with a comprehensive list of project-specific environmental accomplishments and EMS performance data.
* Provide data for use in the company’s Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) report.

Of course, every Environmental Management System will be different as business, marketing, financial and environmental goals vary from company to company. However, the end result of the EMS for all firms should be:

* Reduction of fines and penalties.
* Compliance with environmental regulations.
* Establishment of the contractor as a premier environmental contractor.
* Capability to populate reports with project-specific environmental documentation.
* A satisfied client that will hire your company again.

An effective EMS program should also be accompanied by a communications program, in order to demonstrate to the world the company’s commitment to the EMS program and corresponding results to the business community. Marketing a company’s core competencies is integral to securing future work, so the communications program should differentiate the firm from competitors, show example CSR Reports and communicate competence to deliver LEED projects.

Additionally, the federal government (GSA) is beginning to require contractors to have an EMS in place in order to qualify for government work, and many states are beginning to do the same.

In order to secure more green building projects in the future — whether they are LEED, Green Globes or some other certification — construction managers, general contractors and specialty contractors will need to be proactive in order to demonstrate their understanding and commitment to sustainability. A comprehensive EMS program that contains sustainable construction means and methods elements is a sure way to show prospective clients how the company can help achieve green building goals on time, within budget and in a manner that is truly sustainable.

Green Iconwww.egreenideas.com

Illustration of a box with a leaf coming out of it

Greening The Supply Chain: ASU’s Sustainability Consortium Is Working To Create More Sustainable Products

Almost every company is feeling pressure to report on its sustainability, i.e. the environmental and social impacts due to its operations. As stakeholders look at whether these obligations are being upheld, the emphasis has been on a company-level assessment of performance. Internally, companies audit their environmental management systems according to standards such as the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) 14000, a standard for environmental management systems that is applicable to any business worldwide. Externally, corporate watchdog and consumer advocacy groups focus on the behavior of the overall company. Even progressive programs such as the Carbon Disclosure Project emphasize measuring company performance.

While these efforts are a necessary starting point, we will fail to reach our global sustainability goals if we only measure sustainability of a company rather than the sustainability of the products it makes. The Sustainability Consortium, led by Arizona State University and the University of Arkansas, is developing the science and infrastructure needed to support more widespread and standardized reporting of product sustainability, so as to drive a new generation of products and supply chains.

There are several problems with only measuring sustainability of companies and not their products. First, consumers don’t buy companies; they buy products. Products will become greener if demand from retailers and consumers for green products increases, and communicating the sustainability of a product is the most direct way to shift consumer behavior.

Second, an emphasis on the product manufacturer alone tends to obscure the important role that the supply chain and the consumer play in the product’s overall footprint. By focusing on product sustainability, it is possible to take the product’s entire life cycle into consideration, which helps focus innovation efforts. Third, developing tools to measure a product’s sustainability while it is still being designed will help companies make more sustainable design choices up front, before the product is ever produced.

The Sustainability Consortium received initial seed funding from Walmart in July 2009, and has since added more than 40 other manufacturers, suppliers, government agencies and non-governmental agencies (NGOs). The initial emphasis of the Consortium is how product sustainability can be measured and reported to retailers such as Walmart and Best Buy. These same data and systems may be used by other groups outside of the Consortium to derive consumer-facing sustainability information, such as is communicated with many eco-labels today. Because sustainability science is relatively new, much research is needed to determine what data are critical to report regarding product sustainability, and how they might be efficiently reported from business-to-business and business-to-retailer.

The Sustainability Consortium’s current work consists of both sector working groups and Consortium-wide research initiatives. Within the sectors, teams representing multiple stakeholders are developing sustainable measurement and reporting standards for a select number of product categories in order to design a standardized way for such efforts to be scaled to all consumer goods products. Projects have begun in electronics, home and personal care, and food and beverage sectors. For example, in electronics the Consortium is working with Best Buy, Dell, the Environmental Protection Agency, Hewlett-Packard, Intel, Toshiba and Walmart to develop measurement standards for computer laptops, desktops and monitors. The team is examining existing standards such as EPEAT and ENERGY STAR, and also looking at recent research concerning a computer’s environmental footprint. The electronics sector team expects to have initial recommendations by this summer.

The Sustainability Consortium also is pursuing a variety of research projects that support work in all of the sectors, such as assessment and scoring, reporting and auditing, and consumer science. For example, researchers in the Consortium are developing a “social hot spot” database that will allow companies to be aware of certain regions of the world where suppliers have historically had a poor track record with things such as worker health and safety, and worker rights. Another research project is examining how industrial buyers use product sustainability information in purchasing decisions.

This work is benefiting the state of Arizona in several ways. First, the Sustainability Consortium has brought in several million dollars in revenue, which in turn has produced a number of new research jobs within the Consortium and has opened up research opportunities for graduate and undergraduate students. Second, our high public visibility has brought media attention to ASU and furthered the university’s leadership position in sustainability.  Third, both our students and university operations are benefiting. The Sustainability Consortium sponsored the local competition for the Walmart Better Living 2010 Business Plan Competition, and is happy to be sending a team to the semifinals that is looking at growing agave here in Arizona and processing it into ethanol. We also recently worked with ASU’s purchasing department to develop a “carbon calculator” for ASU’s purchases of goods and services. The calculator will help ASU prioritize for which product categories it should develop more stringent purchasing guidelines.

The Sustainability Consortium will continue to look for ways to “think globally and act locally,” working with a diverse set of stakeholders to provide value and synergy to global sustainability initiatives and developing opportunities for ASU faculty, students and staff to help make consumer products more sustainable.