Emily Scofield

This article was originally published in the Charlotte Business Journal. Read the original article.

Three components critical to business success are economics, employee talent and the environment. These components show up in questions like,

  • How do we save/make money?
  • How do we recruit and retain top talent?
  • Will weather impact production or will there be enough raw materials? 

Businesses look internally for answers, but external sources also play a large role, often in the form of auditors, recruiters and third-party reports/research.

In honor of our recent celebration of Earth Day, I’ll focus on how the environmental component, specifically the places in which we do business, positively impacts the economy and employees.  

Place is a common tie impacting the recipe for success. Just like the how much and the who matters, place matters. Place affects expenses and revenue; and, can make a customer say “yes” to the deal. Place affects employee recruitment and productivity; and, can motivate top talent to perform well. Place affects the business impact on the community by the amount of resources it uses and the amount of public space it offers. Since 2000, companies domestically and abroad have been using LEED to certify that their real estate has been designed, built and operates in a healthier, more efficient manner. LEED provides corporate value to the three critical business components of economy, employees and environment. LEED, along with the Global Reporting Initiative and Energy Star, is one of a variety of national and international third-party tools available for a non-biased measurement of sustainability performance. 

During the Great Recession years of 2007-2009, LEED certifications in North Carolina more than doubled year over year speaking to the economic viability of the rating system. From commercial to residential, LEED is a framework for the design, construction and operation of buildings that maximizes efficiency, reduces waste, and lowers impacts of buildings on our health and our environment.  In 2014, North Carolina was 7th in the nation for LEED building activity. To date in North Carolina there are 1684 LEED certified projects, at least 215* of which are in Charlotte-Mecklenburg.

Many iconic companies with operations in North Carolina, such as Columbia Forest Products, Nucor, Ingersoll Rand, BASF, Wells Fargo, Bank of America, Duke Energy, and Piedmont Natural Gas, benefit from LEED certification for one or more of the following reasons: financial incentives in facility operations, increased product or service sales, increased worker satisfaction and alignment with corporate social sustainability platform. Federal, state and local governments in our state have followed in using LEED including 201 military base projects. 

Wells Fargo is an excellent for-profit example of the business case for healthier, higher performing buildings with LEED. In an April 15, 2015, Wells Fargo press release USGBC announced that Wells Fargo has the most LEED certified square feet in the global financial industry. With internal goals of increasing energy and water efficiency, and decreasing waste and greenhouse gas emissions, LEED provides a system that helps Wells Fargo achieve these goals. In the same press release, Curt Radkin, sustainability strategist with Wells Fargo’s Corporate Properties Group said, “By holding ourselves accountable to LEED standards, we are promoting a cleaner, more sustainable environment for the people who work and do business with us. LEED design elements like the use of natural light and construction materials that improve air quality aren’t just good environmental stewardship- they’re good for our business as well.”

To further demonstrate the applicability and affordability of LEED both the Charlotte Housing Authority and Habitat for Humanity of Charlotte are using LEED to reduce monthly operating expenses and enhance the indoor quality for fixed-income residents. An excerpt from Introduction to Green Building: Project Planning & Cost Estimating (2011) states the commonly held belief that green building necessitated higher costs has proven a false assumption. Additionally, the General Services Administration (the nation’s largest public real estate organization) released a study in 2011 revealing their LEED-certified buildings use 25% less energy and achieve a 19% reduction in operating costs in comparison to their non-certified buildings. 

Bottom line, when strategists are debating the top tools to improve business performance, certified healthy, high performing buildings should be part of the equation.   

*Confidential projects are excluded from this total.