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Managing the Effort Top-Down and Bottom-Up

Sept. 1, 2009
Success comes from creating a culture embraced throughout the organization

While advocates of top-down management and of bottom-up management may argue vigorously with each other, both positions are simplifications. A thoughtfully constructed two-way style is most effective, and these organizations have developed approaches to energy management and sustainability that promote buy-in up and down the ladder.

At Cobleskill Regional Hospital, a 40-bed inpatient facility in rural Cobleskill, NY, monthly leadership meetings are held with the CEO and every department, from food service to nursing. At the meetings, some 30 participants are updated by Thomas Smyth, director of facilities services, on the hospital’s progress toward its short-term and long-term (1-2 years) energy and sustainability goals.

The goals of the meetings are first to raise awareness among all employees, then to have every employee look for opportunities to conserve, and, ultimately, “to make the employees the leaders,” Smyth says, because no one person can see all the opportunities across a facility. One opportunity for this country hospital is working with a paper-shredding vendor who supplies the scrap to farmers who use it as bedding for their animals.

Creating a sustainability culture at every level of the company is a key goal of ProLogis, a global owner and developer of distribution facilities. Last year a Sustainability Committee was created with three of the 12 members of the firm’s Board of Trustees. At the executive level, a position of chief sustainability officer (CSO) was created, which is currently held by Jack Rizzo, who reports to the Sustainability Committee.

On his headquarters team, Rizzo has a director of renewable energy who takes the lead on ProLogis’ solar, wind, and other renewable projects. A sustainability analyst focuses on tracking the firm’s carbon footprint, creating reduction strategies, and overseeing green building metrics. The analyst also manages the firm’s Sustainability Champions program, which is designed to reach down to the local level. Each of the more than 50 ProLogis offices worldwide has a designated sustainability champion who focuses on minimizing each field office’s environmental impact and contributing to local sustainability initiatives. The sustainability analyst and field champions have biweekly meetings.

ProLogis is also committed to preparing an annual report on its performance using the Sustainability Reporting Framework developed by the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI). GRI’s framework includes disclosures on management approach, performance indicators, and strategy.

To brainstorm and implement ideas through its 12 metropolitan Washington, D.C., buildings, Freddie Mac created an Energy Conservation Committee in 2007. In 2008, Freddie Mac achieved a 20-percent reduction in energy usage. Matt Kelly, director of facilities operations, was surprised by the answer when he asked staff members at a meeting: “What’s changed? Why did we have so much success last year?” Kelly thought the staff would comment on feeling empowered at the grassroots level, but it went deeper than that alone.

“They thought they could feel that management truly endorsed this, that it was also top-down,” Kelly explains. As a result, the staff became comfortable with setting its own rules and guidelines, such as using only task lighting after office hours unless an area has a certain number of occupants.

Commercial real estate company Transwestern has its energy plans and targets set by its 10-member Sustainability Operating Committee, which was formed in 2007 and is chaired by Transwestern’s COO. Within the committee are four senior engineering members who supervise individual building engineers’ efforts to implement sustainable practices. One of the four senior engineers takes the lead on ENERGY STAR® targets, one focuses on LEED targets, a third on assessing and benchmarking new additions to Transwestern’s building portfolio for LEED or ENERGY STAR certification, and a fourth on internal and external staff training and education.

Transwestern’s senior management services team works with the committee’s four senior engineers to identify the most practical and attainable energy improvements at newly benchmarked properties. The next step is critical: encouraging the buy-in of the building owners whom Transwestern serves as property manager.

“The business case for energy management has been accepted for years,” says Rick Walker, Transwestern’s vice president of sustainability services. “The new competitive advantage is green.” Walker believes that new sustainable buildings tend to have lower operating costs and higher rents, and when such buildings come on line, existing buildings in the same market feel the competitive pressure to update promptly. Even in the current economy, where investment dollars are hard to find, Walker has found that green projects continue to move forward.

Read about our Who's Who organizations and their best practices in the following articles:

Benchmarking and Monitoring
Utilizing the Best Technology and Products
Getting Everyone on Board
Looking Ahead: Regulations
Reducing Use and Waste
Managing the Effort Top-Down and Bottom-Up

We hope that the experience and successes of our Who’s Who leaders will supplement your team’s best practices. Do you have best practices to share with your peers? Leave a comment at the end of this page or send an e-mail to [email protected].

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