With each passing year, ESG (Environmental, Social and Governance) is becoming more of a focus for organizations worldwide. As stated by Quantive, ESG frameworks offer a clear roadmap toward a more sustainable future by improving ESG performance and reporting. Both major corporations and some small businesses are emphasizing the importance of protecting the environment while working to be transparent on their efforts to meet or exceed standards.
While for-profit businesses are often associated with ESG, K-12 schools are at the forefront of the movement by using the framework as a guide to develop more efficient strategies to provide cleaner air for students and faculty alike while also being cognizant of energy consumption. In return, this also allows schools to remain compliant with applicable laws and regulations.
A Focus on Energy Consumption
The Environmental aspect of ESG focuses primarily on an entity’s ability to manage its environmental impact. For K-12 schools, this oftentimes ties back into their HVAC units. A necessity for providing clean air for students, these units are primary components that use large amounts of energy. According to the High School Sustainability Guide, HVAC systems consume between 40-50% of a school’s total energy. To minimize the impact HVAC solutions have on the environment, utilizing efficient systems is key to reducing energy consumption.
In addition, add-ons, such as energy recovery wheels, can lower energy costs as well. These products recycle energy from exhaust air to preheat or precool incoming air, which helps reduce operating costs. Overall, these moves can help minimize the large amounts of energy HVAC units consume.
Developing an Excellent Social Environment
When looking at the social component of ESG, this pertains to the wellbeing of employees, which is vital for K-12 school facilities. Indoor air quality (IAQ) can affect building occupants both directly and indirectly, from the air feeling muggy to occupants developing sick building syndrome. The EPA states that poor air quality can result in numerous health issues such as headaches, dizziness and fatigue; irritation of the eyes, nose and throat; respiratory diseases and even cancer. In addition, inadequate HVAC solutions can also lead to more airborne pathogens, like cold and flu viruses, making their way into the space. This could result in more missed school days for students due to illness.
Schools that are at the forefront of ESG are aware of the consequences poor IAQ has on students and faculty, thus making it harder to meet the Social aspect of ESG. Mechanical HVAC units, while being a major contributor to energy consumption, are the best weapon against airborne pathogens and the greatest tool for creating enhanced IAQ. The combination of adequate ventilation, filtration and dehumidification will improve the overall experience of school occupants and improve their well-being thanks to cleaner air.
Complying with the Law
The final component of ESG is Governance, which pertains to an organization’s ability to stay in compliance with applicable laws and regulations. If a school focuses on accomplishing reduced energy usage by using efficient HVAC systems and better IAQ, it will likely remain in compliance with the laws and regulations. With ESG providing a roadmap to a more sustainable future, it’s important for schools to emphasize all three components of reporting because they all tie in with each other. The efficient units used to reduce energy can also enhance indoor air quality, thus making the school compliant.
These are all things that schools deal with daily, and ESG reporting can ensure schools stay at the forefront of creating safe, comfortable experiences for students and faculty alike.