How to Measure and Improve Office Sustainability

January 12, 2018

What you can do now to positively affect the triple bottom line

Though most organizations strive for sustainability, a Bain & Company survey found that only 2% of CEOs believe they have successfully achieved the sustainability goal. Why? It’s often difficult for businesses to connect a principles-based strategic vision with concrete, measurable results.

Historically, sustainability programs have been viewed as a cost center and even something that competes with business priorities. That’s why many companies have struggled to maintain an organization-wide commitment to sustainability programs.

Common sustainability initiatives

Despite these challenges, most organizations have at least one green program in place. Some efforts to green up the workplace include:

  • New building design practices incorporate energy-efficient materials.
  • Facility management metrics focus on the 3 Rs—reduce, reuse, and recycle—to cut down on office waste.
  • Offices promote responsible consumption of electricity by reminding employees to power down computers or turn off lights when not in use.
  • Procurement teams are encouraged to think local and support vendors who follow sustainable practices.

Leadership support is key

To be successful long-term, it’s important to define metrics and get leadership support. You’ll be able to see the impact of your efforts and track progress if you measure indicators like paper use, e-waste disposal, and energy consumption year over year. The establishment of a “green team” can help your office make necessary changes and stay accountable to its goals.

Multiple capital accounting: The triple bottom line

Sustainability is more than just a commitment to environmental stewardship. In fact, more and more businesses are taking a holistic approach to sustainability. Harvard Business Review explains that big names like Ben & Jerry’s (Unilever), Coca-Cola, and 3M are measuring performance based on three “vital capitals”:

  • Environmental. For example, metrics that track tons of paper recycled, percentage of trash reduced by composting, or gallons of water conserved.
  • Financial/Economic. Typically offered in corporate reports, this includes numbers that show the debt to equity ratio or investments in research and innovation.
  • A newer concept, companies might track the increase in workplace safety measures or the number of workers that are paid a living wage. According to Business Insider, Danish company Norvo Nordisk also measures the social impact by providing affordable medicine to developing countries and training to doctors and patients about better management of chronic conditions.

Corporate sustainability reports should use a consistent set of criteria and progression scoring in order to effectively measure performance.

Organization-specific performance tracking

As businesses move toward this new model, it’s also important to focus on balancing sustainability goals with your organization’s KPIs. For example, a likely KPI for a data center is to maintain near 100% uptime. In this case, notes FMLink, the sustainability goal should be to balance uptime metrics with more efficient energy consumption.

The business case for a holistic approach to sustainability

A 2016 Harvard Business Review article explains why it’s important to make sustainability a strategic priority for your organization. As you work to define metrics and goals for your program, consider these four benefits of sustainability:

  1. Minimizes risk. Sustainability initiatives help you make investments today to address social and environmental risks that can increase over time.
  2. Drives innovation. To reduce your carbon footprint or meet social needs, you’ll discover more efficient processes and create new products.
  3. Improves financial performance. With sustainable practices in place, your organization gains a competitive advantage.
  4. Builds employee morale. Studies show that companies with strong sustainability programs have higher levels of employee engagement.

Follow through

As you take steps to strengthen your sustainability program, be sure to get everyone on board. You’ll need commitment from employees and strong leadership support to ensure you stay on track. Conduct an assessment and set clear, measurable goals. To find new sustainability ideas, take a deep analysis of how your employees use office space today. Asure Software’s Workplace Utilization solutions can help you see if there are little-used areas that could be redesigned for better efficiency.