Corporate sustainability is a business management strategy in which organizations measure their business success on economic, environmental, and social performance indicators. Today this triple bottom line has been embraced by many world-class companies. US based and international organizations are finding that the path to world-class status involves sustainability. Environmental, health and safety (EHS) professionals should recognize the principles that our corporate leaders expect. In some organizations, the leadership of sustainability efforts has been placed with EHS management. In others, EHS professionals assume more of a consultant role and that means influencing without authority. Regardless, the involvement is often because efforts to eliminate hazardous constituents in products, reduce waste, or recycle manufactured products will benefit people inside and outside the corporation, by reducing exposures and injuries to employees and those in the community. This paper will explore the energy aspect of environmental sustainability, namely, what can be done to reduce the carbon footprint in any organization, and how to reduce energy costs. This is one way to reduce the impact of manufactured products on the earth. Practical examples will be used to help the EHS professional apply these concepts in their own workplace and hopefully lead the eco-efficiency efforts.
The obvious answer to "why eco-efficiency" in 2009 is that companies are looking to save money wherever they can due to the downturn in the economy. In 2008, the issue was high energy prices. Long term, prices will likely go back up as the economy recovers. Efficiency strategies today will help in both the short-term economic crisis, as well as, in the long term with higher energy prices. One of the low cost options includes commissioning of newer buildings. Many buildings don't function as intended because the electronic controls were not set properly at the time of installation. This means some areas are hot and others are cold. By correcting the settings, balancing the HVAC system, and disabling local thermostats, the energy savings will often result in payback in less than one year. EHS professionals often uncover these issues when responding to Indoor Air Quality complaints where ceiling vents are closed by employees who are too cold or don't want air blowing down on them.
Capital projects such as new buildings or renovations may be more limited in 2009 but they are still occurring, and building a green or high-performance building is eco-efficient if the life cycle costs are considered. The Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Green Building Rating System™ is the nationally accepted benchmark for the design, construction and operation of high-performance green buildings. LEED promotes a whole-building approach to sustainability by recognizing performance in five key areas of human and environmental health: sustainable site development, water savings, energy efficiency, materials selection and indoor environmental quality. The California Department of Finance commissioned a study by Capital E group and Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory. They determined that the financial benefits of green design are between $50 and $70 per square foot in a LEED building.