Secrets to a High-ROI Sustainability Program

Susanna Cagle, Senior Product Manager of Sustainability at ENGIE Insight

The stakes are getting higher. “86% of US consumers expect companies to act on social and environmental issues”. However, companies are challenged more than ever to better manage resources, achieve greater transparency for stakeholders, and produce significant cost savings. Yet, developing a strategy to holistically reduce resources such as energy, water and waste is no easy task, especially for organizations with a large, complex portfolios of facilities. For these multi-site businesses, it can be difficult to prioritize projects, secure funding, and engage thousands of individual employees. In fact, 30% of multi-site businesses have, at a minimum, dipped their toes in the efficiency waters: a lighting project here, an employee engagement initiative there. But these “one and done” projects simply don’t deliver high returns and it is a challenge to convince the C-suite that they are worth rolling out portfolio-wide.

To make a noticeable impact on resource management—with a high return to the bottom line—it’s important for multi-site businesses to adopt a holistic strategy that includes operational changes, capital projects, employee engagement and accountability, and full reporting and disclosure across the entire portfolio. With so much to do, we recommend a few best practices for companies with large, geographically disparate portfolios to get started.

Here are a few best practices that can help companies with large, geographically disparate portfolios develop and implement a high-ROI strategy.

3 Tips for a Portfolio-Wide Sustainability Program

1. Invest in a robust assessment of your current state

For large, multi-site organizations, one of the most challenging aspects of a sustainability strategy is understanding where you are today and where you want to go. A good place to start is by assessing how your organization uses energy, water and waste within your own portfolio and relative to peers. Once you have a good baseline, determine what priorities matter to stakeholders by surveying groups like executives, your board, employees, and customers. Use these quantitative assessments to set the foundation for your strategy.

2. Secure executive buy-in with a plan that balances short term ROI and long-term objectives

Executive support is critical to the success of any sustainability strategy. To gain buy-in, draft a business case that spans 5-10 years, which also includes annual program plans with detailed financial analysis that meets your organization’s investment hurdles. A comprehensive business case should go beyond direct cost savings to consider the value of risk management, brand enhancement and increased revenue.

3. Use pilots to justify broader roll outs

Companies with hundreds of sites have the unique benefit of being able to test investments, measure results, and roll out programs more broadly. Pilot new technologies frequently and invest in measurement and verification to validate results and then use that data to justify a larger investment.

Although we’ve somewhat simplified these best practices here, our new eBook, The Multi-Site Company’s Sustainability Playbook: Secrets to a High-Return Sustainability Strategy dives deeper into developing strategies with high returns. These insights have been developed from more than 20 years of helping multi-site organizations, including 25% of the Fortune 500, interpret and act on their energy, water and waste data.

We invite you to download the full report or register to attend our upcoming webinar on Thursday, October 25th: Beyond LEDs: The Secrets to A High-Return Sustainability Program. If you’re eager to expand your small projects into a more substantial strategy, this webinar is definitely for you. You’ll hear three expert panelists in sustainability and resource management answer all your burning questions about project prioritization, setting targets, and measuring project ROI. We look forward to having you there!

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