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Three Tips for Sustainability Policies that Lead to Results.

IF A COMPANY WANTS TO DECLARE THAT SOMETHING IS IMPORTANT TO IT, PART OF THE DECLARATION IS OFTEN AN OFFICIAL POLICY. The policy sets a direction that all relevant stakeholders--employees, vendors and even partners and clients--are expected to follow. These parties will seek to operationalize the policy, with as much or as little guidance as the company includes or provides.

That's where a sustainability policy can fail to make an impact. Too often, the policy stops with the declaration and lacks a call to action. People may hear the pronouncement, but they eventually go about business as usual.

Here are three ways to set a sustainability policy that leads to action and improvement. These tips come from observations made in processing applications for the IREM Certified Sustainable Property certification.

TIP NO. 1:

Don't stop at the policy.

Set goals and create action plans.

You may want to set one policy that establishes your overall direction on sus-tainability or several policies focused on specific areas--energy efficiency, water efficiency and waste management, for example.

Either approach is fine, but don't stop there. More direction will allow for easier implementation of a policy and fewer stragglers in performance from teams that had nothing to shoot for and no concrete actions to take.

Set goals around improvements in energy efficiency, water efficiency, waste diversion rate and other areas of performance. Create an action plan for each property that includes roles and responsibilities, operational improvements and retrofit projects, budgetary considerations and timeline.

TIP NO. 2:

Decide whose policies are operational at each property.

Make sure you know what policies exist, first of all, on the owner side and the property management side. An owner's representative may have failed to communicate a policy or may not know that a property management firm has policies and other tools that drive sustainability.

Next, decide which policy or policies site teams should follow. Make this an intentional choice between ownership and management decision makers by including the policy discussion in a meeting agenda.

Property management firms may want to take the lead by developing policies that encompass the scope of their clients' policies but are themselves more detailed or accompanied by O&M plans, budgets, and reporting that guide sustainable site operations. All of these management tools can help align sustainable operations with the overall objectives for a property.

TIP NO. 3:

Assess impact and revise.

Establish how you will assess the impact of your policy and action plan toward sustainability goals. ENERGY STAR* score, cost savings, ROIs for retrofit projects, equivalents in Olympic-size swimming pools for water consumption--sustainability can be measured in a variety of ways, and different stakeholders respond to different metrics.

Whatever metrics you choose will allow you to assess impact from a baseline date of policy implementation. Re-examine the policy at regular intervals--at least annually--based on your progress toward goals, unforeseen challenges or bottlenecks, and market developments such as new technologies, funding, or incentives that open your portfolio to additional sustainability measures.

If you need help establishing policies and action plans, the IREM Certified Sustainable Property program has all-in-elusive templates for energy efficiency, water efficiency, indoor air quality, purchasing and other areas of sustainable operations. Visit to access the templates.

By Todd Feist
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Comment:Three Tips for Sustainability Policies that Lead to Results.
Author:Feist, Todd
Publication:Journal of Property Management
Date:Nov 1, 2018
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