Step 1: Define Portfolio Program Vision

Define the vision.

The Sustainability Champion should create a statement that summarizes what owners would like to see the company or the portfolio achieve as it relates to sustainability. An effective vision statement will answer the question, “Where do we see ourselves by the end of ______?” This could imply reducing overall cost, increasing efficiency, becoming a leader in sustainability for a specific market and/or reducing the organization’s carbon footprint. Additionally, the vision could be defined in terms of resource reduction targets, such as decreasing energy, water or greenhouse gases (GHG) within a certain amount of time.

Example Sustainability Vision Statements for a Company or Portfolio

We will adopt sustainable business policies, processes and equipment that will enable all of our properties to achieve at least LEED Silver status. By doing so, we will increase the value of our buildings, improve our tenant experience, reduce our net operating costs by at least 5% per year, and reduce the impact our buildings have on the environment and our shared resources.

Define portfolio goals and objectives.

The Sustainability Champion should supplement the vision with high-level, portfolio-specific sustainability goals and objectives that align with the organization’s overall business goals to improve the likelihood of success. For example, if the primary goal is for the portfolio to achieve high performance over the long-term, building owners might choose a whole-building approach to sustainability.

From an energy standpoint, the whole-building approach entails a sequenced, three-step process:

  1. Reducing the amount of energy used across the whole building, including tenant energy use
  2. Using more energy-efficient technologies
  3. Providing controls to optimize the use of the equipment 

Define portfolio goals and objectives.

If the organization typically makes investment decisions based on a defined payback period of 36 months, ensure that proposed sustainability targets can be achieved using the 36-month payback investment criteria. (Note: Measures to reduce loads typically have longer paybacks than control measures or behavior change initiatives.)

Define portfolio goals and objectives.

At a minimum, when defining the organization’s portfolio sustainability program goals, the Sustainability Champion should ensure the goals address the following key questions:

  • Will the goals and objectives encompass the whole property portfolio?
  • How will the goals and objectives align with the organization’s operational/tenant satisfaction goals (e.g., a whole-building approach does not usually align with a goal of immediately reducing operating costs)?
  • Will the goals and objectives address all building aspects (energy, water, materials, waste, etc.) – or just select areas?
  • How deep/broad should measure evaluation span (e.g., evaluate whole-building strategies or complete one individual measure or initiative across the whole portfolio)?
  • What building types should the goals and objectives encompass (i.e., new construction, renovations, and/or existing buildings)?
  • Should achieving green certification be part of the goals and objectives?
  • Is there any willingness to relax typical financial investment thresholds to help foster the sustainability program? For example, would the owners allow a project with a 42-month payback as an exception to the 36-month payback rule if the project proved to have a high internal rate of return?

While it is relatively easy to measure financial goals, some sustainability benefits accrue outside the organization and should also be captured. For example, recycling and composting efforts benefit society by reducing waste and benefit the organization when trying to achieve LEED® accreditation. These impacts should count when evaluating a sustainability effort.

Define internal communication and education channels.

The Sustainability Champion and Sustainability Project Lead should identify all internal and external stakeholders who have an interest in the Portfolio Sustainability Program. They should define communication channels to ensure information flows horizontally across building site management, vertically between building managers and outward to required external parties.

Communicate and obtain buy-in from all audiences to help:

  • Hold the organization accountable for reaching its goals and targets
  • Engage staff by showing that their sustainability efforts are part of a larger initiative
  • Highlight the increased value of the portfolio due to the team’s efforts

Next: Establish roles/responsibilities >