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Sustainability on a shoestring

A sponsored survey of 130 corporate sustainability professionals by Gartner finds that regardless of your status, separate budgets to support sustainability programs remain relatively low.

Are you a corporate sustainability achiever, planner or straggler? Just finished poking through a new report called, "Crossing the Sustainability Chasm: Strategies and Tactics to Achieve Sustainability Goals," that will help you answer that question.

One of the high-level findings that most surprised me on my initial read was the following: no matter where your company falls on the corporate sustainability program curve (I'll define that in a moment), the amount of money that specifically gets side to support related programs is relatively low in the scheme of things. As in none. Or less than one-tenth of one percent of revenue.

The basis of the paper was a sponsored survey of 130 corporate sustainability professionals by market research firm Gartner. There were both public sector and private sector individuals surveyed, although in all cases the companies or agencies they work for had at least $1 billion in revenue or operating budget. All of them were in some way involved in the selection of software for environmental, real estate and or sustainable asset management initiatives. That makes sense because the company behind the survey is TRIRIGA, which is one of the software developers focusing on energy management and environmental sustainability applications.

The report define the "sustainability chasm" as the gap between companies that have already achieved some of their environmental and environmental goals through specific programs and those who are still working toward their initial results. Turns out there are three distinct groups:

  • Achievers: Organizations that have met at least some of their goals (34 percent)
  • Planners: Those who are still evaluating potential opportunities for energy reductions and other environmental programs (58 percent)
  • Stragglers: Companies or agencies that aren't doing anything about energy efficiency or environmental performance (8 percent)

Among the first two groups, there were three clear foci for their programs:

  1. Facility energy efficiency
  2. Improved equipment servicing and maintenance
  3. Increased space utilization

As I mentioned earlier, the survey respondents reported that budgets today are non-existent or limited for these initiatives, regardless of whether or not an organization was an Achiever or a Straggler (less than one-tenth of one percent). A large majority of the Achievers expect their capital budgets -- especially for energy management -- to increase in the next three to five years. But they are more optimistic than the Planners and Stragglers. Here's where the TRIRIGA survey respondents are focusing their efforts, with or without extra budgets:

Here are some other findings that are worth noting, but this one is definitely a download if you like reading this sort of thing:

  • Achievers tend to pick projects based on the areas of greatest need (for example, the least energy-efficient facility), while Stragglers tend to prioritize according to size or location. TRIRIGA speculates that is because the Achievers will usually have more data to make this sort of decision.
  • Stragglers are more likely to be held back in their efforts by internal support or by the lack of internal structure or group to support their efforts.
  • Achievers are more likely to use technology of some sort to collect and run metrics on their sustainability initiatives. The top five uses for this technology include: project management, ongoing maintenance, project planning and evaluation, energy use measurement and analysis, and internal reporting.

My biggest takeaway from this report is that it is possible to be an Achiever in sustainability without throwing NEW money at the problem. Because, realistically, even though there isn't specific money being set aside for sustainability efforts, those efforts are being supported inside existing facilities, real estate and energy management budgets.

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com