Revolutionizing Sustainable Operations by Doing 'More Good'

Studies have shown that writing down goals increases the chance that they are achieved.[i] That is why NRDC’s Facilities and Administration Team has distilled our sustainability efforts into 13 written goals. What we aim to achieve in the next 4 years, when it comes to reducing the planetary impact of our operations, is articulated over 20 pages and in a detailed project list. It is with this second formal manifestation of NRDC’s Sustainable Operations Plan that we are deepening our organization’s relationship with the planet and the humans that inhabit it.

NRDC's Sustainable Operations Goals

NRDC has a strong history of leading commercial sustainability in the built environment with our offices. We were recognized 30 years ago for the uniquely sustainable renovation of our New York office. Since then, we’ve pursued the highest level of green building certification we can get our hands on. Five years ago, our first formal Sustainable Operations Plan was released. Since then, despite growth in both headcount and square footage of office space, we decreased our offices’ building emissions by an impressive 42% because we recorded and acted upon goals. Key projects include comprehensive heating and cooling efficiency measures in New York (our largest office), target setting using the input of our subject matter expert staff and holding ourselves accountable by reporting on them via the Global Reporting Initiative with the most comprehensive “A” level of disclosure. Per the first plan, we installed a real-time monitoring system called Noveda, to measure and track our energy and water use. We implemented an additional process by which to measure our daily waste streams. As a result of having powerful data at our fingertips, we noticed where we were wasting resources unnecessarily and took corrective measures. An added perk: monetary savings.

NRDC's Environmental Metrics, Fiscal years 2012 to 2016

The proven success of our first plan was energizing. Based on the results, the next iteration of the plan was created. The current 5 year Sustainable Operations Plan naturally builds on the previous one by redefining the boundaries. We re-framed our overall objective in a fundamentally different way. We see the opportunity for any office building to act in harmony with nature rather than squandering its resources. Sustainability strategies often aim primarily at reducing negative impact, our footprint. Now, we aren’t stopping at being less bad. We are asking: How do we increase the positive impacts of operating an office? How do we cause good beyond our walls? We are calling that our handprint. Our program staff’s handprint is visible through the policies they shape, the scientific discoveries they share and the protection of our natural habitat. The Facilities and Administration Team’s handprint is to uphold NRDC’s mission through our day-to-day work, both directly through our actions and by setting an example for others to follow.

A sustainability plan isn’t unique these days. Companies all over the world recognize that overhead costs go down and risk is mitigated when they observe their operations with a conservation lens. However, the typical scope needs to be re-imagined to have more measurable impacts beyond reducing a footprint to zero. Why should we be satisfied with zero when we can create positive results? You, too can create a powerful, positive, regenerative sustainability plan and reap the benefits. What is your environmental impact? How can you operate your business while having a net benefit to the planet?

At NRDC, we see our offices as both physical spaces and change agents. We seek ways in which our daily operations can have a positive handprint on the world. Check out our Sustainable Operations Plan on our website to learn how. Join us in creating your own. Let’s high five to that!

To learn more about NRDC’s sustainability efforts or to contact the team, visit www.nrdc.org/our-sustainability

[i] http://www.dominican.edu/dominicannews/study-highlights-strategies-for-a...

About the Authors

Eileen Quigley

Sustainability Manager

Join Us