The big banks know that “green” isn’t about polar bears. It’s about smart business.
Bank of America, for example, recently announced a 10-year, $50 billion energy efficiency project goal, and Wells Fargo created a $100 million environmental grant program for non-profits and universities.
Without a stronger commitment to sustainability, small banks and credit unions risk looking out of touch with the values of their rapidly evolving client base.
Here are 5 steps they can take to be more green:
1) Don’t Get Solar (For Now)
While solar panels are sexy, they are not always a wise first step on the green path. Why? Because solar requires a large, upfront capital investment with a payback period of around 10 to 15 years. There are financing options that help avoid the upfront capital expense, but this will lock you into a 10- to 20-year contract.
Solar panels are a great investment over the long term. But there are cheaper, quicker and easier steps that you can take first.
2) Benchmark Your Building
You can’t manage what you don’t measure. The first thing you should do is benchmark your building with the free ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager software (www.energystar.gov). Portfolio Manager compares your facility’s energy performance to similar buildings across the United States.
Once you input your monthly energy data, Portfolio Manager gives your building a score between 1-100, with 50 being the national average and 100 being a top score. If your facility scores below a 50, it’s a red flag that you are wasting energy and money.
3) Get An Energy Audit
Regardless of your benchmarking results, an energy audit is an invaluable way to identify your building’s no cost and low cost efficiency opportunities. An energy auditor will look at your lighting, heating, air-conditioning, and plug loads, which account for the majority of energy used in most office buildings.
By addressing these items first, you can significantly lower your building’s overall energy usage with little to no upfront cost. Then, if you decide to invest in a higher cost item like solar, your solar system will be cheaper to install and more appropriately sized to meet your decreased electricity consumption.
4) Engage Your Employees
A key and often overlooked element in any green initiative is motivating and engaging your employees. Staff engagement will amplify your efficiency savings, give employees a creative outlet, build community around a common goal, and help ensure the longevity of your green efforts.
In order to do this effectively, however, it’s important to understand what motivates people to change. Rather than using fear, shame or pleas to save the planet, the most effective approach comes from something called the herd mentality. This suggests that humans are more likely to adopt green behaviors because their friends, coworkers and neighbors already have. Humans don’t want to be the first or last to do something; they want to be safe in the middle of the herd.
Instead of trying to change every individual opinion, a sustainability initiative only has to motivate enough people to get the attention of the herd. If you focus on making sustainability fun, through things like energy efficiency contests, newsletters and a green staff of the month, your employees will start moving in the same green direction.
5) Tell the World You’re Green
When you feel confident in your progress, you should consider introducing sustainability into your marketing efforts. Green marketing can create a halo effect, causing customers to view you as more trustworthy, honest, and superior to the competition because you care for the planet.
Getting your facility Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certified or Energy Star certified can generate external recognition of your green efforts.
Expect Good Things
Once you start to see that going green helps you save money, add value for members and employees, and reduces risk, you’ll realize that sustainability is not a passing trend, it’s the future of business.