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Our popular Dean at Darden, @Bob_Bruner, has a great blog in which he shares social and economic analysis from his travels, updates from Darden (such as this recent one on sustainability), and an annual, highly anticipated annotated list of his favorite readings of the year. Since he is a prolific reader, this is a very helpful list! To shamelessly emulate his tradition, I’d like to share some of my favorite sustainability readings. Many of these are required for MBA and Executive Education courses at Darden including:

  1. Sustainable Innovation and Entrepreneurship: Professor Andrea Larson
  2. Business and Sustainability: Professors Richard Brownlee and Mark White
  3. The Executive Program (TEP): Professors Alan Beckenstein, Venkat Venkataraman and Alec Horniman

Our intention is that such coursework will equip students with an informed sustainability perspective to strengthen their managerial and decision-making capabilities, and their ability to tackle society’s greatest challenges such as poverty and climate change. This is important for careers in all areas, whether supply chain, marketing/brand management, consulting, finance or entrepreneurship. More specifically, we aim to develop in students the following competencies:

• Ability to design and execute collaborative sustainability strategies to: increase revenues through innovative products and services; lower costs through efficiencies and design; create and enhance sustainable brands; and mitigate business risk.

• Knowledge of the global and systemic impacts on natural systems and human well-being from important societal trends such as urbanization, industrialization and population growth.

• Understanding of regional and global institutions and policy instruments that influence business operations and strategy.

Below is the annotated list of eleven articles and books, plus a brief video. Do feel free to respond with your favorites via @dardensustain!

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1.  Shoots, greens and leaves, The Economist, June 16, 2012

When economies are industrializing and growing by as much as 8% a year, it is necessary that development be green at the outset.

2. Company Stakeholder Responsibility: A New Approach to CSR

The Business Roundtable Institute for Corporate Ethics, Darden School of Business

Discusses why and how a company creates value by managing for stakeholders rather than focusing exclusively on pleasing shareholders in the short-term.

3. Confessions of a Radical Industrialist, by Ray C. Anderson

Engaging story about how sustainability innovator and carpet company Interface, Inc. cut waste, water and energy use significantly, and created a culture of sustainability opportunists.

4. The Necessary Revolution: How Individuals and Organizations Are Working Together to Create a Sustainable World, by Peter M. Senge, Bryan Smith, Nina Kruschwitz, Joe Laur and Sara Schley

Shares true stories, including both successes and tough challenges, from individuals and organizations tackling social and environmental problems through business. It is wrapped in the context of systems thinking: approaching change by tackling the whole system and developing new capacities.

5. Sustainability: The ‘Embracers’ Seize Advantage

MIT Sloan Management Review and The Boston Consulting Group

This article reports on the second Sustainability & Innovation Global Executive Study by SMR and BCG. It distinguishes two types of companies: “embracers” — those who highly prioritize sustainability at a strategic level — and “cautious adopters,” who are still just focused on measures to reduce energy, waste and risk. The report shares seven characteristics of embracer companies, worthy of emulating.

6. State of Green Business 2012 by Joel Makower et al, GreenBiz Report 

An overview on numerous industries and players, the astonishing amount of activity, aggregate impact (or lack thereof), and the nature of the challenges for companies to truly make progress on embedding sustainability into their operations.

7. The Sustainability Imperative by David A. Lubin and Daniel C. Esty, Harvard Business Review, May, 2010.

Sustainability, like other “business megatrends” has predictable aspects that inform companies seeking to employ a sustainability strategy to achieve long-term competitiveness.

8. Embedded Sustainability by Chris Lazlo and Nadya Zhexembayeva

Addresses, with a good blend of theory and examples of practice, how to integrate sustainability into the DNA of the company rather than achieving “bolt-on,” or superficial, changes. Also highlights three global trends that make a sustainability strategy necessary: declining resources, radical transparency, and increasing expectations. Gives excellent set of sustainability references.

9. Ernst and Young Faculty Connection – Sustainability Reporting: Becoming Mainstream by Prof. Richard Brownlee, Darden School of Business

Highlights the growing desire for transparent and credible information from companies about their environmental and social performance, along with traditional financial metrics. New reporting frameworks that integrate all such measures of performance are becoming more mainstream, necessitating that corporate leaders understand how to produce and analyze the information.

10. Sustainability, Innovation and Entrepreneurship , by Prof. Andrea Larson, Darden School of Business  

This textbook offers tremendous background knowledge on trends influencing business, such as energy, climate and health. It provides frameworks for how businesses are embracing innovation for sustainability in order to lower costs and increase competitiveness.

11. Lifecycle Assessment: Where Is It on Your Sustainability Agenda? by Deloitte Development LLC

Lifecycle Analysis (LCA) is increasingly seen as a critical tool for companies to understand the embedded energy, water and materials in their products and processes. Managers need to understand the basics of LCA, including what questions to ask and what analysis boundaries to set, in order to make operational decisions that bring about the greatest financial and environmental benefits. Additionally, companies can use LCA tools to address consumer demand for transparency about product impacts.

12. MBA Careers for Change, Darden School of Business

Last but not least, this is a video not a book or article, but it will inspire you to hear how MBAs talk about their summer internships with specific examples of tackling challenges in waste, energy and public education.

The other night in Business and Sustainability class, Professors Brownlee and White led a case discussion focused close to home: we looked at how Darden and UVA are embedding sustainability considerations into operational strategy and decision-making. Class speakers included myself plus my colleagues:

1. Keith Crawford, LEEP AP, Darden’s Facilities Manager

2. Cheryl Gomez, P.E., Director of Utilities, U.Va.

3. Andrew Greene, LEED AP, Sustainability Planner, U.Va.’s Office of the Architect

We discussed things like:

• How much it would cost Darden annually to become carbon neutral tomorrow by purchasing offsets?

• What percentage of Darden’s energy needs do we estimate we can produce using on-site solar (perhaps 10%)?

• How do we show progress toward our zero waste to landfill goal when material recovery facilities [like this one (video)] are challenged to provide exact data on their landfill diversion rates?

• What challenges does the wider policy arena pose for us? For example, how do we make a financial case internally for on-site solar at Darden when we in VA have one of the lowest electricity rates in the country? (see graph depicting VA at $0.08 per kWh relative to NY at $0.162.)

Electricity Rates in VA and Neighboring States, 2012. Source: EIA, http://1.usa.gov/QueP8M

Ultimately I think students felt that we are moving too slowly, but gained a greater sense of these challenges. They appreciated Darden’s progress (13% reduction in GHG emissions and 32% reduction in waste to landfill since ‘07), as well as our commitment to transparency. And they’re interested in helping by doing class projects on topics like:

• How do we eliminate waste at our morning First Coffee while enhancing the experience for our community?

• What are the pros and cons of replacing paper towels in the bathroom with high-performance hand dryers?

Students’ research and recommendations will be tremendously helpful.

On a less serious note: Cheryl, Keith and I are Darden alums and Andrew is a current student. Thus we had fun deciding who got to make the first “cold call,” in true Darden case method (videos) style!

 

It’s hard to believe that the national Net Impact Conference has been going for 20 years now! Over 40 Darden students and nine faculty and staff who teach on sustainability topics and advise students seeking sustainability-related jobs recently attended the event at the Baltimore Convention Center. We enjoyed excellent sessions on topics ranging from Benefit Corporations to corporate sustainability strategy in large corporations such as UPS and Starbucks. I was struck by the numbers: nearly 3000 participants, all focused on using their MBA skills and the leverage of companies, non-profits and governmental organizations to accelerate progress on society’s greatest challenges, such as poverty, education and climate change. And any MBA student who attended could see this clearly: such a career path is no longer unusual, nor is it compartmentalized from any job function or industry. The Net Impact Conference gave us a chance to see marketers, bankers, supply chain experts, consultants and more, each of whom had found roles in organizations large and small that fulfilled their desire to effect change. Speakers often shared a story of investing a little more time up front to find or create that role, but the resulting job satisfaction was worth it. I also learned of a few new resources for mission-driven job seekers, to complement what our Career Development Center offers:

And, of course, Katie Kross’ excellent book: Profession and Purpose

I’ve already marked my calendar for the 2013 Net Impact Conference in San Jose, Oct. 24-26! 

During Earth Week 2008, Darden’s Dean Bob Bruner announced the School’s ambitious goal to be zero waste, carbon neutral by 2020. This summer, the American Society for Quality featured our progress to date on page 5 of their annual publication, Pathways to Social Responsibility: Successful Practices for Sustaining the Future 2012. A few small but hard-won and satisfying accomplishments to share:

Progress on Zero Waste, Carbon Neutral Goals

 

 

 

 

 
 

 

 

 

 

Darden has reduced its waste to landfill by 10% relative to our FY07 baseline. How?

1. Composting

In early 2012 Darden began composting kitchen food waste with partner Black Bear Composting. We have now diverted over 50 tons of kitchen prep organic waste and coffee grounds (we drink a LOT of coffee here!).

2. Recycling and Use of Material Recovery Facility

Waste not composted has two chances at being recycled before heading to the landfill:

U.Va.’s robust recycling program, which accepts e-waste, glass, metal, and plastics #1-7 (including plastic bags, straws and utensils).

Waste not separated into recycling bins goes first to a material recovery facility (MRF), where additional recyclables are removed, before the remainder is sent to the landfill. Here’s a video showing how a MRF works.

We have reduced our carbon emissions by 5% relative to our baseline. How?

Conservation and energy efficiency are two levers available to us. We educate our community on how to save energy. And with our partner Automated Logic we have recommissioned our building systems to make them more efficient. While reducing our carbon footprint, we have also avoided $102K (12% savings) in annual energy costs. We’re happy to put that money toward scholarships and curriculum instead!

We still have a long way to go of course. Achieving our waste goals will require continued behavior change, as well as perhaps a waste-to-energy process. To achieve our carbon neutral aspiration will necessitate purchasing renewable energy or producing it on-site. We continue to evaluate new opportunities and innovative renewable energy companies. We also track our utility’s renewable energy progress, given that the majority of our carbon footprint is based on the electricity we purchase from Dominion.

 

Collaboration Enables Progress

Darden collaborates with community partners to further our progress. We simply can’t achieve our zero waste, carbon neutral goal without doing so.

Our long-time Facilities Administator, Keith Crawford, AICP LEED AP, is a founder of the Central Virginia chapter of the Clean Economy Network.

We are an active member of the American Council on Renewable Energy (ACORE)and hosted ACORE’s Sustainable Ways to Community Prosperity conference here last March.

Darden was one of several organizers of the inaugural Charlottesville Area Better Business Challenge, a competition among over 100 local area businesses to reduce their waste, water and energy footprint. The Challenge culminated in an Awards Night at Charlottesville’s historic Paramount Theatre, celebrating the accomplishments of participants, 96% of whom said that sustainability practices are now more achievable for their businesses! Darden learned a lot too.

Share with us your company’s progress.

 

Darden Students and Staff Enjoy the Better Business Challenge Awards Night

 

 

Composting Ease

Composting Darden Chef William Russell

Who knew composting could be so easy?! Since mid-February more than 21 tons of the Darden School’s kitchen organic waste have gone straight to Black Bear Composting in Crimora, Virginia, where it is transformed into nutrients for flower and vegetable gardens.

Darden’s phenomenal kitchen staff (especially chef William Russell) has executed the collection process flawlessly, taking care to avoid inadvertent contamination by things like ketchup packets or straws, which can’t be composted. We can even throw in our corn-based coffee cups. Most of the compost comes from coffee grounds, fruit and vegetable peelings and other kitchen prep waste.

Like many sustainability actions, this one has been a journey. We were helped along the way by several Darden MBAs who conducted for-credit projects analyzing  the costs and benefits of both on-site and off-site composting. We ultimately decided that off-site better fit our needs for now. While there is a carbon footprint associated with transporting the compost, it’s about the same as taking it to the landfill would be. Also, initially we thought we would have to grind or pulp all of our organics before composting, but Black Bear allows us to send it as is. This saved us a significant kitchen equipment expense.

We love closed loop cycles that help Darden progress toward our zero waste goal by 2020! To learn more, read Darden School of Business Takes Next Step Toward Zero Waste Goal.

 

Yesterday Darden’s first year Strategic Thinking and Action course discussed the case BP-Beyond Petroleum, written in 2010 after the Deepwater Horizon explosion that tragically killed 11 people and led to the largest oil spill1 in the U.S.

BP Case Image

Professors Mike Lenox, Jared Harris, Jeanne Liedtka and Scott Snell, invited students to consider several questions for present-day BP, including:

1. Is renewable energy an attractive market segment for the company?

2. Does it have the internal capabilities to succeed in this market?

What struck me about the discussion was how much it was enriched by the energy-related prior work experience of the students. Points were made by those who had:

1. experienced the dynamics of business-NGO partnerships

2. been involved in financing an ethanol plant

3. covered utility companies as an analyst

4. analyzed a debt deal for a coal plant

5. worked for a solar company for five years

Each of their perspectives helped clarify the challenges and options at hand for BP.

In addition to deploying strategy tools such as Porter’s Five Forces framework and SWOT Analysis, the learning also centered upon conducting a stakeholder2 assessment for BP, i.e. Who are the company’s stakeholders and how would they define success for the company? How might they view investment decisions differently? Stakeholder groups include stockholders for sure, but also employees, the local community, government, media, NGOs and customers. Each has a different “stake” in the game of business and, thus, pressures/motivates business leaders accordingly. The savvy and successful leaders in turn are skilled at addressing the interests of all of these different groups in order to achieve long-term returns for the business – and also for society.

StrategistsChallenge

Ultimately the students’ recommendations for BP’s leadership team were varied, but they agreed on one thing: there is no easy path to profit in the renewable energy sector for BP or any company. However, the leaders that are in touch with the interests of all stakeholders, as well as clear on the strengths of, and threats to their companies, are best positioned to create value in the long run.

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1 For more about BP after the oil spill, check out Darden’s sustainability podcast series: The Darden GreenPod 10: Business Strategy and Crisis Leadership at BP.

2 For leading thinking on stakeholder engagement, read the 2010 book, Stakeholder Theory: The State of the Art, by Darden professors R. Edward Freeman, Andrew Wicks, Bidhan Parmar, and co-authors Jeffrey Harrison and Simone de Colle.

Career Discovery Forum-Mission_20100818_0006 First year students at Darden begin their job search process as soon as they arrive in August, participating in a series of Career Discovery Forums (CDFs). The CDFs give students a better understanding of post-MBA options in Consulting, Entrepreneurship, Finance, General Management & Operations, Marketing, and Mission-Driven Careers.

The opening presentation for the Mission-Driven Careers Forum was given by Kellogg Leliveld, Associate Director of Business Development for Darden’s Career Development Center. In addition to meeting with companies, Kellogg focuses on finding jobs in a variety of industries, including energy, microfinance, corporate social responsibility (CSR), education, government and non-profits, and also leads the school’s Renewable Energy Job Trek.

Kellogg noted a number of changes during the 2009-2010 school year: Darden posted approximately 120 positions related to sustainability and social change, an increase over 2008-2009; there was an increase in student interest in such roles; and membership in career clubs related to energy, sustainability, education and entrepreneurship has increased. Some students also choose to start their own mission-oriented companies, and have the opportunity to spend a summer (with funding provided) in Darden’s Incubator. Last summer’s Incubator companies included two focused on renewable energy and energy efficiency.

What are mission-driven roles, which can encompass many of the categoriesCareer Discovery Forum-Mission_20100818_0009 mentioned above and more? They look different to different people. One could be an operations role in a traditional company committed to energy efficiency in its supply chain. Or a product design role focused on bringing innovative goods to market that provide environmental solutions (note our GE panelist below). Or perhaps a job in community development finance or a CSR role for a Fortune 100 company. Below is a list of a number of these types of positions. A great resource on this topic is the book Profession and Purpose: A Resource Guide for MBA Careers in Sustainability by Katie Kross.

Mission Driven Careers Slide

A diverse group of panelists shared with students what they do and their enthusiasm for the impact they are having, including:

Career Discovery Forum-Mission_20100818_0014

The message from Kellogg and our panelists was that there are great opportunities for MBAs to focus their careers on addressing the world’s most serious issues such as climate change, education reform, potable water availability, and poverty. And business schools like Darden have the expertise to help guide students on this path.

In an academic institution like Darden, summer is a good time to reflect. While my office is a little too quiet without students stopping by to talk about sustainability-focused courses, projects and jobs, I welcome the chance to consider progress and lessons learned, and to focus on the coming year.

Just over two years ago our Dean, Robert Bruner, became the first business school Dean we know of to set a business school-specific, aggressive sustainability vision: to be a zero waste, carbon neutral enterprise by 2020 and a top ten business school for teaching and research on sustainability by 2013. Since then, our community has been energized by this vision in the areas of How We Live and How We Learn.

Several people in particular have been instrumental in our progress, including: Terry De Guzman, Associate Dean for Finance and Administration; Keith Crawford, Facilities Administrator; Gene Meoni, General Manager of Hospitality; Tom Cervelloni, Director of Food and Beverage; Kellogg Leliveld, Associate Director of Business Development, Career Development Center; Professor Richard Brownlee (Accounting), Chair of the Dean’s Advisory Committee on Sustainability Curriculum, as well as the other faculty members of this committee, Professors Yiorgos Allayannis (Finance), Andrea Larson (Entrepreneurship) and Michael Lenox (Strategy). Professors Ed Freeman (Ethics) and other Ethics faculty members, Sherwood Frey (Negotiation) and Robert Landel (Operations) also play a key role in designing sustainability curriculum.

What have we accomplished this year?

School Operations-Measurement

In 2009 we established Darden’s Eco-Effectiveness Metrics. These are the key indicators by which we measure ourselves on our zero waste, carbon neutral goal. Simply, they include energy use, water use, and waste production.

Darden Uses the Clean Air Cool Planet Model to Calculate Its Greenhouse Gas Emissions

This summer we will post our current status in these areas on the Sustainability at Darden web site. Every time our community recycles, turns off computers at night, and unplugs items such as cell phone chargers when not in use, we are moving in a small way in the right direction.

School Operations-Energy Efficiency

Approximately 87% of Darden’s carbon footprint is related to purchased electricity from Dominion Power. Since we live in VA, much of that electricity is generated through burning coal, and we do not (yet) have the opportunity to purchase renewable energy such as wind power from Dominion. We believe we can achieve a 25% reduction in our energy use simply through conservation and energy efficiency measures. Toward that end, we recently signed a contract with Aero Integrated Solutions to recommission our HVAC systems to improve performance, with the goal of reducing both energy use and energy costs. Our Sustainability at Darden web site details other specific actions we have taken.

School Operations-Renewable Energy

Production or purchase of renewable energy, along with conservation and energy efficiency, is an essential part of our sustainability strategy. Toward that end, we have met with providers of solar services agreements and fuel cells to assess the feasibility for Darden. While we haven’t signed any contracts yet, we continue to look for options that meet our financial and performance criteria.

School Operations-Waste

On the waste reduction front, since we estimate that half of Darden’s waste is food-related, we’ve investigated several options for composting food waste either on-site or at a local farm. Stay tuned for more progress on that. We have also increased the number of recycling locations, co-located with trash cans for convenience.

MBA Curriculum

Darden continues to integrate sustainability topics into the core, required curriculum as well as to offer approximately twenty elective courses that are fully or partially focused on sustainability topics.

Additionally, students may now choose to enroll in up to two academic concentrations during their second year to deepen their knowledge in areas of particular interest and/or career-focus. Innovation for Sustainability is one such new concentration. The required course is Sustainable Innovation and Entrepreneurship taught by Prof. Andrea Larson. Students also choose from among several electives, including Systems Design and Business Dynamics(Prof. Robert Landel) and Creative Capitalism(Prof. Ed Freeman). Students must also complete an experiential component, whether a business project with a sustainability-focused company, or a Global Business Experience, such as a sustainability-focused trip to visit companies and study at universities in Brazil, Israel or Sweden. Coursework will be supplemented by multi-disciplinary, student-faculty gatherings to synthesize learnings.

Research

Last fall ten schools including Darden launched the Alliance for Research on Corporate Sustainability (ARCS), a consortium that includes Harvard, Yale, Michigan and others. ARCS focuses on providing data and networking opportunities for corporate sustainability researchers. ARCS held its second annual research conference at Harvard

Participants at the 2nd Annual Alliance for Research on Corporate Sustainability Conference (ARCS) Conference

Business School last May. A multi-disciplinary group of 100 corporate sustainability researchers from 54 institutions and ten countries gathered to present and discuss leading papers in the field. Given the urgent need for effective sustainability policies and strategies that can be employed by firms and governments alike, ARCS scholars have an important role to play. Professor Mike Lenox is the Faculty Director of ARCS and I am the Managing Director.

Co-Curricular Activities

This has also been an incredibly busy year for sustainability-related events and competitions. Darden hosted a regional round of the Wal-Mart Better Living Business Plan Competition, as well as the Aspen Institute Business and Society Case Competition. For the former, Darden students Parker Garrett and Ian Shields presented their business plan for Piankatank, a sustainable aquaculture operation without the typical environmental damage and potential health issues associated with fish farming. For the Aspen competition, students had a weekend to grapple with a very challenging case, creating a sustainability strategy for the Tata Group.

This year Darden also hosted the Garden Club of Virginia’s annual Conservation Forum on Sustainable Communities, the Tibet Social Business Conference, and the Sustainability and Renewable Energy Forum. The Sustainability and Renewable Energy Forum, which was primarily organized by students, featured Ray Anderson, Chairman of Interface, Inc. the carpet company which invented the modular carpet tile and developed a process for reclaiming and re-using carpet tiles. (Ray is one of my personal heroes.) A second keynote speaker was Andris Cukurs, CEO of the North American Subsidiary of Suzlon Wind Energy Corporation who also participated in a case discussion on the

Suzlon Wind Energy Executives Visited Darden in Oct. 2009

company in Prof. Richard Brownlee’s Business and Sustainability course. Darden’s Net Impact Chapter also featured a series of great speakers from UPS, GE and others.

Darden Capital Management launched its new fund, the Rotunda Fund, which will give selected students the opportunity to use a sustainability investment strategy to invest the school’s assets and focus on achieving long-term returns. Overseen by Prof. Yiorgos Allayannis, Darden Capital Management also gives academic credit.

Although the past academic year was indeed productive, we have far to go! New collaborations among Darden students, faculty and staff – as well as across the University of Virginia and with external organizations – are essential to our success.

Last weekend I attended the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon on the National Mall in Washington, DC. This event is a competition among universities to design, construct and operate the most visually appealing and energy-efficient solar home, with the goal of generating awareness about solar technologies and further developing the technology. The homes are built at the universities, which included those in Europe, Canada and Puerto Rico, and then disassembled, transported to D.C. and re-assembled. (The University of Virginia had an award-winning entry in 2002. Hopefully we will be back again at the next one in 2011!)

Exteriors of each home were beautifully landscaped, with vegetation reflecting the natural surroundings of their home institutions. The interior designs were modern and very appealing. The event was well-attended, with attendees cheerfully waiting 30 minutes to get into some houses.

At the Solar Decathlon’s opening ceremony, Secretary of Energy Steven Chu announced that up to $87M in funding has been made available to advance solar energy technologies. Additionally the event, which continues through Sunday, Oct. 18th, featured presentations on topics such as Green Jobs and Solar for the Homeowner.

How does a school like Darden, which has set the goal to be carbon neutral by 2020, take advantage of solar technologies? Many companies such as Sol Sage Energy, Sun Edison, and SunPower allow customers to lease solar panels through a Power Purchase Agreement. The leased panels would allow us to generate power, use what we need, and feed the extra back into the grid without purchasing/owning any of the equipment. Our electricity rates, on a per kilowatt hour (kWh) basis are locked in for the duration of the agreement, which could be ten years. Given that energy prices are rising and difficult to predict, fixing our energy rates could make financial sense.

I was discussing the Solar Decathlon with my colleague at Darden, Professor Peter DeBaere, who teaches in the Global Economies and Markets area. He noted that the U.S. has a great deal of progress to make. We have complex and changing incentives and regulations which differ by state, creating barriers to adoption for residential or commercial users. He compared the U.S. to countries such as Germany, with its popular feed-in tariff that has boosted the use of renewable energy. It is interesting to compare U.S. solar energy adoption with that of wind power, the market penetration of which is growing quickly. According to a U.S. Department of Energy report, 40% of new power generation in the U.S. in 2008 was wind power.

Events like the Solar Decathlon are great fun to attend. Additionally they give researchers and students the funding to refine the technologies they are developing, and deepen popular understanding of the benefits of widespread adoption of solar technologies.

Yesterday we hosted at Darden Elizabeth Heider, AIA LEED AP, Senior Vice President at Skanska USA Building Inc. and board member of the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC). The title of her talk was Green Leadership Evolution: Green Opportunities in Construction. She was also a guest in the first year Decision Analysis class, which discussed a case written by Prof. Casey Lichtendahl on Skanska’s choice to seek Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Platinum certification (or not) for its flagship offices at the Empire State Building.

As Senior Vice President for Skanska, Ms. Heider, a graduate of UVA’s School of Architecture, is responsible for the pre-construction management of multimillion-dollar construction programs. She is helping transform the building industry, which is in great need of change.

Buildings generate an estimated 40% of the world’s carbon emission, making innovation essential. The good news is that the USGBC has experienced explosive growth in the number of LEED certified projects, and in the number of people taking the exam to become LEED accredited professionals. Companies like Skanska help their clients achieve LEED certification, whether through new construction or renovation.

I was particularly interested to learn from Ms. Heider about The Living Building Challenge, a program operated by the Cascadia Region Green Building Council. The characteristics of a “living building” are, for the most part, beyond our grasp now. However, we are charged with achieving “a building designed and constructed to function as elegantly and efficiently as a flower,…informed by its ecoregion’s characteristics, and that generates all of its own energy with renewable resources, captures and treats all of its water, and operates efficiently and for maximum beauty.”

Suppliers to the construction industry are adapting to the demand for sustainable materials but have a long way to go. Organizations like the USGBC and corporate leaders like Ms. Heider are pushing them faster.

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