A successful real estate sustainability program not only focuses on implementing efficiency and health initiatives at the property level, but also engages stakeholders as part of the process. Key stakeholders include internal staff, asset/property managers, tenants/residents, vendors, building visitors and customers, the real estate industry, surrounding communities, and government authorities. Each of these groups has an impact on, or is impacted by, the sustainability program.
Tenants, for example, are typically responsible for 60 to 70% of a total energy consumption at a property so engaging them on sustainable occupant behavior is key to achieving better results. Sustainable development, management and operations will only take results so far.
Tenant engagement requires a combination of internal and external strategies. To engage and educate external stakeholders, Verdani’s clients have implemented many best practices. A key strategy is to create a sustainability page on their corporate website that includes key program information such as goals, targets, and annual sustainability reports to communicate ongoing implementation progress and results. For internal stakeholders such as employees, property managers, and tenants, the first step is to communicate the goals of the sustainability program and develop policies and resources that will provide everyone with a roadmap to achieve those goals.
Once everyone is onboard with a common set of goals, targets and strategies to work towards, an important next step is to implement stakeholder and communication strategies. Below are some effective ways in which Verdani has worked with its clients to engage their tenants, employees, property managers, and surrounding communities.
Stakeholder Engagement Best Practices
- Sustainability Resource Site: Designate a centralized location (cloud) that is accessible to internal teams to host all the sustainability program files and resources.
- Employee Communications: Communicate program goals and accomplishments with employees on an ongoing basis. Sample communication channels include e-mails, newsletters, reports, presentations, memos, and social media. Click here to see a sample newsletter.
- Sustainability Trainings: Offer educational trainings and webinars on specific strategies to educate property teams on sustainability strategies.
- Internal Sustainability Awards: Create a recognition program to motivate and offer awards and incentives for high performing properties, managers, and employees.
- Sustainability Program Branding: Create a customized branding strategy for the sustainability programs communications including a sustainability logo and banner.
- Corporate Sustainability Website: Create a sustainability page on the corporate website to communicate the sustainability program goals and accomplishments with external stakeholders. Click here to see a sample website.
- Annual Sustainability Report: Publish an annual sustainability report to communicate progress with sustainability program goals and accomplishments. Click here to see CommonWealth Partners sample report. Refer to the “Social” section for a description of their stakeholder engagement programs.
- Occupant Surveys: Encourage feedback by conducting surveys on occupant comfort, transportation, and tenant preferences. Find out what your tenants’ priorities are to inform your programs.
- Tenant Events: Host tenant events such as Earth Day fairs and an e-waste drives for employees and tenants.
- Green Occupant Guides: Develop sustainability guides tailored to educating building occupants on sustainable behavior strategies.
- Green Leases: Engage building occupants and landlords in energy conservation and efficiency through energy Green Leases. Include key sustainability goals and structure agreements to benefit both parties by sharing both the cost and benefits of efficiency improvements.
- Green Tenant Improvement Guide: Develop a green tenant guide to educate tenants on sustainable construction and renovation requirements, strategies, and resources.
- Sustainability Signage: Good signage is key. Locate informational signs in high traffic areas that explain the property’s sustainability initiatives and could spark tenants’interest.
- Internal Sustainability Awards: Consider creating a recognition program to offer awards and incentives for sustainable behavior.
- Develop Partnerships: Join local/national real estate and green building industry groups to collaborate, share best practices and stay up to date with industry trends.
Case Study: CommonWealth Partners
One example of a successful stakeholder engagement program across an entire portfolio was the ENERGY STAR Battle of the Buildings Bootcamp. A collaboration between Verdani Partners, Commonwealth Partners, and ENERGY STAR, the program created an internal competition between buildings with a fixed start and end date. In order to be successful, the Bootcamp needed clear objectives and had to be easy enough that there would be buy-in not only from the tenants, but also from the property managers to implement the ideas at their building. We chose three awareness categories to focus our efforts on per month spanning a total of three months in the fall of 2017; Water Awareness Month for September, Energy Awareness Month for October, and Waste Awareness Month for November.
Several weeks before each awareness month began, we distributed an email to each property manager with a sample memo to send to the tenants. The memo included strategies to reduce overall consumption of that month’s resource. We also developed our own signage in addition to ENERGY STAR’s to feature throughout the building, in areas such as the lobby, restrooms, breakrooms, and elevators. The concept of having rotating images was to garner attention from the tenants to read the key messages.
For the 2017 competition, most of the CommonWealth Partners’ properties rallied to compete amongst each other. Once the results are in, we intend to send announcements to all the properties to show how much energy, water, and waste they saved during our awareness campaigns and establish a direct link to their efforts. In sum, consistent and creative communication that is easy to articulate is an effective way for stakeholder and tenant engagement that has helped our clients accomplish better results toward achieving their long-term sustainability and ESG goals.
Below are sample stakeholder communication tools implemented by different Verdani clients:
This article is written by Jessica Loeper, Kelly Hagarty & Daniele Horton at Verdani Partners.