Northern Maine’s forests are often busheled with pine trees, soft-dirt forest floors and granite rocks that were thousands of years ago carved and cut by glaciers. When one travels east, he or she is greeted by the Atlantic Ocean’s dark-green waters and crisp, salt air. I spent portions of my childhood in those Maine woods, away from the not-then-widely-known internet as well as cell phones, televisions and computers. Our only main conduit to society was a lonely rotary telephone with no answering machine – and a small shop that sold one-day-late New York Times editions.
As I write about “corporate stewardship,” I have been unable to place those experiences aside, and so that is my official disclaimer or “bias alert” when I write that New Jersey has some two million acres of sprawling forests of its own.
John Cecil, vice president of stewardship for the New Jersey Audubon Society, says, “It is important to recognize that we live in a highly urban and suburbanized state. We are the first state that is projected to reach complete build out, which means that all of the land will be accounted for; it will either be protected and preserved, or turned into some human use.”
While we all know that New Jersey has many nature lovers, on the point of land use, Cecil adds, “I think the population in New Jersey – at some points in time, and on some issues – is a little disconnected from natural resource management. We are not a state in the central part of the country or in the west or south, where there is much more natural resource extraction utilization; agriculture has a bigger presence [there]. We have a lot of diversity [in New Jersey], which is an amazing and wonderful thing, but, again, we are very urban and suburbanized.”
Cecil says corporations are a “mixed bag” regarding the environment, but that “there is a good degree of awareness around sustainability issues, where corporations are striving to do the right thing.” He notes that corporations not only achieve good public relations via corporate stewardship, but they engage with their clients and stakeholders – and there may also be tax benefits.
For more than a decade, the New Jersey Audubon Society has been partnering with businesses for projects ranging from establishing native grasslands habitat for rare and declining songbirds, to creating buffers on creeks and streams which not only may improve water quality, but are a boon for birds, reptiles and amphibians, for example.
Amid the din of New Jersey’s commerce, nature has impacted many companies, including Jersey Central Power & Light (JCP&L), a FirstEnergy company that has long since dealt with osprey nesting on its equipment. The birds view the equipment as a safe place to nest, but when they bring flammable nesting materials onto poles, fires can result, depriving the birds of homes – and potentially depriving thousands of residents of electric power.
Nine years ago, the company’s Advanced Scientist Amy Ruszala sought to ameliorate the issue by creating attractive nesting areas near the equipment, and – in effect – moving birds that had inappropriately created nests on equipment to the safe areas. She described how she was able to move young ospreys to a new spot, and then quietly wait nearby to see that their mother met the young at the relocated nest.
Noting that osprey eggs must be rotated and kept at 92 degrees Fairenheit, she adds, “As long as you are doing that, the eggs will [survive] the move that you are taking; the [mother] did come back, and those chicks did fledge from the platform.”
Although not always literally “in the forests,” many New Jersey companies are striving to protect the environment in other, countless ways. Biopharmaceutical giant Bristol-Meyers Squibb (BMS), for example, has multiple New Jersey sites with millions of square feet of research and/or office space. Barron’s ranks BMS as one of the top 100 sustainable companies in the world, and a bevy of additional recognition has been bestowed upon it.
John Murray, director, facilities and engineering, says, “There is commitment from the very top. We have a vice president who is responsible for global safety, sustainability and environmental. It has a lot of attention.”
Citing numerous goals and objectives, he adds that “[Sustainability] is very important to the company. It is not just, ‘Hey, go and do this when you have time.’ It is something we do all the time.”
During a nearly 45-minute interview with New Jersey Business, Murray showcased a seemingly endless array of BMS’ sustainability endeavors, ranging from solar panels and co-generation systems, to LEED-certified building/laboratories and electric car charging stations, for example. BMS even has so-called “treasure hunts” in which a team of 10 to 15 sustainability experts examine a site for three days, creating a list of additional conservation suggestions.
Murray explains, “Every time we do this, we [seek] a 15 to 20 percent savings opportunites in energy. We have done 13 of these treasure hunts, globally, over the past five years.”
He adds, “Quarterly, we have a team meeting with the [BMS] sites around the world who participate and hear all the energy programs that we are working on. We share best practices to make sure that if Germany or France has a great idea, we hear it here in the United States – and vice versa.”
Joel Shandelman, chief technology officer and chief energy officer at Bell Works in Holmdel (the former, massive Bell Labs building which has since been repurposed into a “metroburb”), notes the myriad ways that complex is environmentally sustainable, including, but not limited to: a photovoltaic sky roof that generates up to 180 kilowatts; electric vehicle charging stations in the parking lot; and a building management system that optimally controls large-consumption energy devices. The company is also examining reducing up to 90 percent of common area lighting costs by installing LED lighting, and it additionally is considering installing photovoltaic panels in the 4,000-plus spot parking lot, underneath which cars could park.
Shandelman says, “If we could cover those parking spaces with solar canopies, that would be great for the environment, and we would almost be ‘energy neutral.’ It would also be nice for the tenants – or the visitors – going to their cars in June, July and August. Their [car] seats would not be melting.”
Much of environmental sustainability at any site yields synergies: Motion detectors that only turn on lights when people are in one section of a building reduce electric costs and simultaneously assist the environment; LED lighting reduces costs; photovoltaic panels, with their reduced prices in recent years now might increasingly make financial sense; and building management systems, again, also reduce costs. Overall, business can easily locate firms to assist them in these and other pursuits that not only achieve the aforementioned public relations benefits, but, again, lower costs – and help nature.
It might be worth it.
When I returned to Maine some years ago, among other changes, I noticed that many of the large, green coniferous trees were often demonstrably damaged and brown from acid rain, the result of sulfur and nitrogen oxides having drifted in from far away.
At least some corporations are already striving to prevent environmental damage – and others may be poised to join the efforts.
By Wayne D. DeFeo, LEED AP, Executive Director, USGBC NJ
If you think that LEED (the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) building certification and sustainability are some sort of green hogwash, then you are ignoring the economics of the Triple Bottom Line (Economic Prosperity, Environmental Stewardship and Social Responsibility). In other words, you are risking having your business left behind.
Many business people have told me they cannot afford to build or renovate to a LEED Certified building. However, the data on LEED buildings clearly demonstrates that businesses really can’t afford to avoid building new or retrofitting older buildings as LEED Certified.
Look at the facts. An analysis of 60 plus research studies (Stok, BD&C Magazine, November 2018) found that high performance buildings (and LEED buildings are a form of high-performance building) produce an increase of $23,584 per employee in total net present value over 10 years.
A three-year study by Saint-Gobain of its double LEED Platinum headquarters gives us an indication as to why (USGBC+ magazine, Fall, 2018) 53.7 percent+ of employees report improvements in health and well-being.
Approximately 91.6 percent report feeling better due to indoor air quality improvements, and 56.4 percent reported improved visual comfort due to natural lighting.
Additionally, a study by Conlon & Glavers in 2012, titled “The Relationship Between Corporate Sustainability and Firm Financial Performance” found that those PNC Bank branches that were LEED Certified yielded $461,300 more per employee than non-LEED Certified branches.
It just makes good sense and dollars to be a “leeder.” For more information go to www.USGBCNJ.org.
By Ed Kurocka, Sustainability Program Manager
Helping Small Business Enterprises (SMEs) take advantage of the opportunities in the “green economy” is the New Jersey Small Business Development Centers, also known as America’s SBDC New Jersey. Its sustainability program was established with a grant from the US Environmental Protection Agency. The specialty offers easily accessible services and tools to help business owners start or expand environmentally sustainable practices.
One component of NJSBDC’s sustainability program provides business owners with an expert counselor who is knowledgeable in all facets of sustainability, energy conservation, waste reduction, pollution prevention, toxics mitigation, and disaster preparedness. In addition to the confidential and pro bono environmental counseling services, the NJSBDC, in collaboration with the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP), developed the New Jersey Sustainability Business Registry. The registry (http://registry.njsbdc.com) allows businesses to apply online and become recognized for their sustainable practices. In addition to public recognition and many other free benefits, membership in the Sustainable Business Registry is a credible way for a business to project its commitment to society and the environment, and a factor that can add to its competitive advantage. The Registry website also includes a results page that records the accumulated environmental impact and economic savings of member companies, and a comprehensive tips and resources section which anyone can peruse.
Aside from the usual operational issues that plague business owners, why should something on the periphery, like social responsibility, be viewed as an opportunity, if not a threat, to small businesses?
Here are a few reasons: Sustainable practices achieve long-term economic benefits through cost savings and increased sales. Along with that, there is increased consumer demand for products and services from companies that employ environmentally friendly practices. More than 55 percent of US consumers are willing to pay more for products from those companies, while three out of four millennials favor products and services from companies committed to corporate social responsibility (CSR). When considering employment, a majority of Americans across all ages prefer companies engaged in CSR in deciding where to work. Additionally, almost every small- or medium-sized enterprise (SME) is part of a larger company supply chain, or it has customers and suppliers of its own, whose businesses are affected by the way SMEs do business. The sustainability of large companies, and our society in general, is largely dependent on the sustainability of small companies.
To access more business news, visit NJB News Now.Related Articles: