Tone from the top - and the bottom - drives energy efficiency

EDF Climate Corps fellow | June 18, 2009

By Ryan Whisnant, MBA candidate, University of Michigan, 2009 Climate Corps fellow at SunGard

I've almost finished my first month working as a sustainability analyst for SunGard in Philadelphia. Thus far, I've been impressed by both the support I've received from EDF through the Climate Corps program and the receptivity of the people at SunGard. (That goes for the locals as well – I've never had so many people offer to map out a strategy for my commute that might shave off a couple additional minutes.)

I've seen through my studies and research with the Erb Institute for Global Sustainable Enterprise how vital top leadership engagement on sustainability is for companies to make real change. My impression is that CEO Cris Conde has indeed made sustainability a priority. SunGard has not only joined the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, but more than one role within the company has been directed to focus on sustainability, including a senior manager of corporate responsibility and a director of infrastructure compliance and green initiatives. It seems that the sustainability message is spreading throughout the organization.

In one conversation with a member of the finance staff about how an energy efficiency investment might be evaluated within the company, we discussed payback and discount rates, but it was also mentioned that "everyone knows [sustainability] is a priority for Cris."

Perhaps most importantly, the real push for SunGard to become a more sustainable company was started at - and continues to be driven from - the employee level. Support on both sides of the spectrum appears to be the key to maintaining momentum.

Since the company has already taken steps towards energy efficiency at their headquarters, there is not a lot of low-hanging fruit for me to identify, which means I'll have to dig deeper to find new efficiencies.  In my next post, I'll delve into the challenges of deciphering utility bills and peak demand.