Categories: Sustainability Strategies, Case Studies
Authoring team for the foundation article
Lead author: Kendra L. Wasiluk
Contributors: Andrew Quade, Suzette Jackson, David Raina, Graham Dyus, Peter Szental, Tony Stapledon, Caimin McCabe and Ken Stickland
How can a sustainable commercial building help me realise my personal values and beliefs?
A diverse set of personal values and beliefs underlies each individual's commitment to sustainability, and will undoubtedly have an impact on how they factor sustainability into their business planning and decision making. Personal motivations may influence – or bias – decision making towards sustainability, even in situations where organisational policies and processes prescribe a particular approach.
For example, a developer with a personal commitment to sustainability is more likely to factor sustainability considerations into their decision making, even if they are not usual considerations of their employer. Thus, factors that lie behind decision making about sustainable commercial buildings will be a complex amalgamation that may not be well-documented or transparent.
Furthermore, any organisation that wishes to embed sustainability in its strategic and organisational decision making will benefit from making sustainability part of the organisation's cultural values (for more information on making sustainability part of an organisation's cultural values, see the article Culture change for sustainable commercial buildings) on the Your Building website.
This article outlines the business case value factors that are driven by individual and organisational culture and belief systems. Because all decisions are made by individuals, this section outlines business case implications for all industry groups.
The table below, which is based on the matrix developed by the ASBEC Building Case Sub-committee, summarises personal value and belief motivated business case factors, and indicates the industry groups that are impacted on by each of them.
Sustainable commercial buildings and personal values and beliefs value factors
Source: Based on ASBEC business case matrix, 2006
Improved corporate profile and community relations
Major factors contributing to realisation of personal values and beliefs
Values such as 'socially and environmentally responsible', 'sustainable' and 'credible' are important to stakeholder perceptions of companies and to the realisation of their corporate and organisational values. Demonstrating these corporate values is becoming more important, as companies are being encouraged to report on their corporate behaviour and to demonstrate their commitment to corporate social responsibility in order to meet market expectations and as justification for their 'licence to operate'.
Expressing corporate values through buildings has long been a typical way to communicate organisational commitment to espoused values and belief systems (CABE & BCO, 2005). Sustainable buildings can convey information about how a company values the environment, its employees, visitors, customers and community, and whether espoused values are supported in practice. Such values are conveyed by buildings in many ways, including the building location, maintenance and operation, code compliance, and visual branding.
The messages may be communicated internally to employees and externally to clients and the general public, through the building typology, the building skin, the surrounding scenery and setting, and the quality of the indoor environment.
Communicating corporate responsibility values in this way is an opportunity for competitive advantage; surveys suggest that the Australian public have a greater understanding of environmental issues and are showing a growing concern (Department of Environment and Conservation (NSW), 2006), yet do not consider that big businesses in Australia care about their social and environmental impacts beyond compliance (see below for snapshot case study: Brand reputation and the Australian consumer).
Whose business case benefits?
Building owners and occupiers may benefit from an improved corporate profile and community relations: 'The owner of a green building or the company it houses can find that its image is seen much more positively. This helps to attract and retain tenants, employees, clients and suppliers and thus, arguably, to make it more attractive to owners, occupiers and shareholders' (RICS, 2005, p.20).
Others, such as developers, builders, designers and managers, may benefit from additional publicity and marketability due to their association with a sustainable commercial building. Service providers can establish a profile of projects to demonstrate their firm's commitment to sustainability and to creating buildings that meet and exceed client needs and expectations for sustainability.
Brand reputation and the Australian consumer
The 2005 Eye on Australia study looked at Australian consumer attitudes towards the brands they purchase (Lloyd, 2005). Trust and credibility were the top qualities that consumers sought from the brands they purchased, with company values and ethics, innovation and honesty also being key factors. Neither a brand's size/market share, nor its longevity, were considered to be important to Australian consumers.
Consumers indicated that they did not trust big business, but did trust and were keen on the concept of entrepreneurs. Consumers viewed large companies as being greedy, dishonest, boring and faceless, while entrepreneurs were seen to be more open, honest, genuine and transparent.
The 2006 Eye on Australia study found that fears for destruction of the environment were at the highest level ever for Australian consumers. Attitudes and ill will among consumers toward big businesses had not softened, with more than two-thirds of those surveyed indicating that they did not trust big companies, and similar numbers agreeing that corporations had no morals or ethics.
Big business was, for the first time, directly linked to the degradation of the environment, with 96% of respondents indicating that they believed there were companies in Australia that were degrading the environment, and 87% responding that big business only did the minimum required to comply with the law (Lloyd, 2006)
Characteristics of companies and % of respondents who rated them as important
Tells the truth (96%)
Never lets me down (93%)
The company has values and ethics (92%)
Interesting and worth talking about (86%)
Recommend by people I know (78%)
Entrepreneurial spirit (63%)
Unchanging over time (44%)
Been around for along time (41%)
Seen everywhere (39%)
The biggest (15%)
Source: 2006 Eye on Australia survey
Ability to attract and retain employees
Generation X and Y: committed to the environment
As the baby-boom generation reaches retirement age, the smaller workforce of generation X (people born from the 1960s through to the late 1970s) and generation Y (people born from the early 1980s through to the late 1990s) will replace them. Therefore, it is important to understand the personal values and beliefs of these younger workers, and how these values can be realised though involvement in sustainable commercial buildings.
Younger generations are more likely to report greater environmental concerns than the older generation, with Australians aged 18-24 twice as likely to rate the environment as the most important social issue than people aged 55 years and over (ABS, 1998).
According to a recent North American survey, generation X employees have a higher level of commitment to their organisations and are more likely to stay longer in their jobs due to career satisfaction than is commonly believed (Catalyst, 2001). They are a much smaller generation than those either side of them (baby boomers and generation Y) and are generally highly educated. They have a better attitude towards the environment than previous generations, although their personal actions do not always reflect this (Miller & Buys, 2004; Tonn, Waidley & Petrich, 2001).
The generation Y population are said to have less loyalty to companies and are always seeking promotions, better opportunities, and more varied job roles.
Generation Y also has different views and beliefs than previous generations about the environment, and considers the environment to be in their top three issues. Many of them feel personally responsible for trying to make a difference in the world, and they often consider environmental and social issues when looking for work (Jayson, 2006). Generation Y has also been called 'generation give', for their personal commitments to social and environmental issues (Sheedy, 2007).
Doing the 'right' thing
By 2011, the Australian workforce will have transformed to include at least twice the current amount of the more environmentally conscious generation X and Y workers, with generation Y numbers expected to double from 20% to 40% of the workforce (Colliers International, 2006). Increasing industry group participation in sustainable commercial buildings will allow the next generations of staff to live their personal values in their work environment and through their daily work activities.
Sustainable business strategies can align an organisation with the intrinsic values and beliefs of its current and perspective employees. Andrew Quade of the GPT Group states that 'developing sustainable buildings ensures you can feel good about your participation in the industry'.
His sentiment is shared by others in the Australian building and design industry. Survey results from the 2006 BCI Australia report found that 'being part of an industry that values the environment' is the top personal driver for all stakeholder groups. Over 70% of all stakeholder groups surveyed responded that this was a key reason why they are involved in sustainable building, making this altruistic motive 'the most significant driver of green building involvement in the AEC (architecture, engineering and contracting) and building owner community in Australia today' (BCI & GBCA, 2006, p.23). Satisfaction from 'doing the right thing', providing a 'better place to live', proving that development can be done in a different way, educating people about environmental issues, and helping to make the world a better place for their grandchildren, are some of the other personal values and motivations of individuals in the commercial building industry (Wilson et al., 1998).
Whose business case benefits?
All industry groups have the potential to benefit from aligning their values with those of potential and existing employees, as doing so helps them to attract and retain top-quality talent.
Australian Bureau of Statistics (1998), Australian social trends 1998: people and the environment – attitudes and actions and people's concerns about environmental problems, Accessed 28 May, 2004, from http://www.abs.gov.au/Ausstats/abs.
Australian Sustainable Built Environment Council (ASBEC) (2006), Business Cases value factors. ASBEC Business Case sub-committee, unpublished.
Building and Construction Interchange Australia & Green Building Council of Australia (2006), Green building market report, Sydney: BCI & GBCA.
Catalyst (2001), The next generation: today's professionals, tomorrow's leaders, Report No. D51; Accessed 30 May, 2007, from [http://www.catalystwomen.org|http://www.catalystwomen.org/files/full/The%20Next%20Generation%20- %20Gex%20X%20Catalyst.pdf].
Colliers International (2006), Lifeblood: sustaining the value of Australian business, Sydney: Colliers International.
Department of Environment and Conservation (NSW) (2006), Who cares about the environment in 2006?: A survey of NSW people's environmental knowledge and behaviours, Sydney: DEC, Accessed from http://www.environment.nsw.gov.au.
Jayson, S. (2006), 'Generation Y get involved', USA Today, October, Accessed 21 May, 2007, from http://www.usatoday.com/news/nation/2006-10-23-gen-next-cover_x.htm.
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Lloyd, S. (2006), 'Future shock', Business Review Weekly, 4 May, 38.
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Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (2005), Green value: green buildings, growing assets, Victoria, BC: RICS, Accessed 5 March, 2007, from http://www.rics.org/greenvalue.
Sheedy, C. (2007), 'Generation give', Voyeur, May, Accessed 20 May, 2007, from http://www.virginblue.com.au
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