A successful sustainability plan should formalize your approach for continuous improvement and help you build on what you are already doing in three key areas.
Some people hear the word sustainability and immediately think “environment,” but that’s just a single facet of what sustainability means. Ultimately, the ability to sustain is the ability to continue. To move forward, we must always push for improvement. This concept inherent in sustainability touches every aspect of a company, not just the environmental side.
Why does sustainability matter? It is necessary for any responsible AEC company to not only reduce its negative impact, but also positively influence the world we all live in. Progress should be measured not only by profit and market share, but by a company’s impact on and enhancements to our environment and society.
At its core, sustainability is about meeting the needs of the present without compromising the needs of the future. If we want our company to continue to be a positive force into the future, we must focus on the environment, yes – but we also must take care of our finances, our people, and our communities. “Take care of people, do the right thing, do what makes sense” – these are words Mead & Hunt strives to live by in our work.
Where are we now? Where do we want to be? A successful sustainability plan should formalize your approach for continuous improvement and help you build on what you are already doing. It should focus on three elements: people, the environment, and finances. These crucial elements may not seem connected on first inspection; however, they are each vital to the longevity of a successful AEC firm. Ultimately, any of these factors can make or break a company, and they all must be accounted for in any sustainability plan.
Using these three categories, a sustainability plan should define your baseline, or existing conditions. Defining existing conditions allows you to see exactly where you are and compare it to where you’d like to be. Identifying any disparity will allow you to create a definitive plan for closing the gap.
Mead & Hunt’s recent sustainability plan followed these steps. Our plan focuses on energy, waste, and water practices at our offices, our strategic planning and employee ownership program, and our social programs that help those within our company and our broader communities as well. This baseline directly informed our 2019 sustainability goals to:
- Increase participation in our community service programs
- Reduce the waste we send to the landfill
- Continue to invest in new technologies and innovation that support our work and our industry
- Support our clients in integrating sustainable planning and practices into their organizations
Supporting our clients also includes addressing changing conditions, including climate change and its potential impacts on our company, clients, and industry.
Sustainability’s never finished Launching a plan is only the beginning – the hallmark of any good sustainability plan is continual improvement. To this end, Mead & Hunt has committed to updating our sustainability plan every year to account for new goals and new priority actions. This will create a cycle of continuous improvement into the future.
Sustainability is about creating something that will last into the future. As professional engineers, planners, and architects, it is our responsibility to plan for and foster a sustainable path forward. This means taking a holistic approach to sustainability that views a company as contingent on the people and communities around it, not separate from them. An effective sustainability plan will help us provide resilient, responsible solutions that will better our communities for generations to come.
Jen Wolchansky, AICP, ENV SP, is a senior environmental planner and project manager focusing on NEPA and sustainability at Mead & Hunt. Jen has planning experience across the board having worked with transportation, urban planning, and aviation. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Kate Andrus, AICP and LEED Green Associate, is a senior environmental planner and project manager focusing on sustainability and environmental planning at Mead & Hunt. She brings a multifaceted approach to environmental and planning projects, drawing on her strong background in science, science policy, and writing. Contact her at email@example.com.