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Reaching the Crossroads of Corporate Sustainability and Strong Business Practices

The intersection of corporate sustainability and smart business practices is a crossroads that companies can no longer afford to avoid on the path to increased productivity and reduced costs. An effective sustainability plan provides the roadmap to reaching goals which benefit both the environment and the bottom line.

As a first step, companies should establish the framework for such a plan by developing defined, realistic benchmarks and strategies to reduce carbon emissions, conserve water and reduce waste to landfills. Organizations that take consistent steps over time to accelerate toward established stretch goals often experience operational savings in the long-term. It also accelerates a deeper dive into understanding how the complete supply chain contributes to environmental sustainability performance.

Sustainability practices that reduce business lifecycle costs are a catalyst to driving more efficient operations. For example, companies should consider ways to reduce the number of data servers to minimize electricity costs and free up office space. The U.S. Department of Energy collapsed 13 data servers into two. This project freed up nearly 3,000 sq. feet of office space, reduced data center energy usage by 50 percent and saved $1 million in operating costs.  In Lockheed Martin, the virtualization of 4000 servers has resulted in a savings of $2.6 million in operating costs. Greening IT is a great opportunity to promote sustainability and simultaneously leverage its potential through innovative solutions to computationally and data intensive tasks.

Collaboration on the path to increased productivity and reduced costs helps to strengthen sustainability efforts. Organizations can easily partner with suppliers to “green the supply chain” and reduce environmental impacts in many areas, but can certainly focus on impacts caused by excess packaging and waste. For example, Lockheed Martin has achieved cost savings through a new program with Staples by purchasing green products, including recycled paper, which has saved nearly 9,000 trees in one year alone. Recent work across part of Lockheed Martin’s  F-35 program supply chain has also benefited the company and our suppliers through the use of innovative packaging solutions for shipping key parts to and between Lockheed Martin facilities.

Moving toward enhanced efficiency and sustainability without the support of employees is like driving in the dark without headlights; you simply won’t get very far. Companies stand to reap significant benefits by nurturing a “go green” culture where employees take steps to reduce their environmental impact at work and in local communities. By encouraging employees to take simple steps, such as turning off lights in work areas when not in use, companies can generate energy savings and help achieve sustainability goals. Developing incentives to encourage participation in the Change the World, Make a Difference Energy Star program can help employees to reduce their energy use at home.

The roadmap to sustainable business practices can reasonably take organizations’ efforts beyond the confines of the workplace or employees’ homes. Companies can enhance their community relations and reinforce their commitment to sustainability by supporting environmental education in schools. For example, Lockheed Martin supports Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Education Coalition outreach and environmental science programs through sponsorship of the National Environmental Education Week and employees have led classroom events.

A key route on companies’ sustainability roadmap should include reducing the impact of office buildings and other workplaces. Achieving Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification, as established by the U.S. Green Building Council, at company buildings helps reduce water, waste and energy impacts. The internationally-recognized LEED certification system requires third-party verification that a building was designed and built using methods that foster reduced environmental impacts, including energy savings, water efficiency, CO2 emissions reduction and improved indoor environmental quality.

Companies should explore the conversion of their aging building HVAC systems to state of the art On-Demand Variable Volume technology with the potential to save millions of dollars in annual energy costs. In partnering with the U.S. Department of Energy’s Save Energy Now program, companies can share their experiences and best practices. Buildings awarded an Energy Star label by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and their Energy Star program rank in the top 25 percent of all the buildings across the United States in a similar class.

Taken separately, each of these measures arguably do not push the envelope on sustainability in the broader industrial context. Taken together, the swirl of activity does propel sustainability in companies of any size.  And it’s tough to ignore that setting absolute goals – and managing to them – delivers significant progress in a relatively short time.

The road to reducing cost and increasing efficiency through robust sustainability initiatives will not be the same for all companies, but the journey toward bottom line benefits that reduce environmental impacts begins with a strong sustainability plan.

Dr. David Constable is the Corporate Vice President of Energy, Environment, Safety & Health (ESH) for Lockheed Martin Corporation. Dr. Constable oversees the ESH organization and sets ESH corporate policies. Dr. Constable evaluates the Corporation’s ESH performance and provides leadership in establishing initiatives to improve corporate-wide performance.   Dr. Constable also develops Lockheed Martin positions on emerging regulatory and legislative ESH issues, and he guides the Corporation’s interface with public stakeholders on ESH issues.

More information about Lockheed Martin’s commitment to sustainability is available in its 2010 Corporate Energy, Environment, Safety and Health Report.

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