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Green buildings: cost savings and employee well-being

17 Aug 2016

As a leading financier and occupier of green buildings in South Africa, Nedbank offers tangible evidence of the sustainable environmental and economic value that such buildings have to offer businesses that include them as an integral component of their sustainability commitments. 

According to Rauff, the benefits of this green building commitment extend far beyond just enabling the achievement of the group’s reduction targets; they also deliver enhanced employee productivity.

That’s according to Howard Rauff, Head of Portfolio and Facilities Management at Nedbank, speaking during the 9th annual Green Building Convention, which Nedbank sponsored. Rauff offered audited evidence of the vital part that green buildings are playing in furthering Nedbank’s reputation as SA’s green and caring bank. 

“In 2008, then CEO of Nedbank, Tom Boardman, set a range of climate change reduction and optimisation targets for the group,” Rauff explained, “then in 2009, these targets were incorporated into performance scorecards.” 

While Nedbank has been carefully measuring its electricity and water consumption, as well as the effectiveness of its recycling efforts across all its campus sites prior to 2009, Rauff explains that the measures were standardised in 2009. This made the externally audited reduction figures of the past seven years a full and accurate reflection of the group’s success in hitting its targets. 

In terms of electricity reduction across Nedbank’s campus sites (excluding branches), consumption per full-time employee (FTE) decreased from 6 547 kW/h in 2009 to 4 296 kW/h at the end of 2015.  

“Our water usage reduction is an even bigger success story as we exceeded our target of 21.26kl per FTE in 2009, and have steadily built on that achievement ever since,” Rauff pointed out. 

The group’s audited water consumption figures bear this out, showing audited water usage per FTE of 16,05kl, down significantly from the 21,26kl/FTE of 2009. 

Nedbank’s significant increase in recycling and consequent steady reduction in the amount of waste it sends to landfills is yet another example of the effectiveness of Nedbank’s sustainability commitments. In 2009, the group sent a total of 552 tonnes of waste to landfill, and recycled 454 tonnes. In 2015, the figures were reversed, with just 317 tonnes of waste going to landfills, while over 581 tonnes was recycled.  

“Of course, we suffer no illusions that occupying green buildings alone has been the key to our success in consistently exceeding our reduction and optimisation targets over the past seven years - they are the result of a holistic and comprehensive sustainability commitment and strategy,” Rauff emphasised, “but we are absolutely certain that our dedication to helping promote and create a more sustainable built environment has played a key role in our achievement of a leadership position in sustainability over the years.” 

In this regard, Nedbank undoubtedly leads by example. In addition to having financed many of South Africa’s green buildings, and funded the Green Star Existing Building Rating Tool, the group occupies seven green star rated buildings (that equates to a total of fourteen Green Star accreditations) itself, comprising of more than 40% of its total office space under management. Looking forward, Nedbank plans to obtain existing building green star ratings for a further seven of its self-occupied buildings. 

According to Rauff, the benefits of this green building commitment extend far beyond just enabling the achievement of the group’s reduction targets; they also deliver enhanced employee productivity. He pointed to research done into three of Nedbank’s green buildings by Professor Andrew Thatcher, the Chair of Industrial and Organisational Psychology at Wits University as evidence of these improvements. The research found statistically significant increases in perceived productivity and wellbeing levels by numerous employees who moved into the more sustainable work environments offered by the green buildings. 

Rauff argues that these employee benefits, coupled with the proven long-term environmental and economic sustainability advantages present a compelling case for any organisation to make green buildings a core part of its sustainability strategy. “While some businesses may still think that green buildings are purely a nice to have, Nedbank’s example of the long-term environmental, health and financial advantages they unlock should easily put these misperceptions to bed,” he concluded, “particularly since the substantial operating cost savings they deliver over time mean that the relatively small premium required to create them could easily be recouped within a couple of years, after which the vast array of sustainability benefits are certain to add immense value to any business and its stakeholders.”

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