Green buildings good for business


Top employers are investing in green buildings and work spaces because they know it is good for productivity, according to the latest survey from the Top Employers Institute (TEI).

While the jury is still out whether investing in environmentally-friendly buildings can save costs and boost employee productivity, leading employers across the world appear to have already made up their minds on the matter.

According to Samantha Crous, Regional Director Africa and Benelux, of the Top Employers Institute, statistics from the TEI, which certifies excellence in working conditions globally, show that 73% of Top Employers have environmental protection programmes or initiatives in place.

Last month, the World Green Building Council (WorldGBC) launched a major global project to research the health and productivity benefits of green office buildings to come up with definitive data to help make a stronger business case for why investing in green buildings makes sense.

Previous World GBC research has shown that improved ventilation can lead to an 11% gain in productivity, while improved lighting design boosted staff performance by 23%, and they hope the new research will prove even more conclusive.

“As organisations begin to understand the benefits of green buildings and a growing body of research supports the connectivity between sustainability and the bottom line, we are seeing more and more corporations integrating green business practices into the way they run their businesses,” says Crous.

Green buildings are energy and water efficient, emit less carbon dioxide and make good use of space and design, all of which have been shown by studies to be good for employee productivity, health and morale.

Crous says Unilever, a multinational consumer goods giant acknowledged for its sustainability efforts, and the number one Top Employer in South Africa 2014, has various green initiatives under its Sustainable Living programme, which include reducing office energy consumption, using office space more efficiently and cutting down on employee travel through agile working practices.

By using teleconferencing in 26 countries, Unilever eliminated the need for 14 500 short-haul flights and over 23 500 long-haul flights. This has meant a saving of 113 500 tonnes in carbon dioxide emissions during the year and an estimated saving of close to R596 million.

Unilever signed the World Business Council for Sustainable Development’s Energy Efficiency in Buildings (EEB) Manifesto in 2010. The company’s new office building in Istanbul, Turkey has also received the LEED’s silver standard certification for its environmental design, which helps to reduce annual energy use by 30% and water use by 40%.

LEED (the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) was developed by the United States Green Building Council (USGBC) to provide a guideline and rating system for buildings.

“Another Top Employer, Nestlé South Africa, moved its Johannesburg headquarters to a green building in 2010,” says Crous. The building, which took four years to complete, features glass that reduces glare, an intelligent lighting system and a custom designed air-conditioning plant which uses 40% less energy. The building is surrounded by indigenous landscaped gardens with indoor gardens as a special feature of the building.

“Sustainability practices can start with simple initiatives to save power and water, all of which save costs” says Crous.

“But a more substantial outlay of money towards a building that embraces green principles will pay off in your bottom line, in productivity and help the environment long term. It’s an investment in the future,” she says.

Niémah Davids

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Issue 68