The Intern Diary: Reporting From RBS/Citizens Financial Group on LEED & Energy Efficiency

by Aman Singh Das | July 01, 2010

  • My Vault

Consider the following scenario: the officebuilding you sit in is a LEED gold certified building and continuously wins awardsfrom state and local agencies for environmental leadership and design. Ownersof low emissions vehicles and carpoolers are given preferential parking spotsin the garage. Trees are planted in the interior of the building. The facilityis a few hundred feet from a train station and bus depot. The cafeteriacomposts a majority of its food waste, and every workspace is designed toreceive as much natural light as possible. Sounds like a nice place to go towork, right?

The EDF Climate Corps Internshipconnects MBA students with companies on want to focus on becoming moresustainable in their operations by focusing on energy efficiency solutions. StuartDeCew is part of their 2010 class

In my first two weeks as an EDF Climate Corps fellow at RBS/CitizensFinancial Group in Stamford, Conn., I’ve stepped off a train everymorning and walked less than two blocks to a sunny, airy, pleasant workplacewhich includes all of those features. So everyday this summer, I will cometo work with a smile on my face (enjoying the extra productivity from workingin natural light), open up an Excel workbook, pick up the phone and search forthe people and ideas that can help make this vision of workplace transformationa reality. In my (albeit brief) experience, three simple ideas have made theprocess easier.

1. Mineyour organization for expertise.

People with more experience are almost certainlyworking on solving problems you didn’t even know existed. Learn from them andlend a pair of hands whenever you can.

One of the first conversations I had atRBS/Citizens was with the head building engineer at the facility in Stamford. Hehad been designing and making the business case for implementing efficiencyprojects for over a decade. A quick cup of coffee with him made two things veryclear.
--Even a LEED gold certified building has room to improve.
--I will have no shortage of work this summer.

In fact, at the time of our conversation, he wasevaluating a project that would convert the light fixtures in the parkingfacility from metal halide to induction lighting. Upon hearing about theproject, I offered to help. First, I checked the numbers with the lightingcontractor. Then, I called the local utility about rebates for lightingprojects and researched federal tax deductions for investments in energyefficiency for commercial buildings. A quick analysis revealed thatthis conversion could potentially save the company over $170,000 annually inoperating costs and result in 220 tons of avoided CO2 emissions. Inaddition to the project’s potential for strong financial and environmentalreturn, it may even qualify for the aforementioned rebates and tax deductions.

With a small amount of research and a quick draftof a financial model, I helped build an even stronger case for the investment.In my short time at RBS/Citizens I have found that the company is filled withpeople who are asking the right questions about energy efficiency. My job is toget them the right answers.

2. Attachnumbers to the hard work and expertise of others.

Not surprisingly, facilities, property andmaintenance managers who are trying to keep lights on while maintainingbuilding temperatures at comfortable levels and promptly responding to feedbackfrom customers and management, may not have the time to research utilityrebates or put together complex financial models that capture savings andbenefits of energy efficiency.

That’s where I come in.

Luckily in my first week I was put in touch with acustomer operations manager and a maintenance technician who were alreadymaking smart investments in energy efficient lighting at a number of bankbranches in Pennsylvania. They were, however, lacking a streamlined process tomake the financial return on their effort easy to understand– which createdanother great opportunity for me to learn.

I am now collaborating with both the technician andthe operations manager to create an improved process that will allow them tocalculate the full financial and environmental impact of smaller capitalexpenditures for energy efficiency. Simply put, better data on aninvestment means a stronger case. With these numbers, RBS/Citizens will havethe necessary information to determine exactly how future capital expenditurescould reduce the operating expenses of a building and give the company acompetitive advantage.

3. Alwayskeep the local utility in mind, researching rebates or incentives available forthe property.

In both of the situations above, I was able toidentify programs with a local utility to bring down the initial costs of investingin energy efficiency. Furthermore, in the case of my work with customeroperations and maintenance, I discovered that a previously completed lightingretrofit qualified for almost $2,000 in rebates from the electric company.These rebates were only identified through working on another project, whichbrought this opportunity to light.

These three simple steps are just a few of the manypotential strategies I’ve come across to help make energy efficiency aninstitutional priority. In my short time as an EDF Climate Corps fellow, I have been impressed bythe environmental commitment and expertise of the people I have met and work withat RBS/Citizens. Over the course of the summer, I look forward tolistening to and collaborating with that network of people to develop a fewmore practical steps to incorporate energy efficiency as a standard managementpractice.

--By StuartDeCew, 2010 EDF Climate Corps fellow at RBS/ Citizens Financial Group, Jointdegree MBA/MEM candidate at Yale School of Management and YaleSchool of Forestry & Environmental Studies, Yale University,Member of Net Impact

This is the third post in a series of blogs thatInGood Company will host this summer in collaboration withEDF, featuring fellows from their 2010 Climate Corps class, as they journeythrough their internships. With their posts, these interns will give us a rarelens into the behind-the-scenes operations at companies who are proactivelydiscussing corporate sustainability, one conversation at atime.

Filed Under: CSR

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