Guest blogger: Lauren Menzer (MESM 2018)
“What if there was just one large refrigerator rather than two small ones?”
All I got from this unexpected exclamation was blank stares.
It was 1:33 pm and the first time I had spoken up since the Citizens Bank Design Standards meeting began at 9 am. Even though I had not expected speaking up at all, had I planned this moment out in my head I would have imagined a different response. Maybe some nods, or even a chummy, “That’s a great idea!”
Working at Citizens Bank as an Environmental Defense Fund Climate Corps Fellow, my aim was to develop the business case for long-term energy savings and sourcing sustainable products. This aspiration ultimately led to the unanticipated interjection above, but as Dorothy famously said to Toto, “We’re not in Kansas anymore.” Except that instead of Kansas, it was clear I was no longer at the Bren School. I would have to try a different, and perhaps subtler, method of getting my points across for why the Properties Management team of architects and site developers should source sustainable products.
I was already in the process of designing a calculator tool that would take qualitative sustainability aspects and turn them into more measurable, numerical values for Project Managers to easily assess the impact of sourced products. My mornings at the bank’s Rhode Island headquarters typically began with my Excel’s calculator tool humming to life, or what I have dubbed the “Sustainable Sourcing Matrix.” This was then followed by an 8-hour roller coaster of navigating through the Matrix’s many sheets and cells as I built it up, with reactions spanning from confused when the output was once again “#NAME?” to ecstatic when I succeeded in composing the correct formula.
Throughout my process, I had to ensure the Matrix was comprehensive enough to cover a multitude of sustainability factors, and yet straightforward enough for someone without a background in sustainability to understand it. With re-designing over 800 branch locations, the team already had a lot on their plate even before the summer fellow—ahem, yours truly—happily requested they consider their sustainability footprint as well. Citizens Bank is taking strides to make their business practices more sustainable and resilient, and their Credo states their commitment to do the right thing and make decisions for the long-term. The Matrix directly correlates to how upfront sourcing decisions are integral in driving resounding, positive change for colleagues’ and environmental health.
Incrementally, the Matrix began coming to life. Soon I could click through with ease and see that what was previously just an abstract sustainability description become translated into a comparable numerical and graphical data point. This included everything from whether a product met Indoor Air Quality standards for colleague health or adhered to established sustainability certifications, to an integrated five-year financial analysis of energy and water utility costs.
As the summer comes to a close I have become well acquainted with the shape of the Matrix’s cells and blue-green color scheme. Though bittersweet, I will soon pass the Matrix onto its new owners from the Property Management team to expand their knowledge around implementing sustainable product measures. Assessing considerations outside the upfront costs of one large refrigerator verses two small ones, the Matrix empowers Project Managers to make purchasing decisions that have positive, resounding impacts for colleagues, customers, and the environment within and beyond Citizens Bank.
Lauren is a second-year specializing in Corporate Environmental Management at the Bren School of Environmental Science and Management and focusing in both Eco-Entrepreneurship and Strategic Environmental Communication and Media. As a self-proclaimed foodie, she is slowly eating her way through each East Coast city she visits this summer.