Like the emergence of Quality Control, it’s better business to get out ahead of this wave.

Back in October 2007, I wrote about an idea I came up with after attending the Smart and Sustainable Campus Conference held at the University of Maryland. My column that month was titled, “Green Initiative and More on Leadership – Get Your Firm’s Policies to Meet Your Client’s Green Aspirations.” At that time, I really didn’t get much buy-in to the idea locally or nationally, and I don’t recall receiving any e-mails from readers endorsing the idea, although it made a lot of sense to me after hearing so much from participants and speakers at that conference.

As time has marched on, I still think consulting firms and construction firms should invest in the development of a “Corporate Sustainability Plan” that will help their clients achieve their own commitment to their “clients” - students, faculty, alumni, share holders, etc. I know for a fact that several of my pharmaceutical and educational clients in recent years have mentioned that their organizations have drafted sustainable plans that must be implemented at each site globally.

My vision for this concept is to have the design and construction community embrace a commitment to development and implementation of individual company sustainable plans in the same manner in which many progressive firms embraced quality control (QC) corporate plans back in the 1980s and early 1990s. At that time, many industrial firms I was working with invested time, money, and personnel in QC initiatives to improve their products as they rolled out the door to buyers. Those companies who had QC plans also required their vendors (e.g., design firms, construction firms, and service firms) to also have their own QC process. Without this process, companies found they were not prequalified vendors and lost the opportunity to do business with these particular manufacturing and pharmaceutical companies.

AN IDEA WHOSE TIME HAS COME

Back then, I worked for a design-build, O&M, and service company, and I was fortunate to be a member of the corporate QC strategic planning committee. What I learned about QC initiatives has influenced my engineering, troubleshooting, and project management skills in the subsequent years. Leaving the Smart and Sustainable Campus conference back in 2007, I was ready to participate again in a corporate steering committee, only this time it would be focused on development, training, and implementation of a sustainability plan.

This process would certainly compliment the sustainability initiative being put into practice by our clients. It seemed pretty basic from a business development point of view that our corporate sustainability plan would also add value to client project satisfaction. Unfortunately, my idea didn’t get going, and so I put the concept on the back burner until I felt I could get buy-in from the top, maybe in the coming year or two.

Almost four years later on a new business venture, and much to my surprise, I find there is at least one consulting firm (hopefully many more) that has invested time, money, and personnel to create a corporate sustainability plan to go along with their eco-management services. Asked to help, I believe I can bring my QC training to this wonderful initiative that will complement each of the business services they offer.

Just think about it, commissioning services with a sustainable solution as well as building system solution. A corporate commitment to engineered, integrated project delivery jobs with sustainable benefits from the project. A maintenance management plan with sustainability imbedded into this plan.

I believe sustainability must play an important role in the decisionmaking process for design, building, and O&M in the coming years. My belief goes back to my “iceberg” analogy, where only 15% of the cost for any building program is first cost and the remaining 85% will be spent on O&M of the facility over the life of the building. Sustainability is an essential part of any building program, and it starts with a corporate commitment/plan.

Based on this knowledge, why wouldn’t people in responsible positions in health care, education, industry, and government want consultants on their building program and building management team who have their own corporate sustainability plan, just like they want these same consultants to have a well documented QC process?

If your consulting, construction, or facility support service company has a corporate sustainability plan, I’d love to hear from you. Wouldn’t it be great to then compete for the equivalent of the QC- Malcolm Baldredge award for best corporate sustainability plan? If you are not familiar with this award, well I’d say you have your work cut out for you in getting up to speed with the QC process, as well as the CSP process. To get started, reading my October 2007 “Tomorrow’s Engineer” column online.

For information on QC education, Google “Center for Quality Management.” Both of these resources will point you in the right direction. ES