Modern Energy Management

Infusing Energy Management into your Sustainability Strategic Plan

October 07, 2019 Season 1 Episode 5
Modern Energy Management
Infusing Energy Management into your Sustainability Strategic Plan
Chapters
Modern Energy Management
Infusing Energy Management into your Sustainability Strategic Plan
Oct 07, 2019 Season 1 Episode 5
Nate Nilles & Amber Artrip
In this episode, we chat with Andy Stein, the Principal Consultant at Stein Sustainability LLC about incorporating energy management into an organization's sustainability strategic plan.
Show Notes Transcript

In this episode, we chat with Andy Stein, the Principal Consultant at Stein Sustainability LLC about incorporating energy management into an organization's sustainability strategic plan. Tune in to learn:

  • The importance of including energy reduction in your sustainability strategic plans
  • How different organizations from retail stores to universities built out their sustainability plans
  • The importance of utilizing technology and data in sustainability reporting
  • Tips for working with influencers to help you create the impact you're trying to achieve


Speaker 1:
0:01
Okay.
Speaker 2:
0:02
Hello everyone and welcome to the modern energy management podcast. This is a podcast for energy managers, sustainability leaders and facilities operators to share their stories and best practices for modern energy management. As always, I'm joined by my cohost, Nate Nellis. Welcome to the show.
Speaker 3:
0:21
Thanks Amber. I know today we're getting an opportunity to learn a little bit more about strategic planning as it relates to sustainability, so that should be fun.
Speaker 2:
0:32
And our guest today on the show is Andy sine, the principal consultant and owner of Stein sustainability LLC.
Speaker 1:
0:39
Welcome to the show, Andy. Thank you very much for having me, Amber. Nate, I'm looking forward to sharing my story with everyone.
Speaker 3:
0:46
Andy, let's jump right in. I'd love for everyone to get to know a little bit about you. You have quite a deep background in energy and sustainability, so why don't you tell us about yourself and uh, how you got to where you are today?
Speaker 1:
1:00
Great. Well, first of all, thank you very much for having me and yes, I'm excited to be here and tell my story and how I got to be where I am today. And I will say that if you have listeners that have listened to previous podcasts, my story is quite different from Jane Stewart from Washington and Lee university. I know she was one of the previous guests on your podcast and she mentioned about coming from a background completely different from sustainability, and my background actually is 100% sustainability. In fact, growing up in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, my family owned a recycling plastics company, so I grew up with this mindset of sustainability recycling. We're using materials and something that was really ingrained in me from a young age. So when I decided to go to college, it was only natural for me to really focus on sustainability green building and take what I grew up with and put it into my education and professional life.
Speaker 3:
1:54
Wow. Your parents must have been a pretty excited about that and imagine that that is a big passion for them, for their business.
Speaker 1:
2:01
Absolutely. And what is interesting is that growing up, I didn't even think that plastic recycling was sustainability. I didn't really understand what it was. I just said, Oh my parents run a plastics recycling facility. That was it. But then the more I got to learn about it and the older I got, I realized this is pretty neat. They're actually taking waste out of the landfill. I'm putting it in a closed loop system and recycling plastics. So it was something that I guess was ingrained in me without me even realizing it. Um, growing up and going through high school. So yeah, when they saw that I wanted to go to college and study sustainability, they of course were excited, pleased. And it really led to a great career that I have right now today. So I went to the university of Minnesota where I studied sustainability architecture and corporate environmental management.
Speaker 1:
2:49
And from there I landed a great internship with Kohl's department stores at their corporate headquarters. They're located right outside of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. And I was their first environmental strategies intern. And what was really exciting is at this time in the, around 2007, 2008 they were just starting to track the greenhouse gas emissions. So I was brought on board as an intern to work with consultants from the EPA to understand how a massive fortune 500 company can track and monitor their greenhouse gas emissions, what data they need to collect, how they track their energy usage, how they look at their utility bills. It was really eye opening from the start with that first internship for me to get huge exposure into understanding energy and greenhouse gas emissions. From there I accepted a job with them as part of their sustainability team for a couple of years developing their standability strategy, specifically focusing on green building for them. Cause as many big box retailer stores, they had thousands of locations around the country.
Speaker 3:
3:51
So Andy was uh, was Cole's pretty progressive at that point? Obviously they had a lot of stores already in pretty established, but uh, were, were they leading the pack at that time when you were jumping into it?
Speaker 1:
4:03
At the time when I was working for calls, they weren't the forefront of being in green retailer. They had over 700 and for energy star labeled stores over 120 activated solar sites. And they were purchasing power from renewable energy resources using renewable energy credits. So they were definitely on top of the, the rankings for green retailers. And that's when consumers were really looking to buy from corporations that have the environment in mind. So it was a great time for me to be part of the organization. And at that time they also developed a sustainability strategic plan that focused on sustainable operations, stakeholder engagement, and sustainable supply chain. So I was really fortunate to have the opportunity to work on the sustainable operations piece, which looked at energy use lead certification and green buildings for the organization. So it was a great start for my career.
Speaker 3:
5:00
Yeah, it seems like that was a great kickoff for a lot of the strategic planning work that you got into, but I know we'll talk about that here in a bit.
Speaker 1:
5:09
Absolutely. So from there I decided to further my education and I found a phenomenal program at Arizona state university. It's called the Julie Ann Wrigley global Institute of sustainability. And it's an entity of ASU that has over, I believe, 500 plus university scholars, teachers, students, professors that focus on sustainability. And I earned a degree in a masters in sustainable solutions. And what's really great about this degree is it's all encompassing of sustainability, but I could focus on a specific area. So I focused on green buildings and green infrastructure within my studies and I took some really fascinating courses from some amazing professors that really helped me get a better understanding of understanding how to infuse sustainability within an organization. While I was there, I also worked for ASU for the the, the Robin, well Annie Robin, Melanie Walton, sustainability solution service is ASU sustainability consultancy. And what they do is they take the knowledge from the university and infuse that into the community and in businesses through a consulting organization and having students apply their work.
Speaker 1:
6:23
So it was a great opportunity for me to be a student project manager and apply some of my knowledge at the university. From there, I moved back to Chicago or I moved to Chicago, I should say, but back to the Midwest where I landed a job selling energy efficiency, lighting products and technology with connection, which was great exposure into understanding the local energy market here in Illinois, understanding the energy rebate programs and working with customers and sales as well. And then after that for a few years, then I landed with Northwestern university and Northwestern university had a great opportunity for me to join their sustainability team that they were building up where they were developing and launching their five-year sustainability strategic plan. So since my time at Northwestern university, I left the university to start my own sustainability consultancy and now I am the principal consultant and owner of Stein sustainability LLC and I have a variety of clients that I help with sustainability strategy, energy management, and of course green building as well.
Speaker 3:
7:30
That's great. I think the the most interesting thing through all of that, as you had not only touch points in different things from strategic planning to energy management to capital projects, but it was with a a variety of different organizations. Obviously a lot of higher education, but you got your hands into a lot of different market verticals, which I think is really important when you think of an overall, um, you know, background and being able to consult on those things. So Andy, you know, what role would you say energy management, uh, plays within a sustainability strategic plan? We'll have people listening that you know, are taking their first step, people that are maybe midway through a plan that may be going good or maybe challenging. Can you speak to that a little bit?
Speaker 1:
8:20
Absolutely. So I've read through many, many sustainability strategic plans and I've really tried to understand what are some of the key components in them that different organizations focus on. What I've really noticed is that energy and energy management and greenhouse gas emissions are typically lumped together. And those really are a small piece of the puzzle there. They represent a large amount of sustainability, but they're a small piece of the puzzle. I'll give an example with calls, they had three pillars. Their strategic sustainability plan plan. They focused on sustainable operations, which had energy and climate, which is what I'll get to recycling and waste building design. Then they looked at stakeholder engagement and then they looked at the sustainability within their supply chain. Everything that they sell at their stores. And so if I'm looking at this, this triangle structure that they have here that they've used, energy and climate is just one little snippet, but it really has such big weight because that's where a lot of their impact comes from for the environment.
Speaker 1:
9:31
It comes from their building emissions, it comes from the energy they're using. It comes from what type of energy they're using. So what I like to think about is that energy management is [inaudible] is a critical part to sustainability. Strategic planning, but not the only part. It goes hand in hand with everything else. For example, the financial component to that may fall in a completely different subset of the organization or different part of the organization and they need to somehow be infused within the sustainability strategic plan as well. So it's, it's, it's all encompassing. Um, at Northwestern university, as I was working on their sustainability strategic plan, they had five main focus areas. They had the built environment, transportation, resource, conservation, experiential learning and communications and engagement and similar to calls, just a snippet. One fifth of their plan was built environment, which is energy and greenhouse gas emissions.
Speaker 1:
10:38
However, it did have the most amount of weight. A lot of that was due to buildings, facilities, operations, but you really have to look at sustainability as a whole, the social economic, environmental component and see how they fit together and where energy management fits. In some places it fits within a financial model because it's looking at the cost of the, of your energy expenses and your operations, but in some ways it looks at PR, marketing, publicity. At Kohl's for example, they had many advertisements, radio announcements focused on their achievements within energy star rated buildings and what they were doing to show that they care about the environment to attract more customers. So when you're looking at your plan, you have to understand where energy management can fit in within the role of your organization. For the university, they were going to use energy management and are going to use energy management as a tool for education.
Speaker 1:
11:31
They're working to create dashboards that university students will be able to monitor and track and visualize energy data to get an understanding of how the buildings are operating and what they're doing to conserve energy. But then calls, for example, is using it to attract customers and using it as a PR and advertising tool. So there many different ways this can fit into your sustainability strategic plan. So what I like to recommend is that it should tie into the mission of the organization and it should focus on what you're driven to do. So Northwestern, for example, is driven to educate students. So they're using it not only to save money and reduce their costs and operate in a, in a financially sustainable way, but also educate students and calls and retail stores, their business model. Their mission is to provide consumers with products that they need. And by changing their organization to be more green, to be more sustainable, to have more green infrastructure and look at their supply chain, look at their energy use, they can bring in more customers as well. There are many different ways to look at how [inaudible] energy management can fit within a sustainability strategic plan. And I think one of the most important things is to make sure it comes back and fits within the organization's mission.
Speaker 3:
12:54
Yeah, the mission piece makes a lot of sense, right? And it's going to be very specific to each organization. I think over time we see a lot of stakeholders that uh, you know, they may start with one specific, um, target in mind as part of their mission, but then they're able to kind of branch that out and use some of these platforms as a, a point of collaboration. Um, what about, you know, the challenges, so when, when people, Andy come to you for consulting, what are some of the big challenges that, uh, are very common, right? With your clients that they're coming to you to solve?
Speaker 1:
13:31
Yeah, that's a great question. Within sustainability there's always challenges. There's always problems to address. It is a evolving industry. No one always has the right answers right away. So I would say one of the biggest challenges that I face is understanding how sustainability can be infused. Specifically within the organization I'm working with. For example, I was working with the NRDC, the natural resources defense counsel on several projects and one of the projects I helped them with was they're designing construction protocols to help them understand some sustainability attributes they want to include within their office renovations and challenges. Working with that organization where that even though they are a environmentally friendly organization and, and they lobby for sustainable leadership and work within with government institutions, um, you also have to navigate the legal team, the finance team, the building with the building operators. You have to understand what they're looking at.
Speaker 1:
14:43
You have to work with the development team. So getting everyone on board to create a plan and understanding what their is is always a challenge because not everyone's necessarily aware of sustainability. Off the bat, even if it is the mission of your organization, a specific role, looking at uh, finance, looking at, um, uh, real estate may be completely separate from sustainability. So it is working on how to infuse sustainability topics within daily conversation within tasks and then eventually rolling that out into some sort of plan. Uh, you know, I found that with, with many organizations, it's just understanding who the influencers are, the influence, the influencers that are within an organization are key and understanding who they are is definitely a challenge right off the bat as a consultant, because I'm not internal with an organization, I don't know all the politics. So what I have to do is speak to every different part of the organization, really understand how they operate and then find out who I should be working with or who I need their team to be working with. Since I'm a consultant to make the changes happen that we're looking to see within the project that I'm working on. So Andy,
Speaker 3:
16:00
you know, there's the strategic piece that you mentioned in getting the key stakeholders, getting it acclimated into their standard business practices. But once you've got that in motion, uh, I know you've got a lot of experience in EMS platforms that others are some of the other big challenges really. We have a plan but we don't have a platform for communication that makes it easy. How are you then shifting gears once there is a strategy to kind of implement those pieces and is that something that you're also focused on?
Speaker 1:
16:34
Absolutely. And this is a great time to really switch gears and talk about energy management because that is key. I will say that as I'm consulting at Northwestern university, one of the biggest challenges I've had now that they've been working to implement an energy management information system is understanding all of their data. And that's something that I'm doing for them. Uh, my contract right now is working with them too. Understand the data and push the data to building OSTP and understand where all the data is coming from, what meters are being used, how they're being tracked, looking at utility bills, understanding where the energy data is coming from is very challenging, especially at a larger university. There are several different systems in place. There's different building automation systems. There are some manual meters, there are some things that are automated, there are some things that are strictly from the utility belt.
Speaker 1:
17:33
So gathering that data and understanding where it's coming from and how to push that data is a big challenge. And that's a lot of the work that I do. And it's really understanding the nitty gritty and the details of the different meters, the different systems, the of the different systems. Are they using backnet, are they not, are they using older building automation systems. And so piecing it together is a challenge. And understanding the puzzle and working to make sure you can get all the data into a streamlined platform and system takes a lot of work. It takes a lot of energy, no pun intended, but at the end of the day it's extremely valuable and that's what's going to help the university and other organizations see the results by taking the data and putting it into, uh, an energy management platform where you can visually see it. And if I can go back to the question that you originally asked, it was, now that you have a plan and you know what you're gonna do actually executing it and doing it, uh, how, how do you do that? What's the, what's the process? What are some challenges? Well, that's pretty much it. It's, it's figuring out where everything is coming from, how to gather the data, what to do with it exactly. And then make changes from there. And I think Northwestern is on a great path to understand their data, understand their utility usages and hopefully that will help them even reduce their carbon footprint even more.
Speaker 3:
19:07
Yeah, I think that the, and you touched on a few of them, but you know, once it's easy, right, to get the data and they can start gathering insights, um, it's a huge productivity savings. And I think, you know, having resources be able to shift, focus back to value added activities is really going to drive right, that strategic mission and allow them to, to meet their goals a lot quicker. So Andy, switching gears a little bit and to thinking about all the projects that you've worked on, is there one that you want to share that either you're most proud of or was very interesting or exciting?
Speaker 1:
19:50
Yeah, absolutely. I'm going to go back to when I was working at Kohl's and I started off as their first environmental strategies intern. She went to be a corporate sustainability intern and what was really exciting was for the first time working with a large corporation to have visualization into their greenhouse gas emissions. This was the first time that calls a very large corporation decided to actually start to monitor and have insight into their impact on the environment and understand the greenhouse gas emissions. And so I worked with consultants from [inaudible], the EPA that we're hired to work with calls two, put together a strategy to understand where their data's coming from. Going back to what I was talking about at Northwestern, looking through the data, capturing scope one, scope two, even scope three emissions, figuring out which scope three emissions we want to measure and [inaudible] spending weeks gathering the data, analyzing the data, calculating the data and then presenting it to upper management.
Speaker 1:
20:57
That was really exciting. Piece was a, it was the first time that upper management at a large corporation, we're really being exposed how important this was and the impact that their organization was have with having. And I believe that then once some of the top leaders and influencers start to understand this data, then they could start infusing that within the rest of the organization. So I'm really proud that that was one of my first projects because I believe it started to have a larger impact for the industry, not just organization, and also create a lot of exposure for sustainability within retail. And it led to me having a successful career at Kohl's while I was there. And then, uh, leading on to other career opportunities such as where I am today.
Speaker 3:
21:45
Sounds like they were really mission-driven. Um, do you find that in, in that program in particular, a lot of them that uh, once they get to a certain inflection point, they're self funding, right? And they continue to drive additional savings and get reinvested in some of these programs moving forward.
Speaker 1:
22:03
So yes, and there are many different ways organizations look at their finances related to sustainability, especially their savings. I've seen several green revolving funds where the savings that have come from energy efficiency projects go right back into the sustainability department. But I've also seen organizations where that's not the case, where once they are self-sustainable, they actually will start infusing those practices throughout the organization. And then more or less dismantle or spread out the sustainability team. So we're going infused within the company so they don't have the costs of a entire organization running this. I also [inaudible]
Speaker 3:
22:48
very interesting. I had not heard that before, but that, uh, that's a unique strategy. Kind of going back to what you talked about in the beginning of the podcast of making a part of each group's daily activity, daily mission.
Speaker 1:
23:00
Absolutely. And this is something I've seen with companies where they may be struggling financially, especially because of what's going on in retail right now. For example, with calls, um, big box retailers are just really not doing extremely well because of [inaudible], uh, because of companies like Amazon and other online retailers. So what they've done is they've refocused some of their strategy and start to infuse it within the organization as a whole rather than having a hub that's going to centralize everything for sustainability. I'm sure that there are some positions right now that exist that still do that. But you know, the whole idea of the mission of stability is to infuse it within everything. It should be within procurement. You should be financially sustainable. You should [inaudible] look at what food you're purchasing for your corporate events. You should look at how your employees are traveling to work. You should look at your location and there are so many things about sustainability that can just be infused within every aspect, especially HR because they're the ones that touch the people within organizations. There are so many outlets to go that if you want to focus on energy management specifically, that's housed typically within facilities and operations, but if you're really looking at the big picture of sustainability, I think it's important to infuse it within the entire organization and organizations like calls. I've seen Hess have started to do that.
Speaker 2:
24:34
That's a really interesting segue to you know, question that I was thinking as you were talking in your sustainability consulting, who are typically the people that reach out to you that want to bring you on the team? Like I'm specifically as sustainability departments. Is that the facilities teams?
Speaker 1:
24:53
Yeah, that's a great question. So the people that had been reaching out and the people that I've been working with are much more facilities related. They're much more on the construction side design side just because that's where it green building and green design are typically housed. But I've also worked with organizations where it's an educational component. For example, I was working with an organization called design for America and they take students engineering students to a conference once a year and they give them a problem to solve. Specifically this year, they were focused on how to solve the world's problems of climate change. And I worked with those students to on mentoring them on, you know, how can we infuse sustainability and energy management within some design projects that they're working on. Um, they approached me and asked me to come to speak to them and to mentor their students during this program and this project they were working on because they knew that I had this background of holistic sustainability. So I would say the people that come to me and the people that I'm working with are really a variety but more focused on energy management and within facilities operations, but also other types of organizations and people such as [inaudible] people that want an understanding and education about sustainability as a whole. So that way they could use it to infuse it within their projects, their education and their work.
Speaker 2:
26:33
So Andy, what's, what's next for you, for, for our audience. Um, will you be going to any events this year? What does 2020 have in store?
Speaker 1:
26:43
Absolutely. So I have a very busy year head. Uh, I have lots of work ahead of me to be doing to help reduce energy and continue to incorporate sustainability into everything that I do. I will be at Greenbuild this year. I'm looking forward to attending that conference, which I go to every year. That is the us green building council's annual green building conference. I'll be there, so if anyone's interested in connecting with me, you can always shoot me an email@andyatsteinsustainabilitydotcomorfindmeatmywebsiteaswellsteinsustainability.com and then I'll also be [inaudible] continuing to do the work that I do and outreach to new clients and work with organizations on my, my three components of a sustainability strategy, sustainability strategy, energy management and green building as well.
Speaker 2:
27:34
Well Andy, you know we're, we're coming up at the end of the hour and we love to always wrap up these podcasts with a few pieces of advice to our listeners who are looking to drive sustainability at their organization. What advice would you give?
Speaker 1:
27:51
The advice that I would give is understand the political structure of the organization you're working with. Because by doing that, you can reach the influencers, you can reach the leaders that will actually be able to work with you and help you create the impact that you're trying to achieve. That's what I found within every organization is that you really have to try to understand the organization as best as you can to understand where your work within sustainability and specifically energy management will fit within the organization.
Speaker 2:
28:22
Great. Well Andy, thank you so much for, for joining us on the show. It's always great to connect with you and we hope that you come back real soon.
Speaker 1:
28:32
Andy, thank you very much. Great insights. Appreciate it. Thank you very much. I appreciate all the questions
Speaker 2:
28:39
and for all of the listeners out there, uh, be sure to subscribe to the modern energy management podcast. If you like what you hear, you can access it on all the channels that you get your podcasts. Um, and if you like what you hear, please feel free to give us a rating on Apple podcasts and leave us a review, uh, to let us know how we're doing. And as always, if you have a story that you would like to share on the show, feel free to email us at marketing, at least@dg.com. We would love to hear your story. Until then, we will see you next week with a few more energy management stories for you.
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