SunGard’s Climate Corps Fellow Takes a Fresh Approach

By Jacob Shirmer

There’s nothing quite like summer in New York City. But I must admit the mugginess of a 95-degree day makes me thankful SunGard’s office in midtown Manhattan doesn’t skimp on air conditioning. As SunGard’s third EDF Climate Corps fellow, I am conscious of the energy this cooling action demands . Fortunately, I’m spending the summer generating energy efficiency recommendations to create energy and cost savings in SunGard’s global offices.

I’ve got big shoes to fill here, as I am following in the footsteps of two successful EDF Climate Corps fellows. In 2009, Ryan Whisnant, SunGard’s first EDF Climate Corps fellow and its current Director of Sustainability, proposed solutions to cut electricity use by 25% at the company’s headquarters. In 2010, Rich Tesler worked on a number of projects, recommending energy efficiencies  for data centers and developing a Green Leasing guide.
 As SunGard’s third EDF Climate Corps fellow, I am developing an employee engagement campaign aimed at energy efficiency in its offices this summer. In doing so, I am looking to SunGard employees to help the company realize cost savings and reduce greenhouse gas emissions even further.

While the push for sustainability at SunGard is driven at both the leadership and employee level, I’m hoping to provide recommendations everyone will be excited about. To guide my efforts, I’m looking to case studies of employee-driven improvements at other companies. And perhaps no company has had more success engaging its employees in energy efficiency than General Electric with its “Treasure Hunt” campaign. This initiative was built off a process started by Toyota that focused on the concept of kaizen, a Japanese approach to continuous improvement. Since 2005, GE Treasure Hunts have involved over 3,000 employees and resulted in annual savings of over $130 million—a successful treasure hunt indeed. GE realized these savings in manufacturing plants with plenty of engineers and facilities personnel. My task at this Fortune 500 IT firm is to apply similar practices in office buildings with employees who come from a variety of backgrounds.  Ultimately, the goal is to roll out the initiative across SunGard’s global operations.

While challenges certainly come along with reaching this goal, I’ve managed to seek out solutions to many of them. Here are my takeaways so far:

  • Eyes on the prize: There’s often resistance to changes in a business. But I’m confident my proposals will ease hesitations through demonstrating clear savings on operating costs, while strengthening the company brand by conveying a commitment to reducing energy usage.
  • It’s a two-way conversation: Building on employee efforts not only means I must motivate my co-workers but also harness their commitment. To do this, I plan to share best practices and gather feedback from employees.  I’m also looking to intrinsically and extrinsically motivate them through recognition, giveaways, prizes, and healthy competition. In doing so, I believe, SunGard can not only engage and motivate, but also retain and attract the best and the brightest.
  • Tally it up: While increasing energy efficiency and reducing environmental impact is the goal, measuring success of such a conceptual project can be a challenge in and of itself. By creating a Green Team Toolkit for guidance and measuring actual energy savings, I’m confident we can effectively monitor our progress.

Devising and implementing this employee engagement plan that can be rolled out across SunGard’s 3.2 million square feet of office space should result in substantial savings. And I’m happy to say that by focusing on employees and leveraging the training and connections I have gained from the EDF Climate Corps program, I am well on my way to generating a successful strategy for accomplishing this goal.

Jacob Shirmer is 2011 EDF Climate Corps Fellow at SunGard, MBA Candidate at the Johnson School at Cornell University

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