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Legacy Vital Records Company Receives Sustainability Facelift


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Iron Mountain is a global storage and information company that was originally founded after World War II to help protect vital records from wars and other disasters. Today, it helps manage data for 94 percent of Fortune 1,000 companies. In 2012, its corporate headquarters in Boston was old, dated and no longer supported the company culture. Day lighting was limited, and cubicle partitions isolated employees and decreased collaboration. Faced with an expiring lease, the company was at a crossroads.

"Sustainability requires us to take advantage of those special moments, and changing our physical face was a terrific opportunity," explains Kevin Hagen, director of corporate responsibility for Iron Mountain. The company now has a new corporate headquarters at 1 Federal St. in Boston that encourages innovation, collaboration and work-life balance for employees, with an open floor plan and lots of spaces for impromptu and formal collaborations.

The global headquarters was recently awarded LEED Gold for Commercial Interiors by the United States Green Building Council (USGBC) and Iron Mountain is already seeking its second LEED certification for a data center Northborough, Mass. Given the significant real estate footprint of the company, with 66.9 million square feet and 1,026 facilities worldwide, it is logical that LEED would be an invaluable tool, especially after beginning the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) process. Iron Mountain produced its first GRI sustainability report this year.

"Today’s stakeholders -- from customers to investors to employee -- are increasingly interested in corporate responsibility and sustainable business issues, and they are increasingly sophisticated about separating the hype from the meat on these issues," says Hagen. "The currency of the realm in now transparency and the baseline test of transparency is sustainability reporting."

The first GRI report created both a tremendous opportunity and challenge. Because it is a large multinational company, it was especially difficult to compile all the needed social and environmental data. The reporting process also exposed threats and opportunities that were previously unnoticed, thus empowering action. The measurements speaks for itself and allows Iron Mountain to make educated choices on next steps.

"For us, being relatively new in a formal process of corporate social responsibility in a structured effort, it's great to take advantage of some of the structured processes that have come before us," explains Hagen. "GRI and LEED offer tools for us to learn about what is going on and be transparent about what we are doing."

The new global headquarters was a manifestation of the cultural changes within Iron Mountain. "Over the last 18 to 24 months, Iron Mountain has had a great deal of change," explains Christian T. Potts, senior manager of corporate communications for Iron Mountain. "We have a new CEO and a new corporate status as a real estate investment trust. All these things get at the DNA level of who the company is and wants to become. The move [to the new headquarters] allows us to match our aspiration of who we want to be with a physical manifestation of those goals."

The open floor plan encourages communication among employees and contains numerous spaces for spontaneous or scheduled meetings, such as nooks and conference rooms. The company recognizes that many employees are mobile and work from home some of the time.

Currently roughly 150 of the company's 600 Boston employees are enrolled in the new flexwork "Mobile Mountaineer" program, and approximately 100 shared work spaces serve these employees. This program helped the company to downsize its space, while offering greater amenities to its employees. It also helps enable better work-life balance, reduces energy use for commuting, and allows Iron Mountain to grow without as large of an impact on office space.

"The greenest and most cost effective square footage we have are the spaces we don't have," explains Hagen referring to the reduced square footage of the new headquarter compared to the previous space, through shared work spaces and other efficiencies.

"The new space is largely about who we want to be and a new way of working and thinking of ourselves," add Potts. "Work flows through the interior and not up and down the interior. It encourages people to collaborate because you see people more and can interact with them."

The new headquarters has had a significant impact on Iron Mountain's triple bottom line. There is a known connection between mood, day lighting, and productivity; and a dynamic work space and company culture help attract top talent. High indoor air quality through the use of natural materials (that don't off gas) and ample ventilation promote employee health and well being. The energy efficiency of the facility shrinks operating costs, and a commitment to purchase renewable energy credits for a least two years reduces the carbon footprint of the company.

"When you look at [the new headquarters] in the end, it looks like just good business," says Hagen. "In the beginning of this process, the average person wouldn't see it as an opportunity to score triple bottom line advances, but it absolutely was."


Image credit: Iron Mountain

Sarah Lozanova is a regular contributor to environmental and energy publications and websites, including Mother Earth Living, Green Building & Design, Triple Pundit, Urban Farm, and Solar Today. Her experience includes work with small-scale solar energy installations and utility-scale wind farms. She earned an MBA in sustainable management from the Presidio Graduate School and she resides in Belfast Cohousing & Ecovillage in Mid-coast Maine with her husband and two children.

Sarah Lozanova headshotSarah Lozanova

Sarah Lozanova is an environmental journalist and copywriter and has worked as a consultant to help large corporations become more sustainable. She is the author of Humane Home: Easy Steps for Sustainable & Green Living, and her renewable energy experience includes residential and commercial solar energy installations. She teaches green business classes to graduate students at Unity College and holds an MBA in sustainable management from the Presidio Graduate School.

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