Expert Q&A: Amy Malick on sustainability planning

Expert Q&A: Amy Malick on sustainability planning

Amy Malick has more than 15 years of experience in sustainability management in the local government and private sectors. She is a strategic advisor with a focus on campus environments to Haley & Aldrich clients across multiple industries, and consults on a range of sustainability issues including energy and water management, climate resilience, and sustainability planning and reporting. 

Why should my organization undertake sustainability planning? 

Communities and organizations, including higher education institutions, across the country are facing mounting environmental and societal pressures to curb greenhouse gas emissions, rethink their use of natural resources, including fossil fuels, water, and raw materials, and otherwise respond to mounting concerns about long-term sustainability. The impacts of climate change are already causing disruptions in the form of drought, extreme weather events and rising utility costs. 

Sustainability planning can help institutions develop a blueprint for managing water and energy resources and costs, reduce waste and emissions, and prepare for climate change, while keeping an eye toward continued institutional growth, public safety and business continuity. 

What are the most important elements of sustainability planning at the campus scale? 

Whether it’s adopting the American College & University Presidents' Climate Commitment or making other bold commitments to sustainability, goal setting is one of the first steps in sustainability planning. And a plan is only as effective as an organization’s ability to implement it; reporting through the Global Reporting Initiative or other reporting framework allows organizations to communicate progress regularly and build credibility among stakeholders. Many of our clients have developed a sustainability data tracking system to ensure consistent organization-wide data management that makes reporting easier.

Institutional sustainability plans typically tackle key issues of energy, water, waste and greenhouse management, and are increasingly focused on climate resilience as well as social sustainability issues such as sustainable food sourcing and public health. No matter which of these elements your sustainability plan addresses, it’s critical that organizations effectively engage all stakeholders to develop a unified sustainability vision and implementation strategy in order to gain the necessary consensus for change . We recommend that stakeholders work together to align goals, plans, and operating budgets organization-wide; systematically assess past performance and assign appropriate metrics; and determine the right balance of policy, process, and technical innovation to foster a culture of sustainability. 

How can large institutions maximize sustainability efforts organization-wide?

The beauty of sustainability planning is that it allows organizations to consider how seemingly discrete issues can be connected for optimal results. For example, stormwater management can be aligned with an institution’s water conservation and climate action planning efforts to more effectively address issues such as sea level rise and drought. Energy management, energy efficiency, and renewable energy should can be integrated with maintenance programs to help reduce energy consumption and gain the maximum benefit from an institution’s energy systems.

Through work with our clients, I have been quite impressed with how many of them are proactively recognizing the critical importance of sustainability planning and elevating their plans alongside their capital improvement and asset management programs. The challenge, however, is often on changing cultural attitudes and making it an organization-wide commitment. We have seen the greatest success with our clients when the challenge is approached using a collaborative process.

For more information about Sustainability Planning, contact Amy Malick.