Lately I've been having a lot of bird's-eye view conversations about Wells Fargo's LEED® Standardization program and realizing that we've been so focused on the grindstone that we haven't taken a moment to truly assess our progress.
Well, today I'm going to share with you where we've been, where we're heading, and how we're doing it.
The big picture view is that, over the past five years, we have standardized a robust sustainable development, operations, and maintenance program that spans our entire branch network. We've already shared with you several stories about our efforts here, specifically around our new construction and existing building projects. We've also introduced you to some important Wells Fargo team members who have contributed to these initiatives, whether through education or advocacy.
In the meantime, you might have also heard about our recent integration with Wachovia Bank, the largest in U.S. banking history that took three years and concluded on December 1, 2011. Well, what we haven't shared is that many of the Wells Fargo team members who were most essential to the development and growth of our LEED Standardization program were also deeply involved in the physical conversion of our stores as part of that integration—virtually an all-hand's-on-deck effort. Are these people super human? In my opinion, the answer is a resounding "Yes!"
Behind all that super human strength is a ton of passion for our sustainability efforts. And now that we have the rigors of our conversion behind us, the best is yet to come: we've upped our environmental commitment to include a goal of achieving LEED certification for 35% of our real estate portfolio by 2020. This represents about 38 million square feet of different building types.
This objective will be met by a combination of LEED programs—most predominantly in our existing buildings. This means that hundreds of our retail banking stores will be certified under the LEED for Existing Buildings: Operations & Maintenance (EBOM) rating system over the next few years.
Is this a massive undertaking? Does it at times feel like we are pushing a cruise ship up a creek? Yes and yes. We are an established company with a mature real estate portfolio and any change takes substantial time and commitment. This is where the passion really comes in handy in addition to a little tactical savvy.
I started sharing our EBOM programming with you two years ago when we first started to develop the overarching policies that included "green" cleaning and comprehensive recycling. We also leveraged our conversion efforts by upgrading our thermostats and installing flow control devices on our plumbing fixtures—translating to up to 15% energy and water use savings in each store that we touched. Finally, we conducted preliminary energy audits across most of our converting stores.
This is where a good part of the tactical side of our program comes to play: by leveraging the store conversion opportunity to implement these early stage efforts we executed our philosophy of sustainability through opportunism.
It's likely you have considered "greening" your own home. Maybe you've felt frustrated about where to start or even reeled from sticker shock over a project you decided to undertake. This is why I am sharing with you our strategy of harnessing planned work to include the all-important sustainability component. In this way, sustainability isn't the "what" rather, it's the "how." And we'd love to hear your own challenges and successes in this area so please share them with us!
There are some other things specific to the "how" that I'd like to share with you—all signatures of Wells Fargo that I believe help fuel our approach to LEED Standardization and sustainability overall:
This includes our engagement with team members, customers, and the communities in which we do business. No other company does engagement like we do, and sustainability is no small portion of this aptitude.
A holistic approach
We tie our LEED efforts into the bigger picture thereby institutionalizing the initiative. In other words, LEED is not a bolt-on for us; it is actually the way we operate and maintain our buildings, whether we certify those buildings or not.
Many functions that might otherwise be outsourced are actually kept in-house here at Wells Fargo. The expertise I am most proud of is our team of Commissioning Agents—in-house engineers who assure efficiency in the design and installation of our HVAC, lighting, and plumbing systems at every new store we build.
A mature portfolio
I previously mentioned this element as a challenge, but it's also a huge strength. This means we touch every type of community—from rural to urban, from coast-to-coast, and across every income bracket—and we do so with a great sense of purpose in sharing our journey on this path of sustainability.
As you can see, we've been pretty busy but our work is far from complete. Now that we have successfully completed our conversion we are even more energized to further our sustainability efforts. Keep your eye on this space as I provide further updates down the line—I already have some pretty great stories queued up to share with you. We've come a long way and we've only just begun!