Sustainability: Thinking Big

The pursuit of sustainability is going to be a way of life, not a passing phase or flavor of the month. Here’s evidence from two industries that are very different from ours, but relevant in that we share the common denominator of being petroleum-focused.

“Creating a sustainable future” is the lead in to United Airlines President and CEO Jeff Smisek’s February column in the company’s on-board Hemispheres magazine. The column describes the company’s historic November flight propelled by algae-derived biofuel; it was an important precursor to a commitment to purchase 20 million gallons per year of the stuff. Pretty bold move, I think, for a company that seems just as connected to petroleum as the parking business is.

Another great example of bold is seen in Ray Anderson, founder of carpet tile giant Interface. Anderson’s company committed to eliminate all environmental impacts by the year 2020. Shortly before his death in 2011, the company was halfway to meeting that lofty (some say impossible) goal. Interface says that in the past 17 years, it has reduced greenhouse gas emissions by 24 percent, fossil fuel consumption by 60 percent, waste to landfill by 82 percent, and water consumption by 82 percent while avoiding more than $450 million in costs, increasing sales by 63 percent, and more than doubling earnings.

If you haven’t already read IPI’s Sustainability Framework please do. This important document lays out what IPI stands for on the topic of sustainability and represents a bold step forward. I’ve read recently how the parking industry has been “doing” sustainability for a long time. Yes, we’ve been doing some good things, but up until recently there have been no game changers. If we intend to make meaningful progress, we need to think and act like Smisek and Anderson: BIG.

About Casey Jones, CAPP

Casey Jones, CAPP is vice president of institutional services at SP Plus. He is IPI’s immediate past chair and serves on the IPI Advisory Council, IPI Scholars/Fellows Task Force, and the Professional Development Task Force.

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