As new technology is further developed, we are starting to see a trend toward affordability and corresponding real potential for return on investments in sustainability projects.
Responsible fiduciaries in any industry must assess the rational quantitative value of spending money no matter the expense category. Money spent on one thing necessarily means that you are not spending it elsewhere, and most often the expectation of good stewardship is a matter of employment and integrity. When it comes to sustainable techniques and new technology, consideration should involve reason, intellect and measurable results.
Successful energy efficiency and water conservation measures are verifiable. Reasoning to invest in technology that will yield both environmental and financial returns is imperative, but not difficult to find outside of the multifamily industry. Unique to apartments is finding the right product or service to attain those returns beneficial to the ownership group. Too often pioneers of the climate and clean energy types of technology do not understand that the principle savings an apartment operator needs to find is for the common area space. That is, investment in equipment and services that save resident’s energy, water and money have yet to sufficiently prove beneficial returns for those owning and operating the facilities.
Those selling technology with what they describe as a positive outcome for the environment are often aiming at the purchaser’s emotions. Insight here is found in an article from treehugger.com referencing Steve Jobs’ success in getting people to become emotionally attached to their iPhones, stating that “when we talk about climate, energy, biodiversity, what have you, we too often try to appeal to reason, intellect and our inner accountant-cum-economist…instead of that sort of loving emotional relationship with the world around them.” To which we must beware, as inferenced by Pepperdine University’s Graziadio Business Review: Great leaders understand how to balance emotion with reason and make decisions that positively impact themselves, their employees, their customers and stakeholders, and their organizations; i.e. emotional self-control is essential to make sound strategic decisions .
The best sustainable investment decisions will assess an energy and financial analysis that is standards-based, use historical data and will be verified by a third party (i.e. numbers that can be trusted). A good proposal will too provide a savings guarantee with an annual return that at least would be expected if the money was not invested in energy efficiency projects. The hole in new technology is an emotional one that may not sufficiently address financial returns on investment. With emotional constraint and a disciplined approach to “trust, yet verify”, there are good investments in new technology to be made in the multifamily industry.