Global business trends show that incorporating green building, resource-efficient operations, and employee and community well-being into organizational goals increases profit margins. Business leaders wouldn’t embrace these values if it didn’t reduce costs or increase revenue.

The Risky Business report, created by nationally renowned economists and business leaders, provides a plethora of data and justifications for the short-term and long-term risks of doing nothing to address climate change and global resource depletion concerns. The report explains how actively changing businesses’ practices to sustain the planet and the natural resources on which businesses depend will stimulate the economy and minimize the costs of environmental disasters that society must bear.

Living in a county that experienced hundreds of millions of dollars of damage and human suffering from two massive storms last fall, we shouldn’t be shying away from tough conversations about climate change and our global and local obligations to address it. When I brought this up with the County Council in April, some council members accused me of fearmongering.

And yet, they often resort to fearmongering, too. This past Tuesday, most of them piled on to a critique about a simple, proposed change to the ECHO Guidebook: “Require applicants to specifically answer how the proposed project will meet sustainability standards that are part of the Council-adopted Sustainability Action Plan (i.e., water conservation, energy efficiency, green building standards, etc.).” One councilman claimed, “Green building costs 2-3x more than conventional building.” (This is false.) Another referred to the “…environmental stink” of green building features. Collectively, they voted to not include the new language asking applicants to describe how their project would align with green building standards.

ECHO is a county program that 72 percent of taxpayers renewed their commitment to fund in the 2020 election. ECHO, which stands for Environmental, Cultural, Historic and Outdoor Recreation, funds the building of many of Volusia County’s most popular public destinations that enhance the quality of life for residents and attract tourists — things like off-beach parking and restrooms, recreational facilities, public parks, and museums and theaters.

The proposed addition to the ECHO Guidebook for submitting and reviewing applications for ECHO funding would align ECHO projects with the county’s approved Sustainability Action Plan, which requires buildings to incorporate green building standards. And yet, the council threw it out.

According to Ralph Locke with the Florida Green Building Coalition, some but not all green building projects carry a very small capital cost premium of 3 percent on average. (That’s not 2-3x more expensive!) And yet, long-term monitoring of green buildings shows that the cost to operate those buildings is, on average, 25 percent lower, particularly if the green features prioritize energy efficiency, water conservation, and more durable and long-lasting materials and equipment. Even Volusia County Manager George Recktenwald could explain that simple fact to the council members, but to no avail.

The County Council’s claims that they are being good stewards of taxpayer dollars by not promoting green building on ECHO projects is sorely uninformed and shortsighted. Protecting the environment is not a “liberal” thing that conservative elected officials must resist for political grandstanding. It is a decision that most for-profit, not-for-profit, and government organizations are embracing, not just because it is the “right thing to do,” but because it makes good business sense.

— Wendy Anderson, Ph.D., M.B.A., is a professor of environmental science and studies at Stetson University, and chair of the Volusia Soil and Water Conservation District Board of Supervisors. She has been promoting sustainable community development for 20 years.



Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here