By: Mark Lafaver, Senior Manager of Finance & Facilities, Manomet
This article is excerpted from the Fall/Winter 2016-17 edition of Manomet’s Partnerships for Sustainability magazine. To read the complete article, click here.
Manomet is respected for its commitment to science, people, and effecting meaningful change in the world. It is rewarding to see Manomet making a difference in the field, but how are we doing on the sustainability of our own operations?
We have long been thoughtful about our own environmental footprint. As staff, we share the organization’s deeply-held values on sustainability and positive change. When Manomet’s Root360 tool launched in early 2015, we were one of the first to use the tool to assess our own sustainability practices. Now we had a way to systematically measure how we were doing and track progress over time. The tool allowed us to document things we were already doing. We carpool to events. We meet, when possible, by Skype or videoconference. We recycle our paper, metals, and plastics. We compost our food waste to fertilize our gardens and our farm. We source the food for our events through local farmers and businesses whenever it is reasonably possible. We use high recycled content paper in our printers. Our Root360 score in 2015 was 58/100. The benchmark feature of the tool showed us we were at the median. A good start, but we could do more.
In January 2016, we began the installation of a 24.5kW solar array that right now generates more power than we use in our Headquarters building. We are very fortunate to have an enthusiastic Board that was willing to provide the financial flexibility to commit to this project. Our environmental returns are immediate and the financial payback period on this improvement is estimated to be only seven years.
As a result of small and large changes, our Root360 score in 2016 was 79/100, putting us at about the 75th percentile for our peers. Sustainability, for us, has been a bit contagious. Having a sense of our ‘power budget’ (what we can predictably produce on our own roof), we knew we wanted to do more. An energy audit revealed that lighting was an area of great energy usage and opportunity for us.
New energy efficient LED lighting—201 fixtures in total—was just installed last spring. 75% of the cost was covered by a joint efficiency program of the state and the utility company. With the new lights, we will not only reduce our ‘off the grid’ annual consumption of energy to zero, we will actually be able to produce clean renewable energy to put back into the system, displacing power that would likely otherwise have come from burning fossil fuels. Our new lighting automatically shuts off when occupants leave the room. It auto-dims when window light allows and brightens during cloudy periods to keep a constant, user-set lighting condition in the room.
We have certainly been the beneficiaries of generous support from our donors and Trustees to fund these improvements. We have made investments in our facilities to make our operations more sustainable. But facilities are not the only places where our choices can make a difference.
Our Board and its Investment Committee began in 2016 to shift our approach to managing Manomet’s endowment. No longer satisfied with a traditional ‘return only’ approach to managing our endowment, we began a move toward a values-based strategy that takes into consideration the overall societal impact of our endowment holdings. We now have 25% of our endowment invested in funds that focus on the environmental, social, and governance (ESG) profiles of companies in addition to applying rigorous financial analysis.
“This style of investing has been around for decades, but it is quickly becoming more of a norm,” says W. Andrew Mims, Manomet Trustee and Investment Committee member. “The notion that values alignment and returns maximization are mutually exclusive is inaccurate and outdated. For an organization like Manomet, the decision to move to an investment strategy that includes environmental considerations in the process is not just logical, but sensible.”
We feel strongly about being part of the larger effort to allocate capital to businesses that treat the environment, their communities, and their employees fairly. Investing in businesses that have demonstrated good governance practices is more likely to be a good long-term financial investment. We expect to increase our commitment to values-based investing to 50% of the endowment by the end of the calendar year and be fully invested in ESG and socially-responsible holdings by the end of 2017. Making investments that match our values is more complicated than you might think. We want to get it right.
We know taking action towards sustainability is hard. Just as we advise others to do, we evaluate our business practices and endeavor to make the best choices we can within the limitations of our resources. We celebrate the steps we’ve taken and acknowledge there is still much work ahead. We hope our story inspires you, wherever you are on the pathway to sustainability.