Building Green: PNC’s Regional President talks sustainability with Institute of CSR

By Michael N. Harreld
Regional President
PNC Bank – Greater Washington Area

Last month I had the pleasure of speaking with students participating in the Institute for Corporate Responsibility certificate program regarding PNC’s commitment to sustainable business practices.

For PNC, going green has made good business sense. We didn’t start out seeking to be the world’s leader in green buildings, but thanks to Gary Saulson, our forward-thinking head of corporate real estate, PNC has had more newly constructed buildings achieve Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED®) certification by the U.S. Green Building Council than any other company on earth. At last count we were at 232, including PNC Place, our LEED Platinum certified regional headquarters in downtown DC.

Why build green? It benefits all of our constituencies:

• Employees: Healthy workspaces make for happy employees. And happy employees are more likely to stay on board. Ours also have taken great pride in trumpeting PNC’s leadership in this arena.
• Customers: Not only do our customers love coming into our Green Branch® locations and office buildings, but many customers also tell us that they’ve moved their accounts to PNC specifically because of our green building practices. That’s extremely rewarding and demonstrates how consumers select brands whose business practices they respect.
• Shareholders: Our shareholders have been fully supportive of our investment in building green. While occasionally there are higher upfront costs, we are achieving ROI through lower energy costs and increased efficiencies.
• Communities: By building green, we reduce our impact on local infrastructure and often spur new business development in our communities.

The ICR students had some great questions about what’s involved in making the decision to go green and how we’ve been able to maintain this level of sustainability. Several asked how they could take these ideas back to their workplaces.

As I mentioned to them, it has to be part of an overall strategy that starts from the top. Our CEO, senior leaders and board of directors have been behind this practice since we opened our first green building in Pittsburgh in 2000. And no one has looked back. We’re fully committed to reducing energy consumption, cutting operating expenses and increasing employee satisfaction. (In fact, we’re currently building The Tower at PNC Plaza, which will open in Pittsburgh next year as the world’s greenest office tower.)

While PNC has made its mark by building green, some companies may want to simply retrofit existing buildings. It’s important to evaluate economics and practicality.

But we can all get in the act somehow.

Can’t build green? How about setting goals to reduce paper usage or increasing recycling? In 2013, we reduced paper usage per employee by 10.7 percent, and since 2009, we have reduced our total usage by 37.5 percent through adoption of new procedures and technology and through employee behavior. We also have increased our recycling rates and expect we can get to 90% recycling in all of our branches.

As responsible corporate citizens, we can all do something to make our communities greener.

To learn more about PNC’s environmental business practices, click here.