Letter from the USGBC and GBCI boards: Driving performance at scale

USGBC and GBCI Boards of Directors

Over the past year, the USGBC and GBCI Boards of Directors have listened carefully to staff, members, volunteers and other stakeholders to learn how best to ensure continuity of service and focus on key areas needing attention and improvement. We also used this input in combination with feedback collected through customer surveys and stakeholder sessions as part of our strategic review. We appreciate the degree to which our stakeholder community has supported our future success by sharing experiences, recommendations, insights and vision.

We want to now report on what we’ve heard and how we will use it to drive transformation of the global built environment.

We see two primary ways that we are supporting the marketplace at present:

  1. Pioneered decades ago and advanced by the LEED Steering Committee, the LEED green building rating systems were developed and deployed for individual projects to use and certify across sectors and geographies. A key outcome of LEED certification has been global recognition that LEED is the premier platform to recognize excellence in green buildings.
  2. We support cities, communities, sectors and large building portfolio owners in setting targets for performance improvement in existing portfolios, including tracking and communicating success. This approach verifies incremental aggregate improvement over time and allows these large portfolios to target improvements in ways that fit a variety of users and needs, such as business and O+M culture; baseline conditions across the portfolio; budgets; and stakeholder and shareholder expectations. Success has depended on flexibility, execution speed, a unique understanding of the variety of improvement options and the ability to verify action over time. A key goal has been demonstrating to stakeholders that continuous improvement commitments result in verified change at scale.

While we continue to move toward more comprehensive and challenging benchmarks for certifying green building leadership through LEED, the marketplace is exploding around decarbonization commitments by large portfolio owners, in many cases associated with ESG (environmental, social and governance) initiatives that include equity and well-being as key goals.

What will be done and then verified at scale to improve environmental performance, equity, and well-being across such large portfolios? Financial and regulatory mechanisms around ESG and decarbonization have elevated this challenge, highlighting the need for specific, proven guidance and tracking tools.

In response to observations and inputs from our stakeholders, our boards see the need to:

  1. Support new commitments to green building at scale. These are critical to scaling the outcomes around sustainability and equity that our organizations seek, and we have unique experience with verifiable options for existing building performance improvement.
  2. Collaborate with portfolio-oriented cities, communities, corporations, institutions and the ESG community, which speak a different language than the more traditional single-site marketplace we first engaged and served.
  3. In our work to support and verify current portfolio commitments, devise new mechanisms that enable decision-making at the speed of market evolution around scaled commitments (including how to support regulatory agencies such as the Securities and Exchange Commission, European Commission, local jurisdictions and others in ensuring that greenwashing is stopped). These have less to do with comparative excellence and more to do with verifying sustainable change over time.
  4. Engage new partners, particularly around ESG, decarbonization and equity, who can help define how best to adapt our products to enable and verify scaled commitments.
  5. Better define the broad-based value proposition of our work as compared to simpler, less robust solutions that may not confer improvements in equity and well-being (e.g., carbon offsets).

Now is the time for us to engage a new marketplace. Our proof of concept across hundreds of thousands of single sites can now be extended across thousands of portfolios. In addition to investments in LEED, you will see both USGBC and GBCI adding staff, expanding technology capacity, and building new partnerships to bolster our ability to engage and support the variety of stakeholders involved in new portfolio commitments. If we do this right, we will create a funnel for more LEED certification, and, more critically, we will keep the built environment front and center for actions that provide verifiable performance improvements over time.

Both boards fully support this new approach to scale. Thanks in advance for supporting us as we grow with the changing marketplace.

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