San Antonio is a city of immense opportunity. According to the U.S. Census report, the area is expected to add one million more residents by 2040, so now is the time to plan and prepare for this growth. To support the population influx, new infrastructure needs to be built and existing infrastructure needs updating. The responsible way to meet these needs and the growth of our city, particularly downtown, requires a commitment to sustainability to provide residents and generations to come with healthy spaces to work, live, learn and play.

We face the challenge of developing first-class facilities to attract top talent while retaining San Antonio’s rich history and culture. City leaders are doing their part to invest in sustainability through initiatives such as SA Climate Ready, a climate action and resilience plan. But if we want to make an impact, we need to come together and commit to change the way we develop, design, renovate and construct facilities and outdoor spaces.

Moving the needle forward will require actionable sustainability. While many businesses, community leaders and individuals talk about the benefits of sustainability, it is diminished to a conceptual idea of what could be. We need to move sustainability to action and take measurable steps to a carbon-neutral future, steps like installing rainwater collection systems within office buildings, high-performance façades that reduce solar heat gain, and energy recovery wheels to precondition fresh air intake.

When determining how to enhance sustainability in your business, consider what changes can be made in the short and long term, as well as how these changes will impact your bottom line, employees, and communities.

Many business leaders are under the impression that “going green” is synonymous with expensive, and therefore hesitate to commit to sustainable practices due to the up-front cost and associated expenses. As we learn more about sustainable practices and develop new technology, the initial investment is decreasing and the long-term gains are on the rise. For example, solar panels require an up-front investment, but over time, save money in energy costs. Consider viewing sustainability as an investment rather than an expense, and when calculating the bottom line, let’s not simply look at 2021, let’s look at 2030, 2040, and beyond. 

By investing in sustainability, we are investing in our city’s future and priming San Antonio’s rich history for future development and technology. Not only is it the right thing to do, but it also makes business sense. Business leaders are increasingly agreeing that a company’s commitment to the environment will play a role in its future success. For example, a quarter of CEOs now strongly agree that investing in climate-change initiatives could lead to significant new opportunities for their businesses, up from 13% in 2010, according to a 2020 survey.

You don’t have to be in the business of construction or building to make a difference – even small changes can make an impact. Businesses can make an immediate commitment to recycling and shifting from paper resources to digital options, along with choosing to invest in sustainable alternatives, such as reusable water bottles and office supplies. Even these small changes can make a difference – and save money – over time.

When planning for long-term initiatives, businesses can consider making energy-efficient office upgrades, such as the installation of automated lights with sensors or smart thermostats. These solutions help reduce energy costs while also benefiting the environment. Track your goals and hold your company and employees accountable. Tangible data and results allow you to clearly project and see your sustainability efforts’ return on investment. 

Even if you start small, that small step can lead to strides in building a sustainable future for San Antonio. But to be successful, all industries, communities, and individuals need to play their part.

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Steve Lyons

Steve Lyons is San Antonio vice president of business development at Skanska, one of the world's leading project development and construction groups.