As sustainability continues to gain momentum, business leaders need to address how this movement will influence the way they run their organizations. Doing so can lead to immediate savings in power and other costs, and boosts the market value of the property.

“It’s a change in culture versus something that’s just an on-and-off switch,” says Greg Martin, partner and National Real Estate & Hospitality Practice leader at Moss Adams.

Smart Business spoke with Martin about what’s happening in the field of sustainability and how an accountant or adviser can help.

What’s happening with sustainability today?

Sustainability and Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED)-certified buildings have been talked about for some time. Early sign of sustainability in practice started out simply with hotel properties putting out signs about reusing towels or unplugging phone chargers. Then, many moved on to using low-flow showerheads or locally sourcing food. That sentiment has crossed over into the expectations of commercial building tenants, many of whom got the idea, at least in part, from attending conferences in energy-efficient hotels.

From a real estate perspective, more and more tenants in a commercial office building want to see sustainable practices followed in their workplaces. Those companies that can show they are concentrated on green living can use that as a competitive advantage. Eventually, sustainability will be part of our everyday psyche, so you want to take advantage of these competitive strengths when you can.

How does going green translate to the bottom line and profits?

It’s expensive to put energy-efficient measures in place, such as those that limit water or power consumption. But in doing so, you can significantly reduce your operating costs from day one and possibly attract sources of capital — some investment groups will only invest in properties or companies that have sustainability policies and procedures in place.

A number of studies found increased operating incomes and higher market values and returns for sound sustainable properties versus non-sustainable properties. A green label such as LEED or Energy Star raised market rents and values of commercial space, including a 16 percent increased sale price, according to a 2010 University of California, Berkeley study of 10,000 U.S. office buildings. A Davis Langdon study estimated upfront costs for high-sustainability design can be $1.50 to $3 per square foot, but those outlays also can bring up to 14 percent reductions in energy costs. In addition, PNC Bank put together a study of their LEED-certified branches compared to non-LEED branches, and found LEED branches had more income, deposit accounts opened and consumer loans.

As more data becomes available on the returns, cash flow and market appreciation of sustainability, we’ll likely see more and more benefits from following these types of policies and practices.

How can an accountant or adviser help with sustainability reports and programs?

CPAs are getting involved in reporting on whether companies are meeting sustainability policies and procedures. Often, an independent and objective CPA will look at the data provided by the management of the company on what they have done in the area of sustainability, referring it back to the company’s policies and procedures. The CPA basically concludes whether they are in agreement or not with management’s assertions. It lends another level of credence and credibility by generating a report based on benchmarks.

Another value-added service that’s gaining momentum is our sustainability consulting group, which consults with companies on setting up green policies and procedures as well as a process to monitor how companies are doing against their goals.

Is this a newer aspect of sustainability — showing that you are accountable?

It’s catching on. Is there some set of rules that say, ‘Thou shalt,’ like the SEC says that public companies shall present audited financial statements? Not really — it’s a best practice. It shows how the company is serious enough that they are going to bring in a credible, objective, independent party to verify what they have represented to others.

Sustainability is not a fad. Ignoring it is not going to make it go away. And because it’s here to stay, it will only continue to gain importance.

Greg Martin is a partner, National Real Estate & Hospitality Practice leader at Moss Adams. Reach him at (415) 677-8277 or greg.martin@mossadams.com.

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Published in National

Event planning is no longer just “party planning.” Event planning has become a powerful tool for business success by helping to increase sales through live events and saving time and money when planning or organizing company events. Planning an event takes a great deal of time, energy, skill and creativity to effectively execute.

“Mid-sized businesses often do not realize the value of having someone actually trained in event planning; they often allocate the job to an administrative professional who has a full-time job and little time to pay attention to the vast details it takes to successfully implement an event,” says Michele Clark, program manager, The Shlensky Institute for Event Meeting and Planning, for Corporate College.

Even if a business thinks it cannot afford an event planner, it could afford training someone in its office. And, any administrative professional that is given the task of planning and executing events should be compensated for the increase in time and effort it takes.

Smart Business spoke with Clark about the importance of training employees in the fundamentals of event planning and understanding best practices in this essential role.

Why does a business need to ensure its marketing coordinator or a similar employee is properly trained in event planning?

Marketing and event planning really go hand in hand. Events have become an advantage for any business’s marketing strategy, and when combined with an advertising campaign, it vastly increases the awareness and visibility for a product or service. It gives your audience a live environment for your brand. The more people see, touch, taste and experience your product or service, the more you sell.

Marketing personnel also become involved in the acquisition of sponsors for events. To sell an event, it’s important to understand how to look at the event through the eyes of a planner so you are able to provide real marketing solutions to a sponsor’s goals.

What is involved in planning a business event?

A business event is no different than any event in that it all comes down to the details. Whether you are planning a large conference or a gala affair, knowing how to manage every detail is key to its success. If you don’t know the fundamentals of planning an event, you could be wasting a great deal of time. For example, a large conference can take up to year to plan. An event planner handles all of the tasks related to an event, such as research, food, decor, entertainment, transportation, invitations, accommodations, speakers, activities, staffing, supervision, evaluations, and the list goes on and on.

How does event planning affect a business’s profitability and reputation?

Having someone trained in event planning actually saves time and money. If you have someone who understands time management and the organization of an event, it is much more efficient than having someone just plan the event on the side trying to find their way through hundreds of logistics.

As for reputation, there is a remarkable difference between someone with experience and training who executes an event versus someone who just ‘wings it.’ If something can go wrong, it will, and a well-trained event planner understands the challenges and knows how to avoid or solve them. Your well-managed events will speak for themselves and be less likely to become a failure, which could, in turn, give you a bad reputation.

What kind of training should be provided to employees who deal with events and hospitality?

A comprehensive course designed specifically for event planning is excellent training for someone given the task of planning events and will provide that person with an appreciation of what it takes to plan an event. An employee needs to understand the fundamentals, such planning a budget, dealing with sponsors and clients, and utilizing organizational tools.

However, experience is the No. 1 attribute when it comes to executing events. So look for a course that also offers your employees experience through volunteer opportunities, internships and working with an event planner for the best combination of learning.

Also, if your company holds conferences on a regular basis, employees can receive further training specifically in Meeting and Conference planning. There is also other targeted training such as trade show and exhibition management or event planning trends and technology.

Trends and technology include information on registration software or how to take advantage of iPhones during a conference. Technology is now a large part of the hospitality industry, such as using something as simple as the ‘Bump’ app, where attendees can download their information then just tap other smart phones to receive their information. It’s a terrific networking tool and saves paper. There is an influx of meeting technology that changes rapidly and accommodates various attendee ‘smart’ tools.

As the hospitality industry grows in Northeast Ohio, how will this affect corporate business events?

It is a really exciting time for event planning in Northeast Ohio. The event and meeting planning industry is increasing in Northeast Ohio faster than the national average, at 14 to 19 percent over the next few years, according to O*net OnLine.

The new casino alone just begs for an activity, anything from corporate team building to a birthday party. Then you bring in the Medical Mart and Conference Center and you are surrounded by opportunities for event marketing projects, product launches, entertainment parties, major conferences and trade shows. The list of what can take place here is ongoing and event planning and management is alive and well.

Michele Clark is the program manager, The Shlensky Institute for Event Meeting and Planning, for Corporate College. Reach her at (216) 987-2909 or michele.clark@tri-c.edu.

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Published in Cleveland