Making Corporate Sustainability … Sustainable

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Taking on any new initiative within a large company is a tough road, but particularly for a publicly traded one. Three years ago, the CEO and board of directors of QTS debated and then agreed to take on the challenge of sustainability and they asked me to lead the initiative to ensure its success. No pressure, right?

Three years later, and many milestones reached, we have achieved sustainability leadership in the data center industry. This is evidenced by numerous awards including the Global Real Estate Sustainability Benchmark (GRESB) report ranking QTS #1 among data centers globally for our Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) initiatives.

Along the journey, I would frequently speak with my peers in the sustainability world and ask what has been their biggest challenge or the one thing that has held their program back from making an impactful difference? In nearly every case, a lack of top-level management support was the #1 area cited.

When digging deeper it became clear that lack of top-level support was connected to concern about cost. While they believed in the altruistic value of corporate sustainability, they remained concerned about the costs associated with it.

When our CEO and board committed to sustainability, it was because they viewed it as an opportunity. They recognized the costs involved but also knew that QTS would do more business to make it a profitable endeavor. They recognized we could create value for our investors and benefit society at the same time. It is this top-level belief and commitment that is making QTS’ sustainability program financially, culturally and operationally sustainable.

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As we suspected at the outset of our ESG program, we are now seeing ESG being embraced by our customers and prospects as a core requirement in more and more engagements. Increasingly, we are sitting across the table from very altruistic executives who share QTS’ belief that we need to be good to our communities. And that is why these things matter now more than ever; it is important to our customers, so it is important to us.

We recently won a deal with very large bank, which told us that while it was a close competition, our commitment to sustainability, philanthropy, and volunteerism made the difference.

In the end, it’s important to be altruistic, but if you can make it good for business at the same time, the program will enjoy a long life and benefit society for a long time to come.

If you’d like to read our latest ESG report, you can access it here.

Travis Wright is the Vice President of Sustainability and Energy at QTS Realty Trust (NYSE: QTS).

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