Residential Magazine

The Allure of Green

It pays to show environmentally conscious borrowers that you care about sustainability

By Justin Schwing

In today’s eco-friendly world, more consumers want to do business with environmentally conscious companies. This is just one reason mortgage originators should consider adopting a green philosophy for their business. Essentially, there are considerations to take into account when contemplating green initiatives and several ways to implement them without being overwhelmed.

Consumers, especially millennials, are willing to pay more for products from environmentally conscious companies, according to a 2015 Nielsen study. It would be a safe conclusion to conclude this sentiment carries over to the companies they select for their mortgage.

There may be other benefits for mortgage companies that go green. A 2017 paper from researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles, and the University of Montenegro suggests implementing environmentally friendly initiatives can increase productivity when coupled with training, teamwork and quality management programs.

The idea of going green is a noble one, but some companies perceive it to be taxing on their budgets and human resources. That can be true. There are manageable ways, however, to approach “greening” your business, in order to limit costs and reduce difficulties for employees who must make (and live with) the changes.

Strategic steps

Adopting a green philosophy and implementing environmentally friendly initiatives doesn’t have to be overwhelming. The key is to consider the right issues, think strategically and lay out a plan of execution. Even companies with no appetite for changing their operations can become more environmentally sound simply by considering energy conservation as a factor in routine decisions.

For instance, when leasing new space, you can ask potential landlords about their energy-conservation efforts. Solar-powered offices and water-conserving fixtures, like low-flow faucets and toilets that help save money, are popular design elements in newer office spaces.

As a renter, it is important to determine who is responsible for green initiatives and who will get any available financial incentives. Depending on your lease language, changes may have to be approved or initiated by the landlord. Companies that own their office space can take advantage of tax credits and rebate programs. You can find a list of resources at the Database of State Incentives for Renewables and Efficiency (DSIRE) website.

Managing green initiatives often rests on the shoulders of the facilities manager or the chief information officer’s staff. Although some companies add staff to manage their initiatives, others choose to contract with third-party consultants for plans and designs.

Whether you decide to manage the process internally or hire a third party, look for someone who is Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certified. This certification is a third-party verification that the holder is qualified to implement energy-efficiency programs and understands environmental design. Another option for managing a green initiative is to hire a firm to develop a plan and then task an individual or a committee at your company to manage the implementation of it. 

Change in mindset

Mortgage origination companies can make some changes immediately to be greener. A company’s executive management team must be willing to mandate green initiatives to get full company buy-in and support. In many cases, these efforts start with a slight change in culture and mindset.

 One thing that can be done is to sign up for a national shredding program. Yes, we are still a paper-intensive industry and even though we have made some headway on the road to digital mortgages, we are far from it and have the papers to prove it.

 Companies with multiple offices can contract for a national shredding service/recycling program. Such an option centralizes the paper to be eliminated, which not only makes compliance easier, but also can cost less. Correspondent shops can offer their lenders the opportunity to sign up for the service at the national bulk-rate price.

 Another consideration is to link a green action to each closed loan. For instance, maybe your company pledges to plant three trees for each closed loan in 2019 through a partnership with the National Forest Foundation.

 A mortgage company could institute a clean-desk policy, by requiring people to clear their desk before leaving. It also eliminates the risk of having papers with non-public information, such as Social Security numbers and bank accounts, on a desk, where they could be seen by nonemployees. An additional benefit is fire-hazard prevention. There have been cases of papers being blown into a running space heater and causing destructive fires in mortgage offices.

 Eliminate the waste

Another way to reduce paper is to eliminate personal printers. This is a tough one because of the individual control factor. People might think twice about printing a document, however, if they have to walk outside their office to retrieve it. This gets to the basic idea of not printing as much — or think before you print.

The eco-solution for printing has to start with a change in the culture of the company. This is an immediate change that will save ink, paper and time. Plus, sharing a printer makes the office more social because people have to get up and move around.

Ditch the paper plates, Styrofoam coffee cups and plastic cutlery. Convert to reusable ceramic coffee cups and plates. Encourage employees to bring their favorite mug to work. If there is not a dishwasher already installed, this may require a conversation with a landlord. Hand-washing, however, is still a popular way to get dishes clean. Once the dishwasher is installed, having your cleaning crew empty it as part of their task list will cost about $70 a month. That’s probably less than what you’re spending on disposables.

One more thing to consider if your office uses electronic expense reports: Use an app to capture receipt information into your expense-reporting system. Select to have receipts sent electronically and scan needed pictures. Not only will you reduce paper use, you’ll also end the annoyance of having to replace lost paper receipts.

• • •

Most companies do not have a specific green budget, but if there is a commitment to be green, there should be a budget to support the initiative. The truth is that benefits and savings from green efforts often accrue over the long term and, in many cases, they start with incremental steps. That means the return on investment is not immediate, which financial folks may not appreciate. What needs to happen, however, is a true understanding of what the long-term benefits for a company will be. Not only are you doing something clients want to see, it also is building a better environment for future generations.


  • Justin Schwing

    Justin Schwing is vice president of national facilities at Planet Home Lending. In the position, Schwing provides executive leadership and management for the acquisition, lease management and maintenance of the company’s facilities across the country.

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