Equity One Targets Low-Cost Green Programs First

Equity One Inc. (NYSE: EQY) first took a "low-cost, no-cost" approach to its sustainability efforts to maximize savings, according to Joe Lopez, Equity One's vice president of property management and director of environmental impact.

Lopez spoke with REIT.com during the 2012 NAREIT Leader in the Light Working Forum in Dallas last month. He discussed the evolution of the shopping center REIT's sustainability efforts.

In terms of cost savings, Lopez said it has been important for Equity One to pin down avenues of low cost that net high levels of benefit. For instance, the firm's waste stream program has doubled its recycling portfolio across Equity One's entire portfolio.

"That actually generated a substantial amount of savings and didn't cost the company anything," Lopez said.

He also mentioned other programs undertaken by Equity One such as "cool roofing," which generates utility rebates from the local utility companies. Those rebates offset the incremental cost in new materials, according to Lopez.

"That's always our first approach," Lopez said. "There are things we've initiated and rolled out recently that do have a cost, but the present value of those improvements are positive, and we also get a quick return on our investment."

Over the course of the past three years, Lopez said from the top down, the company has worked to identify where it needs to place more emphasis and determine where Equity One stands in terms of the marketplace and within its peer group. As a result, the company established a corporate responsibility and sustainability council in 2008.

"As part of this evolution, we started to develop programs and roll them out and get people involved," he said.

Equity One's EQUIGREEN initiative is one such program. Lopez said the effort was born out of a need to put a face and a name to the company's sustainability initiatives. He added that it was an important step as Equity One began communicating the effort to stakeholders, including employees and tenants.

Additionally, Lopez said he's noticed an uptick in the numbers of investors and outside stakeholders who are interested in the company's sustainability initiatives.