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Living Green

LEED-certified, 'green' banks earn more – study

A new study from the University of Notre Dame shows that LEED-certified buildings increase revenue generated by bank branches even when they offer the same products and services that branches with no certification provide.

In the study, which sought the relationship between corporate sustainability and firms' financial performance, University of Notre Dame management professors Edward Conlon and Ante Glavas tested 592 branches of PNC Financial Services, 93 of which were LEED-certified.

They found that employees working in LEED-certified branches were more productive and engaged in their work, with a revenue difference of $461,300 per employee, compared with non-LEED branches.

"It's a significant finding, and it surprised me," says Mr. Conlon. "We compared the amount of money deposited at LEED and non-LEED branches, and we found more money has been deposited in the LEED branches. We divided the amount by the branches' total number of employees to come up with a per-employee dollar amount."

They are not yet certain, though, if it's because LEED buildings are more attractive to visit or because their employees are more satisfied, and consequently providing better service. "We think it's a mix of the two," Mr. Glavas said. "People are certainly proud to be working in LEED buildings."

The findings support a growing body of research that shows social responsibility and sustainability don't have to be sacrificed for the sake of profitability. In fact, companies are increasingly finding just the opposite: They can achieve revenue or job growth while maintaining a high environmental and social impact.

"PNC has built more than 100 LEED-certified buildings, which is more than any other U.S. company," Mr. Conlon says. "So, PNC is perfect for a LEED study because they have a lot of them and the branches all do the same thing - same products, same systems - the only thing that's different is the LEED strategy."

In 2010, the bank opened Three PNC Plaza, one of the largest LEED-certified mixed use buildings in the U.S., and announced plans of building the world's greenest skyscraper in its Pittsburgh headquarters.

"Suffice it to say, I think PNC is getting a payback on its LEED investment," added Mr. Conlon. – EcoSeed Staff

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