The Environment and the Economy: You Don't Have to Choose - OZY | A Modern Media Company

The Environment and the Economy: You Don't Have to Choose

The Environment and the Economy: You Don't Have to Choose

By Michael Norton


Because when there’s an emergency, you’ll want a working ATM.

By Michael Norton

OZY and JPMorgan Chase & Co. have partnered to bring you an inside look at how entrepreneurs are coming up with innovative methods to help the communities around them. Enjoy the rest of our special series here.

In my role at a big bank, I like to go off-grid — literally. Right now, I’m exploring fuel-cell technology and how we can power our own buildings. It involves creating energy with a small fuel cell — a box about the size of a wine cooler — which converts natural gas into electricity.

Why would we unplug from the national electrical grid? There are big advantages. Think, for example, about hurricane hot spots like Florida. Hurricanes often knock out electricity when people need it most. But if our buildings are generating their own, we can keep ATMs running, we can get people cash. And cash is king in the days-long blackout periods that can follow a hurricane — when the power is out, but people are trying to recover and get back on their feet.

I’ve come to realize that if something is good for the environment, and for people, usually it also makes good business sense.

Sustainability isn’t just good for the environment, and for our communities, it also makes good business sense.

As Head of Property Management for JPMorgan Chase Global Real Estate, I’m responsible for the day-to-day running of all the company’s buildings. That’s about 6,000 sites across 2,300 different cities, in more than 60 countries. And that’s a lot of power. The first thing I did when I started this job was figure out what we were spending most on, and found a lot of our energy spend was in Texas, which is also a prime spot for wind and solar farms. It’s also where some of our biggest business is and we are there for the long haul. 

That’s why JPMorgan Chase became the first U.S. financial institution to make a purchase power agreement. We signed a deal with NRG, a company headquartered in Houston, where we bought 20 years’ worth of megawatts at a fixed rate from a wind farm. That hasn’t only locked in our use of good energy, it’ll also save us roughly $100 million over the next two decades. 

We’re also retrofitting our buildings with all the latest energy-saving technology. So far, we’ve retrofitted 2,500 buildings, and already saved 20-40 percent of our annual utility spend. Following this success, JPMorgan Chase recently pledged an aggressive plan to employees — we’ll be completely carbon neutral by 2020. Since the announcement, I’ve been inundated with requests from employees who want to come and work for me — they want to support the vision and be a part of it. The top talent we’re looking to recruit, the millennial generation, also asks us a lot about sustainability. So it doesn’t only make economic sense, but it also makes for a good and competitive workplace.

Given the scale of JPMorgan Chase’s operations, installing enough renewable energy to offset even 20 percent of our energy needs would be equivalent to taking 60,000 cars off the road. So achieving 100 percent green power is an incredibly rewarding and exciting challenge. We’re not interested in business as usual; we want to do something unprecedented. And being completely sustainable is an opportunity to do great things for our customers, our clients and our employees.

Michael Norton is Head of Property Management for JPMorgan Chase Global Real Estate.

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