Mediaplanet How does the interdisciplinary and triple bottom line approaches to sustainability that characterize the MES program at Western University inform the work you do now?

Stefanie De Adder: The MES program’s interdisciplinary approach has been invaluable to achieving success in my career. Technical knowledge of energy, water, and waste is necessary, but developing the business and communication skills that are also taught in the program was also very helpful in launching my career and getting me to where I am today.

A large part of my job is figuring out what approach is going to help me connect with each tenant regarding sustainability ... It is my job to determine and make sustainability something they are interested in and want to get on board with.

The financial bottom line drives businesses. Fortunately, working in property management, costs are often reduced by incorporating environmental sustainability practices into how we design and operate our buildings. By investing in lighting retrofits, and projects that reduce water consumption, we are able to drive down operating costs. A large component of property management also involves tenant retention. Many of our tenants want to see how important environmental and social responsibility is to us at Bentall Kennedy, and how they can get involved. As part of our business model, the triple bottom line approach is absolutely essential, and it is why we believe corporate responsibility is simply better business.

MP One of the hallmarks of the program at Western is a course that gives students the opportunity to interact as environmental consultants with industry clients. How did this experience prepare you for the professional workplace? What sustainability challenges are you working on currently?

SD: The consulting project prepared me for the professional workplace by giving me direct experience in dealing with clients and stakeholders in a professional way. Not only did I acquire experience in learning about sustainable procurement through my specific project, but I also learned essential skills in terms of business etiquette, how to communicate clearly and in a concise manner, and how to organize and facilitate meetings.

I’m lucky to work for a company that has sustainability embedded into the corporate culture. Where I sometimes face challenges is in making sustainability interesting and important to our tenant companies. A large part of my job is figuring out what approach is going to help me connect with each tenant regarding sustainability. Is it primarily the financial bottom line that they care about? Is it the good news story that they can advertise to the public? It is my job to determine and make sustainability something they are interested in and want to get on board with.

MP What opportunities for professional development were incorporated into your program?

SD: I can not overstate the value I found in the co-op program. I developed and fine-tuned skills during those four months I have used regularly in my jobs since. I can confidently say my co-op position lead me to my current position at Bentall Kennedy. Furthermore, there were numerous opportunities for professional development within my Master’s program, including interview prep and practicing with real-world professionals, resume and cover letter building, and a large number of presentation and communication opportunities.

MP As a person with your level of green building and sustainability expertise, what do you think companies need in the next five years?

SD: All companies, governmental bodies, and not for profits need their senior leadership to get behind sustainability. It is not just an initiative for the big transportation companies, and for the oil giants. It’s for the mom and pop shops, local farmers, and for everyone. We all have a part to play, and one of the most powerful ways to get employees involved is to see their senior staff leading by example. Everyone needs to get on board if we want to reach the targets the United Nations and our government have set out for us.