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Tulsa-based Sustainability Alliance helps companies save $10M over the last eight years

By: Michael Dekker

A Tulsa nonprofit has saved companies $10 million in the last eight years by taking steps to cut costs on energy and water, recycling and other strategies to both help the bottom line and the environment.

The Sustainability Alliance, formerly known as Sustainable Tulsa, has worked with 94 organizations in 16 cities and seven states since 2015, when it established an online tool to help companies with metrics and achieve goals.

“I think we’re past buzzword,” said Corey Wren Williams, executive director of the nonprofit. “I think we’re way past that.

“Really, sustainability is how businesses are starting to look at how they do business. Stakeholders are expecting it. The new workforce is expecting it.”

Sustainability, which was a breakout topic in nearly every session at Oklahoma State University’s recent inaugural Future of Work Summit, has been prevalent not only in the U.S. and Europe, but also in places as far away as Mecca, in Saudi Arabia, and in the Amazon.

The Sustainability Alliance’s motto is “the triple bottom line,” Williams said, of people, profit and planet.

The organization in 2015 established Scor3card, an online tool designed to assist organizations of all sizes track and enhance their sustainability metrics.

The term’s unorthodox spelling is intentional, with the “e” as a “3,” representing three metrics of economic measurement in the form of people, profit and planet.

Scor3card has 55 directives in seven categories each with tips and links to assist businesses benchmark sustainability activities:

  • Communication and promotion

  • Community resilience

  • Healthy work environment

  • Material management

  • Transportation

  • Energy

  • Water

The Sustainability Alliance works with individual companies, nonprofits and others to establish what metrics work best for them and how to meet various goals.

Larger Tulsa companies working with the nonprofit include Spirit Aerosystems, ONEOK and AAON.

“It helps us to identify what the targets are and what they can do to help us improve, and helps us with where we can best put our resources,” said Stephanie Regan, corporate citizenship director for AAON, which has been working with the nonprofit for five or six years.

Regan said AAON — which designs and manufactures commercial heating, ventilation and air-conditioning systems — has saved on electric and water costs, found ways to decrease emissions and has increased recycling.

“This is the future,” Regan said. “We need to be the resource for future generations.”

Williams said that after Spirit Aerosystems got involved with The Sustainability Alliance, the company saved $1 million in 18 months.

“This is a great organization. They know how to build plane parts,” she said. “This is about doing the same stuff, but just a little different. And what they did, they started saving money on energy, and they started processing some of their water in a different way that just saved them so much money, at it was just better on the environment.

“It was about how to shift that innovation so that it hits that triple bottom line.”

AAON, with about 2,800 employees, is the 55th largest employer in Oklahoma, according to the State Department of Commerce.

It had sales about about $880 million last year, Regan said.

AAON was among 41 member businesses and organizations working with The Sustainability Alliance in 2022-2023.

Among outcomes for that period:

  • $48,000 in savings by changing the way members use hot water

  • $194,000 in savings through adjustments to existing HVAC systems

  • $2.2 million with retro-commissioning, or analyzing and optimizing an existing building’s systems’ performance through operational and maintenance improvement measures

  • 49,238 tons of waste diverted from landfills

  • 17,105 tons of waste converted to energy

  • 32,133 tons of waste recycled

  • More than 188 million kilowatt electric hours from renewable sources

  • More than 11,000 new trees planted by members; 1,139 previously planted trees maintained

The Scor3card members have shown commitment to sustainability and environmental stewardship,” Williams said. “Their innovative projects, community engagement, and achievements in energy efficiency, waste reduction, and conservation efforts set a leading example for businesses across multiple industries.

“The Scor3card program is proud to have such dedicated members, guided by expert volunteer coaches. Together, they are building a more sustainable future.”

The Sustainability Alliance is gearing up for its next “cycle,” in October, Williams said, in which the nonprofit sets up parameters and goals for its participants. Results are then measured in the spring and participating entities are recognized in the summer.

The Sustainability Alliance changed its name from Sustainable Tulsa last year, said Williams, who has been with the organization since 2006.

The organization recently earned the Oklahoma Center for Nonprofits’ Seal of Excellence for successfully completing its Standards for Excellence accreditation program.

The Standards for Excellence program evaluates values such as honesty, integrity, fairness, respect, trust, responsibility and accountability.


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