On a recent September weekday, nearly 100 employees from Extra Space Storage’s Utah headquarters planted 25 trees on an unshaded field at a nearby park.
The outing – part of a partnership with the Arbor Day Foundation – generated excitement and company pride among employees but also points to a broader effort by the company to seek triple bottom line benefits.
“A lot of the sustainability efforts we have done to date have been easy decisions to us because they are at the intersection of what is good for the environment, what’s good for the community and what’s good for our shareholders,” said Joe Margolis, CEO of Extra Space Storage.
“We get that triple benefit of exciting our employees, helping the environment and making money for our shareholders.”
Extra Space is the highest rated self storage company in the US by the Global Real Estate Sustainability Benchmark, an organization formed by large pension funds wanting comparable data on the ESG, or environmental, social and corporate governance measurements of their investments.
Extra Space is also ranked 10th in the Solar Means Business Report on the Top 25 Corporate Users by Number of Solar Installations listing. Others on that list include Walmart, Target and Walgreens.
Over the past five years, Extra Space Storage has completed solar installations at 411 locations. The installations have saved enough energy to power more than 10,000 homes for a full year.
“We’ve been pretty consistently spending about $20 million a year on solar installations,” Margolis said. “We originally focused on states that had the greatest tax incentive such as New Jersey. We have shifted to states where the cost of electricity is high such as Hawaii. We are methodically going through the portfolio and understanding where it makes sense.”
The effort takes a significant capital outlay but pays for itself over time. Margolis said even smaller operators should consider whether solar panels are a worthwhile investment.
A smaller but worthwhile investment, Margolis said, has been in updating lighting to LED or other energy-saving forms of lighting. Extra Space has updated lighting at 351 stores, saving the equivalent CO2 impact of removing 15,000 cars from the road.
On a corporate level, the company moved to paperless lease forms and recycled materials in the packaging products it sells.
Margolis said shareholder response to Extra Space’s initiatives has been strong.
“I think more than our ranking or the grade we receive, our shareholders appreciate that we get better every year,” Margolis said.