Citi and its sustainability imperative (interview)

20 Dec 2012

John Killey, global head of building operations at Citi; Cecilia Ronan, chief administration officer, Citi Ireland; and Paul Boylan, head of Citi Realty Services for Ireland, pictured at the launch of the Green IFSC initiative in Dublin in September

At a time when companies of all types are starting to recognise the importance of embedding sustainability into their business planning, Carmel Doyle talks to John Killey, global head of building operations at Citi, about how the financial services giant approaches sustainability, as well as the Green IFSC initiative that the company’s Irish operation is involved in.

As the global head of building operations at the financial services corporation Citi, John Killey has responsibility for building operations across the whole of Citi’s operational portfolio. With Citi now having a presence in about 160 countries, Killey’s role involves overseeing about 70 million sq feet of space – a mixture of offices, operation centres, branches and data centres.

“I have overall responsibility for the operation of buildings. That includes sustainability. The day-to-day running is done by the people out in the countries, but my responsibility is ensuring we meet our operational standards and requirements,” he explains.

Part of the ‘Green IFSC’ initiative

Here in Ireland Citi’s base at the International Financial Services Centre (IFSC) is part of a group of eight companies housed in the IFSC that have pledged to lower their carbon footprint. Known as the Green IFSC, the initiative is aiming to make the IFSC one of the most resource-efficient financial centres in the world.

“It’s eight organisations that are working with a commitment to improve their operations in terms of sustainability. Our role is as one of those members,” explains Killey.

The overall goal of the project is for each of the companies to achieve energy cost/carbon savings of 10pc by the end of 2013.

While he says that Citi is a great supporter of the Green IFSC initiative, Killey is keen to emphasise that this sustainability drive is not a new departure for the company.

“It’s part of our DNA. We’ve been doing it for a number of years. In Dublin alone, we have saved over 10,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions.”

Killey welcomes the Green IFSC initiative as he says that sustainability can be a lonely process for businesses. “The Green IFSC assists in that process because we work in partnership with people around us.”

He also commends the work of Paul Boylan, the head of Citi Realty Services for Ireland.

“He is very committed to the sustainability agenda and his enthusiasm and energy has made a big difference. Ireland has been an exemplar and we have leveraged Paul’s expertise across other parts of EMEA,” explains Killey.

So how has Citi managed to save 10,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions at its Irish operation?

“We’ve looked at our technology areas and also the way in which our air conditioning runs. It’s just really good engineering or operational practice – making sure that the lights are off at the right time, for example.”

And communicating with staff and your supply chain is just as important, he says.

“Sustainability is about engagement with the people who work with us in our buildings and who work for us as part of our supply chain,” explains Killey.
Another plan for the Irish Citi operation, he says, is the recomissioning of its CHP [combined heat and power] system on the site.

Killey says that getting the CHP system up and running will also be key to assisting in hitting the Green IFSC targets.

“We also have water targets in terms of reducing our water consumption. We have targets for water reduction and we have targets for reducing the amount of waste we put to landfill. We very much look at sustainability holistically rather than just looking at the obvious ones, which are energy and CO2,” says Killey.

Global targets

Citi’s sustainability agenda covers the four areas of carbon, energy, water and waste.

“In terms of how we approach that, we obviously start from the basis of monitoring what we consume. We’ve been doing that since 2005 and it’s a big challenge in a portfolio that spans right around the world,” he explains.

Killey says that Citi’s operational teams are doing a lot of work to optimise the efficiency of buildings if the company invests in new systems.

“Four years ago there was a US$50bn commitment, US$40bn of which was investment in sustainability programmes and finance systems and US$10bn was for greening our portfolio.

“We also use the LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) accreditation process and that forms a key part of our agenda. It’s also external confirmation of what you are doing in meeting the agenda for a green building.”

As for Citi’s global environmental targets, Killey says that Citi achieved a 10pc reduction in CO2 emissions by the end of 2011 from a base of 2005.

“We’re now on to our 2015 targets,” he explains. “Our carbon target for 2015 is a 25pc reduction from our 2005 base. For energy it’s a 20pc reduction. These are all absolute targets. We do use carbon credits because LEED requires us to do so, but we don’t buy our way out of challenges. We try to reduce our consumption.”

Engaging staff

One of the other key elements when approaching sustainability, he says, is to try to get engagement with staff.

“I think the Environmental Expo that was held in Dublin a few months ago was a great way of engaging people.”

He points to the younger workforce in Citi’s Dublin base. “The sustainability agenda is very much to the forefront of people of that generation’s minds. They are very much more committed than they may have been in the past.”


Right now about 20pc of Citi’s energy consumption comes from technology – from its data centres and from the use of technology in its buildings. Getting the right technology at that level is important, concedes Killey.

“In terms of new technology we are looking at LED lighting where we can get good economic paybacks. We’re looking at a number of projects where we maximise the use of LED lighting.

“It’s easy to build a new building that’s ‘green’ and intelligent, but the problem comes as the vast majority of our buildings aren’t. It’s looking at retrofit technologies on our building management systems. It’s also looking at lighting control systems. It’s really making sure that we have the most appropriate technology to give us the benefit from a sustainability, energy efficiency and cost perspective.”

Sustainability planning

Finally, Killey’s advice for companies that are putting a sustainability agenda in place is that it has to be part of an overall business plan.

“It’s not something that can be just added on. It really has to be embedded in the culture of what you are doing in all parts of your business. It has to be embedded in your people policy. It also has to be embedded in your real estate policies so that when you are looking at a building you need to look at how it is designed and what it can do from an energy performance perspective.”

He also says that businesses should not just look at their sustainability agenda as something that can save them money.

“Long term, there’s no point in building businesses that are unsustainable in either a business or environmental sense,” concludes Killey.

Carmel Doyle was a long-time reporter with Silicon Republic