Op/Ed: Closing the sustainability gap in the self-storage industry

Simon Berman
March 16, 2023

“Well done is better than well said.”

I repeat Benjamin Franklin’s wisdom in the boardroom regularly.

In an era of corporate governance hogwash where buzzwords pollute conversations and mission statements, leaders must be held accountable and given the impetus to take action on the environmental front.

Business is challenging enough with the geopolitical and inflationary hardships of our times to push the urgency of climate change to the very bottom of the agenda. But in an industry that accounts for 40% of global CO2 emissions (World Economic Forum); managers, investors and developers simply do not have the luxury to neglect it.

Commercial real-estate, namely the construction and operation of buildings contribute heavily to carbon emissions. Our footprint as an industry is enormous and we must be more aware and more concerned by our impact on the environment and join the race to reach net zero.

As a local leader in the industry, responsible for over 30 commercial properties, I feel compelled to address the sustainability gap that exists between words and action when it comes to eco-friendly policies.

Our customers want, and in some instances require, that the companies they do business with be good corporate citizens. Self-storage users, by virtue of their patronage, are actively or subconsciously proponents of green practices because after all, storage, in and of itself, is conducive to the reuse of goods and extends their life, reducing waste and the consumption of resources.

To honor their values and our own, in the last year, the Montreal Mini-Storage team has put much effort into delivering transformative solutions for a greener storage experience.

We introduced the following initiatives across our company:

  • We analyzed our use of paper and are turning our operations fully digital.
  • We revamped our website and customer portal to offer as much online documentation as possible.
  • For a number of years already, all newly signed leases and agreements have been digital with secure online signature and payment. We’ve adopted a paperless office policy as well, to encourage our team to be conscious of their own impact on the environment.
  • At our self-storage sites, we are transitioning to the exclusive use and sale of packaging material that is recyclable and biodegradable.
  • The material with which our cardboard boxes are made is recognized to have a minimal environmental impact.

Essentially, we’ve made eco-friendly solutions the de facto solution.

We revisited our use of energy, as well. We introduced efficient heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) units and motion-sensor LED lighting. Our utility bills have significantly dropped as an added perk to shifting to more sustainable practices. The business case has proven to be better than anticipated in this inflationary environment.

We also see a very positive trend in our construction and renovation projects, where the use of eco-friendly building materials and building methods now have impressive ROI; when it was not long ago that they were considered prohibitively expensive.

Finally, in areas where we wanted to improve but we simply didn’t have the expertise to do so, we leaned on local start-ups to lead the way.

Coop Carbone, a Montreal-based company on a mission to support the implementation of collaborative projects to reduce GFG emissions, helped Montreal Mini-Storage introduce bike parking and electric charging stations at our Iberville locations to promote sustainable transportation options for all of our customers. And at 5 of our locations, we’ve entered into an LOI to install smart lockers powered by Locketgo, a Montreal-based smart locker platform, to centralize drop-offs for carriers and retailers in an effort to reduce their routes and use of gas.

We are proud to give sustainability start-ups like these a home and a beta testing site across our properties; and we are also proud to welcome companies with sustainable values and missions at their core.

In 2023, it is our commitment to grow these sustainability partnerships, introduce new (and more significant) initiatives and apply the existing changes across our entire portfolio. As for our new acquisitions, they will be retrofitted to ensure consistency across the brand and between policy and practice

Upon reflection, nothing I’ve shared with you has been revolutionary; nor has it taken much investment in terms of time or money. It has only required that we take responsibility. This is simply to say that these small but impactful changes are within reach to close the sustainability gap in the real-estate industry and the onus is upon all of us to do our part.

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