WSLA Insights is a special section in each issue of gb&d magazine where alums from the Women in Sustainability Leadership Award share their guidance and leadership experience.

The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power leads by example

Los Angeles Department of Water and Power

The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power.

If you’ve ever thought of enhancing your company’s sustainability but didn’t know where to begin, take a cue from us at the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP), the nation’s largest municipal utility, and start a “green team.”

After I came on as LADWP’s first chief sustainability officer, we solidified internal efforts to walk our conservation talk. As we ask our customers to conserve energy, we do the same. The LADWP Green Team is a group of volunteer employees that meets monthly to discuss how LADWP can reduce its carbon footprint. What started in 2013 with four employees has grown to 25 members.

LADWP has big goals and targets, including being coal-free by 2025, increasing renewable energy, energy efficiency, and local water supplies. The Green Team’s goals are more internally focused. Thanks to our efforts, LADWP employees use less water and electricity at our facilities, and we believe those practices follow them home, too.

Here are a few tips to start your own green team:

1. Start small but aim big.

It was during one of the team’s first brainstorms that the idea of achieving LEED certification for our headquarters was inspired. As a result, JFB (LADWP’s John Ferraro Building) achieved LEED certification in time for the building’s 50th anniversary. A year later, it achieved LEED Gold via the LEED Dynamic Plaque.

2. Get management support.

General strategies in companies are normally communicated top-down. Green strategies can make bottom-up strategies possible.

3. Data, data, data.

For LADWP facilities, the team researched data on energy, water use, and waste, and produced simple but impactful reports. Facility managers reviewed this data as meaningful information that could help them make decisions on savings and opportunities to help save energy and water.

4. Include the operations team.

We knew the team was working when those in charge of LADWP facilities (HVAC supervisors, superintendents, facility managers, etc.) began making time for Green Team meetings. These are busy professionals who saw the team as a forum to vet plans and listen to ideas. This collaboration shows how a Green Team can affect corporate culture and build relationships. 

5. Recognition is a good incentive.

It is important to celebrate achievements along the way. Last year, LADWP facilities responded to the mayor’s Save Energy LA initiative, asking commercial and municipal buildings to reduce energy use by 5% in summer. LADWP facilities reduced energy use by 9% and honored the top facilities for their efforts to reduce their environmental footprint. The mayor publically honored LADWP.

6. Find other champions.

Internal champions from high levels of management can help you get your ideas adopted more quickly. Seeking support from outside agencies and other utilities by keeping in touch to share best practices and lessons learned can also be beneficial.

7. Take action.

Change can start with you! Don’t wait to be asked. Consider starting your own green team today.

Read more from past WSLA alums here.

Nancy Sutley Pull Qhote


Nancy Sutley headhsot

Nancy Sutley, a 2016 WSLA award winner, became LADWP’s first chief sustainability and economic development officer in 2014. She oversees energy efficiency, water conservation, economic development, and electrification of the transportation network. Before LADWP, Sutley served as chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality.