A giant step backward for green building, and a giant step backward for the environment

by | Nov 10, 2016

Builder Magazine asked me to answer the following questions yesterday morning, the morning after the most shocking election outcome I can remember in my 49 years on this earth:

  • How do you think the new administration will impact the U.S. housing market?
  • Will it be good, bad or indifferent for our industry?
  • Were you surprised by the results?

I’ll take them in reverse order and, as I do, know that I’ve devoted my professional life to creating a market advantage for the companies and organizations that are working to create a sustainable, energy-responsible future. And know that after 25 years of running a marketing agency, I see that it’s damn hard to change ingrained behaviors with marketing alone.

It takes a combination of marketing and legislation (think anti-littering and anti-smoking … we needed both education and legislation to get us going in a different direction):

Yes, I’m surprised and, frankly, disheartened by the outcome of the presidential race. Though, like many, I viewed the election as a process of rationalizing and choosing between the lesser of the evils, I had faith that Mrs. Clinton would prevail, and our country would make real progress toward curbing climate change – which would have included both carrots and sticks related to building green. Mr. Trump is on record as saying he believes climate change is a hoax, so I can’t see any reason why he would support or create policies to push the green building and green housing market forward. And I can see many reasons why he’ll work to dismantle the progress that’s been made on this front by the Obama administration.

Thus, I think the outcome of the election is bad for the building industry. Will homes and buildings continue to be built? Of course. Will having a real estate mogul in office likely produce something favorable for the building industry? Probably. But will we see policies generated that make it more favorable to builders to make energy efficiency, air quality and renewable energy standard on all homes built going forward? I think no. And I think that’s ultimately bad for an industry that has an opportunity to lead an important change that’s not only good for the environment, it’s good for the health of our citizens and our national security.

Bottom line, for all the change Trump has promised, I think he’ll work to keep the status quo in the building industry and/or create changes in policy that send us backward 10-15 years. Some builders will rejoice in that. Those who have committed themselves to making sustainability standard in their homes will not.

With all that said, we do know a majority of Americans don’t share Trump’s views on climate change – most of us believe it’s real and caused by man, and most of us feel anxious about it. And most of us expect companies, increasingly, to do the right thing by the planet and people. So there will most certainly be a market for green homes, and many of us will prefer builders and companies committed to environmentally friendly and socially just practices. The silver lining here is that companies – and builders – really do need to lead on this issue now. There’s no waiting for the government to create change as it relates to energy, the environment and green building – at least not for the next four years.

About the Author

Suzanne Shelton

Suzanne Shelton

Where Suzanne sees opportunity, you can bet results will follow. Drawing on her extensive knowledge of both the advertising world and the energy and environment arena, Suzanne provides unparalleled strategic insights to our clients and to audiences around North America. Suzanne is a guest columnist in multiple publications and websites, such as GreenBiz, and she speaks at around 20 conferences a year, including Sustainable Brands, Fortune Brainstorm E and Green Build.

About the Author

Suzanne Shelton

Suzanne Shelton

Where Suzanne sees opportunity, you can bet results will follow. Drawing on her extensive knowledge of both the advertising world and the energy and environment arena, Suzanne provides unparalleled strategic insights to our clients and to audiences around North America. Suzanne is a guest columnist in multiple publications and websites, such as GreenBiz, and she speaks at around 20 conferences a year, including Sustainable Brands, Fortune Brainstorm E and Green Build.

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Suzanne Shelton

President and CEO

Suzanne is the voice and the vision of Shelton Group. Drawing on her extensive experience in energy and the environment – and 25+ years in the marketing and advertising industry – Suzanne provides high-level strategic insights for our clients and guidance for our research and creative departments. She regularly speaks at conferences around the country, including Sustainable Brands, Fortune Brainstorm E and the International Builders’ Show, and serves as a guest columnist for publications like Fast Company, Green Builder and GreenBiz.com.

Susannah Enkema

VP Research & Insights

Susannah directs our research team and plays a key role in extracting the nuggets of information that pave the way for recommended marketing strategies and creative approaches. Susannah has nearly two decades of market research and strategy experience, including her role as president of SE Consulting, where she led the services for the likes of DIY Network and the makers of GORE-TEX®.

Laila Waggoner

VP Client Engagement

Laila leads our client engagement process, overseeing activities from both a strategic and a tactical level to ensure our work generates desired results – and clients’ satisfaction. She brings 25+ years of marketing leadership experience to her client relationships, with particular expertise in the homebuilding and remodeling industries as well as member-driven organizations, such as the Vinyl Siding Institute and Plastics Pipe Institute. Before joining Shelton Group, she led strategic marketing teams for Owens Corning’s insulation business.

Matt Brass

VP Creative

Matt steers the creative department in concepting, designing and producing campaigns. He ensures sound strategy and deep insights inform everything his team develops, and works closely with the accounts department to ensure copy and designs will meet our clients’ goals. As a designer and filmmaker himself, he’s also a principal contributor to all of Shelton’s in-house photography and videography work.

Glen L. Vesser III

VP Finance and Administration

Glen manages Shelton Group’s finances and administration, ensuring our internal systems run smoothly so we can provide exceptional client service in a seamless and timely manner. Glen’s financial and administrative expertise has been shaped by decades of experience in a variety of industries, including public accounting, media distribution and health care.

Mike Beamer

VP Business Development

Mike joined our team to help provide strategic vision and foster our agency’s growth by overseeing new business leads and managing agency marketing and website content. He arrived in Knoxville steeped in energy efficiency and renewables – he previously led client service for an agency division in Boston dedicated to marketing communications strategy and branding for B2B and B2C clients in that space.