Just weeks before the kick-off of the 2021 edition of its annual Greenbuild International Conference + Expo, the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) has announced that the organization’s president and CEO, Mahesh Ramanujam, will step down from his role effective November 1. Ramanujam has served as president and CEO of the Washington, D.C.-headquartered nonprofit since January 2017, assuming the role after USGBC co-founder Rick Fedrizzi departed to lead the International WELL Building Institute (IWBI).
(Fedrizzi now serves as executive chairman of the IWBI with Rachel Hodgdon in the role of president and CEO).
Ramanujam’s stepping down as president and CEO of the USGBG will also find him relinquishing the titles at affiliated organizations Green Business Certification Inc. (GBCI) and sustainability performance platform Arc Skoru. Ramanujam will be replaced by board-appointed interim president and CEO Peter Templeton while the USGBC board searches for a new CEO. As noted in a press release, Templeton, who is the current president and CEO of the Cradle-to-Cradle Products Innovation Institute, previously served as the GBCI’s inaugural president from 2009-2012 and as senior vice president of USGBC.
As to why Ramanujam, a native of India and 12-year veteran of USGBC who previously served as COO and CIO, is stepping down, the organization explained that the move comes “as a part of the organization’s review of its structure, go-to-market strategy and leadership to optimize the organizations’ support of the green building community, expand the green building marketplace, increase access to sustainable, healthy and resilient places, and ensure organizational excellence.”
Said Ramanujam in a statement:
“USGBC and the global green building community have accomplished a great deal in the organization’s nearly three-decades long history. As we emerge from the challenges posed by the pandemic, USGBC must continue to build on the important progress the organization has made and double down on its dual efforts to both prepare cities, communities, and buildings around the world for a post-pandemic future and mitigate their contributions to climate change. I wish USGBC staff and the community continued success and look forward to partnering with them.”
On September 7, the day before the formal announcement of Ramanujam’s departure was published by USGBC, the outgoing president and CEO published his own goodbye of sorts in a post that charts the advances made by the USGBC, which launched the first iteration of the LEED certification program in 2008, and its affiliated ventures during his tenure and over its longer 28-year history.
In some ways it has felt like the right time for a while, and in other ways it is inspired by remaining healthy and having a positive outlook after experiencing the loss of many friends and loved ones during the pandemic in my home country of India. Either way, the time has come to begin my next adventure.
Nothing makes me prouder than the fact that we have endured and continue to endure the challenges of a global pandemic without any layoffs — all while maintaining a strong balance sheet, continuing to certify millions of square feet to LEED standards, and preparing cities and communities with new tools for safe re-entry into buildings around the world.
The most rewarding part of my tenure over more than 12 years at USGBC and GBCI, including five as its president and CEO, has been the countless relationships I’ve built with people across the globe — people who share my passion and commitment to growing both a non-profit and for-profit enterprise that promises to improve our collective quality of life for generations to come. I am also tremendously proud of USGBC, GBCI, and Arc’s next generation of staff leadership with whom I have worked to chart our collective vision for the future.”
“Mahesh Ramanujam has a deep dedication to the green building movement and has worked tirelessly to advance the goals of sustainability and health in the past decade,” said Dr. Aaron Bernstein, Interim Director – Center for Climate, Health, and the Global Environment at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and the USGBC board chair. “The USGBC board thanks him for his leadership and knows that he will bring his immense energies and talents to bear upon actions that will make our world better for all.”
As for the strategic review announced as part of Ramanujam’s departure, it will be carried out to “ensure the organization is well positioned to scale its work in the post-pandemic world that has made unprecedented public and private sector commitments to advancing health, decarbonization and ESG goals through green building,” according to a press release.
Further updates regarding these plans are forthcoming. Meanwhile, Greenbuild 2021 will go on as a hybrid virtual/in-person event on September 21 in San Diego. Highlights of this year’s conference include an “exclusive conversation” with Canadian actor, director, writer, and producer Dan Levy of Schitt’s Creek fame. A sobering op-ed written by Ramanujam and recently published in the Orlando Sentinel on the topic of climate change and the Surface condo collapse is also very much worth a read.