How businesses can become more sustainable with their energy usage

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Sustainability is one of the biggest buzzwords today. And some businesses have already started to think about their green credentials. A recent study from Centrica Business Solutions showed that between 2017 and 2019 “being socially and environmentally responsible” jumped from sixth to third place in terms of priorities for companies surveyed in Europe and North America.

But many more need to develop their plans further to become energy responsible — or risk being left behind.

Centrica’s study found that only 13% of the companies surveyed were performing well in terms of being a sustainable business – one that balances environmental and economic aspects. The study surveyed more than 1,500 people in Europe and North America who make financial or technical decisions on energy matters for businesses with 100 employees or more. (Read the full report here.)

Of course, there is no single answer to the challenge of becoming more responsible with energy. Instead, it requires a more rounded and comprehensive approach, meaning businesses will need to consider energy at all levels — from using electric vehicles to seeking out more sustainable suppliers. In fact, 49% of most customer centric organisations try to work with suppliers and business partners that have good green credentials.

As another example, many businesses might not even be aware that there are alternative services for website hosting and cloud computing, which are environmentally sustainable, more cost efficient, or resilient to power cuts.

This approach to energy responsibility merges a company’s energy and business strategies, putting energy at the heart of everything the business does. And though it might seem like a daunting task to embark upon, there are tried-and-tested ways of achieving it without breaking the bank. If done right, it’s an effort that will simultaneously bolster a company’s bottom line and its brand reputation.

How technology helps

Technological innovations mean businesses can be smart with the way they use energy. Changing views are leading to greater adoption of energy efficiency solutions, providing a springboard to investment in smart energy technology and on-site generation.

Businesses can deploy a variety of sensors to measure temperature, water, airflow, and gas to make sure there are no inefficient parts of a company’s operations that go unnoticed. Additionally, movement detectors in office spaces make it possible to program lights and heating systems so they’re only used when someone is in the room.

Green-energy technologies such as solar panels have become significantly cheaper in recent years, which means more businesses than ever can start to take control of their energy supply — 23% of those surveyed are already installing on-site energy generation solutions such as solar power and cogeneration or combined heat and power (CHP).

The initial investment costs can also be offset by sharing new energy assets with neighboring businesses. Centrica’s survey suggests that many businesses are already open to this kind of energy collaboration; 80% of the most sustainable businesses surveyed said they could see the benefits of such an arrangement and would consider sharing energy assets.

How sustainability can benefit your business

The survey findings also showed that the companies that are already thinking about their energy responsibility are expected to prosper the most. Firms forecast to increase their revenue by more than 20% over the next five years are more than twice as likely to link sustainable energy with their brand image and company values than businesses that are not expected to grow at all.

Investing in technology like this has a clear payoff for a brand’s reputation too.

In 2019, 30% of businesses that made investments in their energy infrastructure reported an improved company reputation as a direct result. And that’s a figure on the rise — in 2017 it was just 24%. It might not sound like a high number, but context is important. A sizable 36% of businesses in the survey started to push sustainability as part of their branding only within the last year.

Customers increasingly expect companies’ environmental ethics to match their own, which, coupled with volatile energy prices, means corporate energy responsibility is more of a need than a luxury.

But there are also missed opportunities.

A large portion of the businesses already generating some of their own energy aren’t making the most of it financially. Just 30% of them are selling energy back to the grid when they over-produce or can flex their energy use. This example highlights not just a neglected means of cost-savings, but the need for businesses to realize that being sustainable is advantageous for managing costs and profit.

Businesses are only going to use more energy in the future, and the question they should be asking themselves is whether they can allow themselves to miss out on being energy responsible.

Contact us or read the full research report to find out where your company is on its sustainability journey.

This post was created by Insider Studios with Centrica Business Solutions.

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