Energy Management High on Corporate Sustainability Agenda

29 April by


This year’s Sustainability Live Expo at the NEC was all about Energy & Water, but mainly Energy.  The messages were that fossil fuels are running out, some maybe sooner than you think; Oil prices will rocket back up to £100 per barrel, it’s just a matter of time. EU Carbon reporting is going to change, global governments aren’t doing enough and corporate business needs to drive the agenda forward.

The routes to saving energy and becoming more sustainable are wide and varied, as highlighted by expert speakers, including; Marcus Norton, Chief Partnerships Officer at the CDP (previously the Carbon Disclosure Project); who spoke of companies looking to “decarbonise their investment portfolios” and Claudine Blamey, Chair of ICRS and Head of Sustainability at the Crown Estate, who called for companies to “integrate sustainability across ALL business functions.”  

Setting the tone for the day, these speakers drove home a rather frustrated message that although the sustainability agenda has moved on leaps and bounds in recent years, we still have some way to go and global governments are dragging their feet.

The keynote session, entitled; ‘Driving the agenda forward’ saw Norton and Blamey joined on stage by; Dr. Bentley a Research Fellow at the Department of Cybernetics, University of Reading, Mark Shayler, CEO of sustainable innovation agency APE and Peter Young, Chairman - Aldersgate Group. The discussion was the most animated of the day on the keynote stage, but still there was an overwhelming feeling of frustration at the speed of change.

In a bid to end the debate with some optimism, the Chair; Simon Jack, Business & Economics presenter on Radio 4, asked the speakers for their, “Reasons to be cheerful”, they included;
    Starting to see a reshoring of British manufacturing. 
    The rise of a ‘conscious consumer’.
    Research & innovation has become a much more acceptable career choice for young people.
    A sea-change in business models, embracing sustainability.
On this relatively high note, we moved on to ‘Beyond Compliance – the risks and opportunities’ featuring Dax Lovegrove, Director of Sustainability and Innovation at Kingfisher and Rob Holdway Director at Giraffe Innovation Ltd.  The emphasis here was very much on design and manufacturing.  

Rob Holdway, was very clear within his presentation that British design and manufacturing is alive and well and although he welcomes the reshoring of manufacturing to the UK, it is a myth that we don’t make anything in the UK any more. 

He also stressed that “Sustainability has to be profitable” a message that is being embraced by forward thinking global corporates including; Unilever, Adidas, BMW. Sustainable design is a key part of the Circular Economy, if we can design products to be easily and cheaply repaired and reused, then we might begin to make in-roads in turning around the ‘throwaway society’.

Key areas highlighted to take us beyond compliance, include;
    Resource management 
    Circular economy 
    Sharing economy
    Smart homes
    Maker movements’
    Innovation in energy storage
    Net Positives
    Sustainable design

Kingfisher’s new CEO Véronique Laury has a “vision to embed sustainability within the company” said Dax Lovegrove. This means that sustainable products will no longer be a side offering, but will be standard across all products. No timeframe was announced, but it was good to hear of the increased focus.

Finally, at the last session; “Energy – the bottom line: use less, make your own, buy smarter”, Paul Crewe, Head of sustainability, energy & engineering at Sainsbury's highlighted the importance of accurate and effective energy management to affect the bottom line.  Sainsbury use 0.5% of all the energy used in the UK, which is in Crewe’s words is a “staggering amount”.  At Sainsbury they have worked hard to manage and reduce this consumption and demonstrate a real return of investment (ROI) on sustainable investment programmes.

To find out who’s leading the way in Corporate Sustainability check out the ‘World’s 100 Most Sustainable Companies 2015’.  

At ALLEN & YORK, we have seen a huge rise in demand for Energy Managers and is it any wonder when they can help a company not only to comply with targets, but taken them beyond compliance, to impact the bottom line and truly make significant savings.

Our Building & Energy Services team, headed by Bo Derkx are currently working with large energy users, energy efficiency consultancies, utilities, ESCOs, energy brokers and low carbon design consultancies, to grow their energy management teams.