By Indy Ratnathicam
We have made huge strides in our country's approach to efficient energy use. The most recent example is the output from the U.N. Climate Summit in Paris (COP21) late last year that marked the commitment the U.S., along with other countries, is making to sustainability. Political debates for the 2017 presidential election are ridden with talk of a greener world. And the press reports almost daily on the newest renewable-energy gadgets that can turn sun and water into power. Why is it then that businesses don't put sustainability higher on their priority list?
A recent PWC survey found that global warming is low on the list of top concerns for U.S. CEOs today. More of them care about overregulation in the energy market than climate change, according to the findings. In fact, in many organizations, energy is the responsibility of middle management and never makes it onto the C-suite's agenda. It is evident that despite pushes for corporate social responsibility (CSR) and increasing tax breaks with programs like LEED certification, businesses are not universally committed to going green.
Many businesses believe they should not be charged with caring about things like climate change, and instead must focus on running their organization in the most efficient and profitable way to meet shareholder demands. This thinking, however, ignores the fact that energy efficiency can enable corporations to save millions of dollars on their bottom line. Yet even with CSR pushes and tax breaks, and despite organizations understanding the power of efficiencies and opportunities to save, there is still a lag when it comes to corporations acting in a sustainable way.
So, how do we as a nation get businesses on board with sustainability and convert them into energy-efficiency champions? The answer might not be as complex as you think.
While almost all businesses think in terms of revenue, the way in which each creates that revenue is different. From varying supply chains, customers and business models, a one-size-fits-all approach will fail when it comes to addressing corporations on a national scale. Instead, corporations need to understand energy on their own individual terms.
General statements around energy efficiency will fall on deaf ears at the corporate level. What works instead is speaking the language of each individual organization. Broad statements such as "you can save money with LED lights" are transformed into customized statements like, "you have the potential to save $1.2 million if you replace lights with LEDs in buildings A, B and C, which will result in a $10 million return for your organization over the next five years.” For a small business owner, that statement may inform them “by installing a programmable thermostat, you can save 15 percent on your energy costs and improve your gross margin by 5 percent.” Arming decision-makers with contextual information drives higher propensity to act on recommendations by highlighting the impact that energy waste has on the businesses individual operations.
The key to understanding businesses across the nation at this detailed level is customer intelligence. Using meter data and publicly-available records, data analysts can pinpoint details about individual organizations, and their energy use, which is critical to evaluating each businesses potential for savings. Also fundamental to getting businesses onboard with sustainability is to highlight and promote the most cost-efficient energy improvements. While large-cost projects like building a green lab may eventually create energy savings, it's the low-cost or no-cost opportunities, like altering heating and cooling schedules when the building is unoccupied, that are more achievable and can make a huge difference in cost.
The average corporate building wastes 30 percent of its energy per year, and often most of that waste can be avoided with simple, operational fixes. By using data analytics to dig into the specifics of each building and turning that information into customer intelligence that delivers actionable opportunities for corporations, there is a massive opportunity to dramatically reduce building waste. It's time for utilities, property managers and even the U.S. government to look into the data at their fingertips and start talking about sustainability in terms that mean something to the nation's corporations. Getting this group onboard will enable huge savings while allowing us to get much closer to our sustainability goals.
Image credit: Pixabay
Indy Ratnathicam is the vice president of marketing and strategy at FirstFuel.