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Four steps to build a more sustainable future for your business

The environment is moving up the corporate agenda – but how do you speed up your business transformation and embrace new green innovations? Here’s our four-step plan to making it happen

The corporate world is now more focused on social and environmental responsibility than ever before. That’s the message from our recent Distributed Energy Future Trends survey – giving cause for optimism about a more sustainable future.

Two years ago, our research showed that sustainability ranked as the sixth most important organisational priority. Now it’s a top-three issue.

Yet different businesses mature at different paces – and further action is needed across the board. So, regardless of how much you’ve achieved as a sustainable business so far, how do you accelerate your green journey?

To ensure your business is equipped to embrace new green innovations, we recommend the following steps:

Step 1. Link energy to business objectives

Of all the steps you can take, creating a clear energy strategy is perhaps most vital. To maximise buy-in, this strategy should be linked to your business objectives – making it part and parcel of your wider strategy.

When creating your energy strategy, consider what success looks like. This means building a roadmap with specific targets, actions and budgets. Most importantly, think about the impact that your energy strategy can have on your ability to meet your wider business objectives. There's plenty of evidence to prove the impact that it can have on brand perceptions and your ability to meet customer expectations. But achieving a reduction in energy spend could also free up capital for expenditure elsewhere, which can have an immediate impact on your ability to meet organisational goals. To underline the importance of energy in your organisation, give a member of the leadership team responsibility for your energy strategy and its success.

Solution in action: Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust are a prime example of linking energy and business objectives. Cost savings from lower energy expenditure will help stretch the Trust’s operating budget, allowing it to focus on healthcare and improve energy resilience.

Step 2: Balance digital transformation with energy needs

A key strategic focus for many organisations is digital transformation. Yet don’t let this overwhelm the need to consider energy transformation – because the two initiatives are linked.  

First, an increased reliance on digital technologies means necessity to operate 24/7. So a formal energy resilience strategy should be part of your energy strategy, helping you to power digitalisation.

Second, consider the benefits of digitalising your physical energy assets. This means you can integrate data across assets, helping you to understand your energy usage and generation better – optimising performance and maximising return on investment. This can be a complex area, so engage expert, external help when you need it – while building your own specialist, in-house resources.

In the long run, adopting digital technologies can also help you to move closer to a circular economy. Nature's resources are being used up 1.75 times as fast as the planet’s ecosystems can regenerate. By using real-time insights into recycling, energy efficiency and renewable production, organisations can reuse by-products from their operations and create a more sustainable economy.

Solution in action: By harnessing our Energy Insight solution, global buildings material giant CEMEX is making direct cost savings and efficiency improvements at 42 sites across the UK. By deploying wireless, self-powered sensors to monitor a range of essential machinery, managers could see immediately that the granular data and accompanying reports enabled them to swiftly identify opportunities to save energy, to fix under-performing or faulty equipment and to organise its maintenance programmes more efficiently.

Step 3: Minimise energy-related risk

Our research hows that energy security and resilience is a top-four risk facing businesses. So it’s vital to take active steps to minimise energy-related risk, building resilience into your wider energy strategy.

To do this, you first need to understand your risk, and how it changes over time. We recommend conducting regular risk assessments.

Then, as part of your mitigation efforts, consider reducing your reliance upon a single technology source. Diversified energy sources, for example, can include a mix of on-site generation and battery storage.

Solution in action: An example of this can be seen at Gatehead Council, who use battery storage to power 3,000 homes. It's one of the country’s largest commercial battery storage schemes, and helps to strengthen energy resilience and futureproof the system for further commercial and residential development.

Step 4: Have a clear vision for emissions reduction

The pursuit of net zero carbon emissions is currently on everyone’s lips – on the news, in the boardroom, on the political agenda, and more. This is driving a new wave of green innovations in energy, creating countless new opportunities for business to explore.

At the heart of any energy strategy should be carbon emissions reduction – helping to make your efforts part of the solution to the climate crisis. This is, of course, complex – but a key part of reducing emissions is to understand them, so you can set clear priorities for carbon reduction. To help you, choose suppliers with good green credentials.

Finally, work to integrate your efforts into a corporate and social responsibility (CSR) plan. As before, this plan should be part of your wider business strategy – again helping to reinforce the link between sustainability and your business goals.

Solution in action: Dundee City Council demonstrate the positive impact that having a clear vision for emissions reduction can have. They're estimated to save 122 tonnes of carbon in a year through their electric vehicle charging hub, which introduces fast and rapid chargers, solar power generation and on-site battery storage.

Through a combination of these four steps, you can better harness new green innovations, and progress your journey to becoming a more sustainable business. Nonetheless, we must also remember that this is just the beginning of the story. As technology advances and new green innovations emerge, so too should your energy ambitions.

Find out how green innovations can help you to solve business challenges

Sources: Distributed Energy Future Trends Report - Centrica Business Solutions research, statistics based on a ten country survey of more than 1,500 energy decision-makers in large organisations.