ESB's Smart Energy Services to deliver €150 million savings by 2020
This saving proves the case for energy management planning for businesses, while reduction in carbon emissions also benefits a business’s brand and reputation
Research has revealed millennial investors are three times more likely to work for and buy from companies with an environmental and social. Photograph: iStock
ESB’s Smart Energy Services provides a range of consultancy and implementation services for energy projects to businesses, has helped dozens of customers across Britain and Ireland achieve significant savings since its establishment in 2016, and will help to save businesses over €150 million in savings by 2020.
During this time, it has become apparent that there are more than just financial reasons for companies to implement an energy management strategy. These include the reduction in carbon emissions, and the positive impacts on a business’s brand and reputation with employees, business partners and consumers.
Employee engagement is of major importance, says John Walsh, head of ESB’s Smart Energy Services. “When a business is investing in energy reduction or renewables it is a great way to engage with staff across the organisation and include them in the energy saving activities,” he says.
“We assist in that firstly by helping customers understand how and where they use energy. After that we help them devise a staff engagement campaign to get employees involved in the energy reduction effort. We’ve worked on these initiatives with companies like Tesco, driving out employee engagement and buy-in of the energy projects implemented.
“One tool we use is an energy consumption dashboard which shows usage on a day-to-day basis,” he adds. “This really brings it to life for staff.”
“People come to work to do a good job, they also want to work for companies who are doing good things for society,” he explains.
There is also an external dimension. “The other aspect we see emerging quite strongly is the growing number of companies who want to work with sustainable suppliers and business partners who can demonstrate how they are reducing carbon emissions and improving their energy efficiency,” Walsh continues. “They want to work with companies that share the same values. We see it is even being included in tender documentation now with sections devoted to carbon footprint and energy reduction strategies.”
“For example we’ve worked with a major glass production business in the UK whose customers were demanding greener products, and in turn required sustainable manufacturing from them. This was a key reason they chose to implement green efficiency projects.”
Companies with proven track records in relation to energy efficiency and environmental sustainability are also increasingly attractive to the investment community. “There is a lot of evidence out there to show that companies with strong sustainability programmes are better run and are more likely to be high-performing businesses,” Walsh notes. That not only makes them more attractive in terms of potential returns, it makes them safer places to invest as well.
Companies which are ahead in sustainability tend to be leaders across the board
These high-performing companies are also better placed to take advantage of new opportunities when they arise. “Companies that adopt new energy efficiency technologies and are at the forefront in terms of sustainability tend to be the ones who are best placed to avail of government incentive schemes,” he argues. “If you are ahead of the game you are in a better position to capitalise on these things. It comes down to whether your company is a leader or a follower. Companies which are ahead in sustainability tend to be leaders across the board.”
Consumer perception is also of key importance. Increasing consumer awareness and demand for transparency mean reputation is essential to a company’s market valuation as well as to its sales. With millennials on course to comprise 50 per cent of the workforce by 2020 and 75 per cent by 2025, the influence of this socially aware, environmentally conscious cohort on business and the economy cannot be understated.
Indeed, research has revealed millennial investors are twice as likely to buy a stock with sustainability credentials than one without, and three times more likely to work for and buy from companies with an environmental and social mandate.
“Consumer perception of a company and its products is vitally important,” Walsh adds. “But companies have to let consumers know what they are doing. They’ve got to get out there and tell people about it. Our customers have some great stories to tell and we help them with that.”
This is not greenwashing, where organisations attempt to give everything an environmental hue in order to enhance their reputation and make their activities more acceptable to the public. “There has been a lot of this over the years but our customers don’t have to do that. They are delivering business energy projects which are delivering real benefits both to their bottom line and the environment. The projects are commercially sound and the right thing to do socially and we assist customers in communicating that.”
He points to an example of such a story. “If a company implements a project that improves the heating in a building in a way that saves money, then that is a story worth telling. By using less energy, they are benefiting the environment, reducing costs, and making the building a better place to work for employees. What we do is validate that this has happened and help the company present it in a credible way. This might involve making a video where employees tell the story from their perspective. This can be shared on social media with links to the company’s website and so on. This is a great way to tell a story and to engage staff and customers.”
And there is still the bottom line at the end of the day. “Whether through the reduction of overhead costs or added value, an energy management strategy offers a variety of opportunities to benefit an organisation’s bottom line,” Walsh concludes. “Even without funding or grants, solutions can be implemented without adding a financial burden by offsetting capital costs with energy cost savings.”
To find out more about ESB’s Smart Energy Services go to esb.ie/smartenergy