One thing I notice time and time again whilst visiting or communicating with businesses is just how much work they have already done to reduce energy use. Often it has been done without an environmental focus, and it has rarely been communicated effectively to staff but let’s give credit where credit is due, efforts are being made to cut energy.
So let’s be cheerful that businesses seem to view their energy spend as something they can tackle. Whether it’s through behaviour change campaigns (e.g. asking staff to switch off lights or appliances) or infrastructure (e.g. thermostats, timers, energy-efficient machinery) the people who are responsible for paying the bills are often well versed on techniques for energy reduction and are getting on with it.
It’s not just energy. Waste and water often appear somewhere near the top of the list when it comes to problems businesses are trying to address.
This might appear to make my efforts to promote the Low Carbon Alliance redundant. After all, what’s the point of a business network which exists to lower the environmental impact of businesses if they’re already?
Well there’s actually a lot more to carbon than water, waste and energy and, even with those elements, there’s still a lot more that can be done. Many of the things that need to be done are yet to be looked at by the majority of businesses. I’m talking about the bigger picture – the overall impact of the business which incorporates the basics (energy, waste and water) but also looks at wider issues like consumption, procurement and renewables.
For example, how many businesses really consider and account for where the raw materials come from that make up the products they use? Would they spend a little more on something that is sourced sustainably or made from recycled materials that offers a significantly reduced environmental impact? Or is it always about the single bottom line?
Similarly, if businesses just look to the short-term when considering whether to invest in equipment or new technology, they are very likely to miss out on things that could really benefit them (and us) over a longer period. Take solar PV panels. They have a pay back period of 8 years, so are ignored by many businesses. Let’s not forget though, after 8 years they keep saving you money and avoiding carbon intensive energy. In fact they will save you more and more money year on year as fossil fuel-sourced energy prices continue to rise.
There are so many ways to cut carbon that we think a business network is the perfect way to explore, share and develop new ideas for the benefit of all businesses and the wider community.
So let’s be cheerful about what is being done. And let’s reward and recognise effort. But we must also be cautious about claiming a victory before we truly reach a low carbon economy.