Posted on: 16/03/2017
Head of Product Development, Mike Shirley, shares his views on connecting the agendas of sustainability and procurement departments.
I have spoken at a couple of sustainability events recently and noticed a recurring theme in my discussions with people from many companies; the competing, and sometimes clashing, priorities of sustainability and procurement departments.
It is something we see a lot as a renewable electricity supplier. Traditionally, we have dealt with Energy Managers or Procurement Managers, carefully negotiating their wholesale market access, non-commodity costs and billing requirements. Of course, they were often buying renewable energy, but it was usually just another price point to negotiate.
Recently we have seen Sustainability Managers starting to engage with us much more, wanting to discuss the detail of our carbon emissions, fuel mix and compliance with Greenhouse Gas Protocol reporting.
Sometimes they go via the Energy Manager and sometimes they don’t - all organisations and individuals have different approaches. But what is common across all the companies that we work with is that energy is no longer just the domain of the Energy Manager.
And that has to be a good thing! It means energy is moving up the agenda and companies are recognising they can no longer just passively consume it without any thought for the environment or the energy system they are part of.
However, for many there is still a clash between “doing the right thing” and “hang on, we have to pay more for that?” - which can pit Energy and Sustainability Managers against each other.
So how can these two departments work together to achieve the most sustainable outcome for their company?
There are lots of obvious things like talking to each other more and linking your goals together, which all sounds great in theory but is difficult in practice. But ultimately it’s more about showing the rest of the business that the two areas are inextricably linked and can’t be disaggregated from each other.
One way is by presenting a united front and working on projects that deliver mutual success. Some the examples from our customers are in areas such as:
Energy efficiency - bit of a no-brainer for many businesses now, but actually not implemented as widely as you would think. Often the highest ROI but thinking creatively can open up new opportunities, for instance you might be more likely to get that funding for retrofitting your older buildings if you can build carbon reductions into the business case.
Investigate Demand Side Response (DSR) together – the energy system of the future will be much more technology-enabled, meeting peak demand through a combination of existing and new generation (including renewables), storage to better utilise those renewables, and flexibility in demand as well as generation capability. All of which will be improved through the widespread adoption of technology providing control. DSR is available now and provides a route to prove, learn and deploy at a pace appropriate to your business.
Buy renewables – a simple way to kick-start your wider programme of events. Choosing renewables over conventional supply costs less than you think and enables you to engage your stakeholders in the wider sustainable activities you deliver. I’ve been really pleased with the confidence people are taking from our Certified Renewable Electricity. The Carbon Trust Label is clear, simple and credible, and it is great feedback for the hard work it took to implement!
Supply chain standards – having made decisions for your business, share your ideas and targets with your supply chain. Encourage them to mirror your own approach as this all feeds into your downstream activities, whether you report them or not.
This does take leadership - someone from one of the departments will have to stick their head above the parapet, wave the white flag, and start collaborating. But as we see from many of the businesses we work with, it can and does work!