As pressure increases on businesses to reduce their carbon footprint, David Hilton explains how to set up an environmental policy.
26 March 2015 | By David Hilton
Vickers' latest research shows that British industry is wasting half a billion pounds on energy over the winter months, emitting 7.4 million tonnes of unnecessary C02.
It's never been more important for businesses to reduce energy use, particularly with the incentives and pressure to consider corporate social responsibility and their carbon footprint.
Too many companies don't understand the wider impact of not assessing their energy use, and how this should fall within a long-term environmental policy. This is the first step towards ensuring sustainability is central to the business. Your environmental policy should be a written commitment to cut the carbon footprint of your business and should highlight areas of the processes that can be adapted to reduce consumption.
It should be incorporated into the business as part of the everyday systems and processes that take place. It also needs to be understood by the entire workforce - and that means from board level down. Ensuring the 'buy in' from all members of staff will ensure that everyone implements it. There's no point in paying lip service to it, that's just a waste of time. The prospect of a detailed strategy can be daunting, but some key points can be implemented and enhanced over time to develop into a sophisticated and successful operation.
Implementing an environmental policy can bring benefits to any company. These include ensuring that the company stays within the law and the various regulations in place, reducing energy output, and thus costs and improving the efficiency of the company.
You will also see the benefits from an external point of view. Demonstrating that you have an environmental policy in place, and that it is being adhered to and generating positive results, can improve relationships with external investors, stakeholders and help with new business as many companies now expect their suppliers to have a functioning policy in place. It can also help to improve a positive profile within the local community and help with any marketing campaigns that are being carried out.
How to start a plan.
To support your social corporate responsibility, develop a plan that will be effective in reducing carbon emissions in your sector. Consider how you want the policy to affect the business and your key targets for energy reduction. It's important to think about what activity is realistic and if you will meet your targets. Think about setting specific goals each year - and don't run before you can walk - easy-to-achieve steps are the best way to launch a policy and ensure buy-in from the whole company. Include key performance indicators, regular assessments and consider if these need to be accredited by an independent body.
How do you identify the weaknesses?
It's important to look at processes within the business and where the issues lie, as these need to be addressed directly for the plan to be implemented effectively. Tackle the worst issues head-on, i.e. elements of the business that have huge energy consumption are the areas that can have the most drastic reduction and are generally easy to implement. If you're not sure how to start this there is help out there - bodies such as The Carbon Trust, and companies such as Vickers work with businesses to identify the issues, and how to solve them.
One of the main areas in most companies that needs to be addressed is how to correctly analyse energy use and understand bills. No two sites are the same and for this reason, companies must look at their individual business and monitor specific needs. One of the most important things to do is to review all energy bills and challenge any errors or complexities - and incorporate this into the policy.
Staff need to buy into the environmental policy and be fully committed for it to be implemented fully and long term. Motivation and awareness are key, ensuring that the strategy is considered in all areas. The plan can take any format, but must be presented to the whole of the workforce and be continually visible whether this is through internal newsletters, company updates or staff meetings.
Continuing the strategy
It's important to commit to the strategy on a long-term basis. Some key simple measures to target are minimising waste in all operations and ensuring that all processes are as efficient as possible. Simple low-cost measures such as toxic emissions, recycling and environmentally friendly produce are also extremely significant areas of an environmental policy.
Committing to technology and policies to target energy use can then be addressed by installing an energy management system, for example. Long-term strategies such as insulation, double-glazing, removing draughts and adapting heating and lighting systems are also essential for the next stage of implementing the policy.
How will this affect your business?
Be thorough and address all areas of energy use whether it's heating and ventilation, lighting, electrical equipment or recycling. Sustainability is becoming increasingly important with more incentives and guidance for businesses on how best to tackle their individual issues. But only when a company has a dedicated environmental policy and a strategy across all aspects of the business aimed at reducing consumption on a large scale, is it considered truly sustainable.
David Hilton is managing director of Vickers Energy Group