8 steps to creating your sustainable energy strategy

4 Jan 2021

8 steps to creating your sustainable energy strategy

Dealing with energy is something every business needs to account for at some point. Climate change is a threat all of us will need to work together to defeat. One way we can play our part is by being conscious of our energy usage and where our power comes from. As we look to recover from the impact of coronavirus on our livelihoods and embrace the challenges set by Brexit and the government's ten-point plan for a green industrial revolution, it can be confusing when it comes to understanding how to start. The easiest way to future proof your business is by creating a sustainable energy strategy – balancing economic and environmental considerations – and building this into your wider business plan for long-term success.

52% of sustainable businesses have an energy strategy with plans for becoming a low-carbon / low-emissions organisation[1].

Let’s look at eight key points on the importance of an energy strategy and how you can effectively implement one to steer your business on the road to sustainability.

1. Understand your business energy needs

A fundamental part of creating an energy strategy is knowing what you're working with from the beginning. First, you'll want to take account of your business energy needs and how much power your company is currently using before any changes have been made. By understanding this, you'll be able to more accurately predict how much power you'll need going forward, particularly if expanding your business is on the horizon. It's also necessary to learn where most of your power comes from to more accurately assess the environmental impact of your business and what strategies you can adopt to reduce your carbon footprint down the line.

2. Set your sustainable energy targets

Once you have got to grips with how much energy your business is using, you'll then need to find something to do with that data. At this point, it's important to set energy targets for both your short and long-term business objectives. One example of this would be to set a goal (preferably a realistic one) for how much you'll be reducing your carbon-based energy usage in so many years. The end goal, of course, would be to become a carbon neutral business or even one run entirely on or producing renewable energy (carbon positive), but taking smaller steps is usually an easier way to get there than jumping in headfirst. Whether your targets extend out five, ten, or even several decades into the future, the most important part is to set them to begin with and get to working on meeting them.

3. Map your energy journey

Setting targets without a plan to get there is a lot like orienteering without a compass. As such, detailing the process or 'journey' by which you'll meet your energy targets is a necessary part of making your business greener. Planning out things like your budget for updating equipment or converting to different fuel sources, the risks and costs associated with these changes, and what kind of changes to company policy will be needed to accommodate a more sustainable workplace are all good places to start. This is also the time to check your legal compliance and carbon reporting requirements to avoid any fines or unexpected issues that arise from accidentally breaking the law or underpaying on taxes.

4. Organise your team

Like anything in a company, converting to green energy requires team effort. Whether it's installing new equipment, physically switching over your energy sources, implementing new company policies, or even something as simple as recycling to help further limit your waste, you’ll need collaboration at all levels for these things to be effective. It's important to assign responsibility at board level. This person should be able to lead and champion smart, sustainable energy use across the entire organisation. Even something as simple as incentivising employees to reduce waste on an individual level can be a good way to help lower the company's overall carbon footprint. Many businesses already have a dedicated role responsible for energy, sustainability and environmental issues to help guide the company in a more sustainable direction.

5. Look for opportunities

To succeed long-term, businesses need to approach energy in a holistic way. It needs to be a whole business consideration – one which impacts everything from the products and services the business offers, to how it manages its supply chain or markets itself to customers. As digital transformation becomes an ever-increasing priority, businesses need to think about their energy needs in the decades to come – how it can help provide additional resilience and keep costs down, as well as help the business meet ever-changing energy regulations and legislation.

True sustainability is about balancing economic and environmental priorities. Planning for the future might include different sources of energy like battery storage and solar power that have the potential to minimise costs for your business and reduce carbon emissions – despite the initial investment. There’s a range of ways to minimise the risk and up-front costs, including government grants and incentives such as the Enhanced Capital Allowance (ECA) and Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI), as well as OPEX-based financing and energy-as-a-service options, making it easier and simpler to invest.

6. Report your progress

Transparency in business is good for many reasons from complying with government standards to building public trust, so your conversion to a greener energy business should be no different. Documenting your processes and actions is vital to success. Indeed, as a company in the UK, you may already be reporting on your carbon emissions to meet the Mandatory Greenhouse Gas requirements and Streamlined Energy Carbon Reporting (SECR), with additional reporting requirements related to the Energy Savings Opportunity Scheme and Green Finance Strategy, depending on the size and type of business you operate.

7. Assess your results

As you get further into your strategy, it will become necessary to assess your current results and compare them to your targets set before. What goals are you meeting? Which are you struggling with? Has anything happened that might necessitate a change in your plan?

The fact remains that much of the conversion to sustainable energy is uncharted water, so you shouldn’t be surprised if things aren’t going exactly as planned right after you’ve got things started. Bumps in the road are normal to experience, so the most critical aspect will be in how you deal with them.

8. Lead by example

Setting a good example through environmental and social responsibility and building brand trust is becoming increasingly important for all businesses to succeed long-term, so it stands to reason that this logic would also apply to your company’s energy strategy. In many ways, this is as simple as doing the things you say you’ll do. Making the changes to equipment and policy that are promised in your plan is part of this, not only in modernising your business and helping the environment but also in spurring others to do the same in their professional and personal lives. The bottom line is to practice what you preach and to stay committed to the goals you set throughout your strategy.

Building an effective sustainable energy strategy

The path to a carbon neutral and zero emission business may not be the most straightforward, but it’s necessary all the same. By paying attention to these eight points, you’ll be able to craft and implement an effective sustainable energy strategy for your organisation and help create a better future for our country and the planet in the process.

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