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White Papers

Towards a sustainable business
Identifying, measuring, monitoringand optimising energy and resource usage in an organisation
By: Quocirca
Published: October 2010
Logo for Quocirca

Whether an organisation is looking for immediate "green" savings, where energy savings result in a positive impact on the organisation's bottom line, for meeting legislative requirements for carbon emissions, or to move towards a longer term sustainable business model, a change in how the business identifies, measures and monitors its resource usage is required.

  • Long term trends in energy pricing will be upwards
    The age of low cost energy is fast disappearing. Renewable energy sources cannot compete with "dirty" fossil fuel systems at a price per KWh level, and the decommissioning costs of nuclear also make such an approach costly. Planning for an upward trend in energy pricing is a necessity.
  • Sustainability is not just about electricity
    Although energy usage is the factor most easily seized on by businesses, future availability of raw materials, of such simple things as water and of cheap long distance supply chains will be increasingly impacted. The consumer is becoming more aware of sustainability - and is choosing suppliers based on perceptions of sustainability Demonstrable sustainability - not just "greenwash" statements - will increasingly drive ecologically aware consumers to choose suppliers based on real capabilities. The need to be able to fully back up sustainability claims with hard facts will be a basic requirement.
  • "Eating the elephant" is a non-starter
    Trying to run a "Sustainability Project" will not work. Smaller, interlinked projects each with a desired outcome will enable teams to focus on the small wins, and the big wins will come through pulling everything together further up the chain.
  • A means of managing the interlinks between the various projects is required
    Ad hoc project management will lead to disconnects and problems across the board. Project portfolio management is a must, with cascade capabilities both down and up through project managers, project leaders and team workers to ensure that interdependencies are fully managed.
  • The business has to have visibility of past, present and future statuses
    For the business to be able to plan appropriately, current state and any variances against planned state need to be immediately visible. Predicted future states - based both on past performance and on any planned changes - need to be quickly and easily viewed so that small changes can be made to maintain planned sustainable performance.
  • Energy usage and carbon emissions are not the same thing
    Different energy sources have different carbon footprints, while water purification can be a high emissions process. Being able to understand how all resources impact emissions enables a highly prioritised and coherent sustainability plan to be drawn up.
  • Infrastructure change needs to be supported by people change
    Although direct improvements can be made through changing how technology works across a business as well as through changing basic processes in areas such as the supply chain, people will remain a very important part of any sustainability strategy. Involvement of people in the provision of ideas and in optimising existing and new processes can take a sustainability strategy from being "good" to being "excellent".

Conclusions
Sustainability is not just about electricity usage within a business. When viewed across the complete value chain, the different resources employed will have their own emissions profiles, and a fully cohesive sustainability strategy can only work when all aspects are capable of being identified, monitored, measured and optimised. This will require new business approaches, crossing over the many groups involved within an organisation, and will also require an integrated set of underlying tools will be required to ensure that the past, present and future are all brought together in a manner that helps the organisation make the right decisions going forward.

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