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Building a Future-Proof Sustainability Strategy for Your Company

In a recent article, we discussed the top ten sustainability trends to watch in 2020 (and the rest of the decade). Some trends, like forgoing meat and avoiding fast fashion brands, are more individual choices. However, other trends like water conservation and net zero initiatives can be adopted by companies, realty trusts, and businesses of all kinds. To help you turn these trends into a company-wide sustainability strategy, we’ve created a mock plan with easy-to-implement tips and advice.

Step 1: Make Sure You Can Measure and Verify Progress

Before you make any efficiency upgrades concerning your company and/or real estate portfolio, it is important to be able to measure the effects of those changes and verify that they are having a positive impact. C-suite executives and investors alike will appreciate the assurance that their investments are paying off, and you will be able to determine exactly which measures were most successful in increasing sustainability.

The success of sustainability measures is determined by the equation:

(Baseline Period Energy – Reporting Period Energy) ± Adjustment = Savings

Measurement and Verification (M&V) services are available via energy management software platforms. Meter readings and any necessary independent variable(s) data are integrated and analyzed to automate your M&V calculations and simplify your energy savings reporting. 

Step 2: Pinpoint Peak Load and Utility Usage Times

One of the top sustainability trends is reduction of energy consumption. COVID-19 has led to a global reduction of energy use, but how can you continue to keep your company’s consumption to a minimum once normalcy returns? First, it is important to determine the times you use the most energy. While the pandemic may have thrown a wrench into normal peak load times and locations, you can still track your “new normal” usage patterns using real-time data monitoring. In real-time data monitoring, your energy management platform integrates with meter companies to deliver analyzed usage data to you at regular intervals (15-minute, 60-minute, etc.). This allows you to determine when your buildings are using the most energy. From there, you can examine which systems are running at the time of highest usage, and focus on key peak load management strategies to make them more efficient. For example, if your business is a realty trust, your HVAC and lighting systems are likely using the most energy during peak load/usage times. If your company focuses on agriculture, water usage may be your biggest target area.

Step 3: Identify Areas of Excess, Then Set Conservation Goals

Read: 6 Energy Management Solutions to Implement at Your Company

Once you have determined which systems in your company are using the most energy, you can seriously begin to make sustainably-minded changes. One of the biggest areas you can set conservations goals for is water consumption. The World Economic Forum’s 2020 Global Risk Report identified water crises as among the top five greatest risks to society over the next decade. The UN predicts that by 2030, the world will see a shortfall in the global water supply as high as 40%. Taking steps to manage your water use, such as following the ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager guidelines, can be extremely effective. It is also wise to gather information about your water footprint and become more educated on how water is used in your operations/production.

Reduction of energy consumption, meanwhile, can be achieved in a variety of ways. Consider switching to electric vehicles for freight transportation, securing LEED certifications for your buildings, and installing LED lighting in place of older energy-guzzling bulbs. There are a variety of ways you can identify excessive energy use in your company, from the aforementioned real-time data monitoring to benchmarking against similar, more sustainable buildings.

Finally, make sure you hold your company accountable. Pick a set of efficiency and sustainability goals you would like to reach and then identify the standards you will use to measure them. ENERGY STAR, GRESB, and WELL are just a few of the nationally recognized certifications. Once you have selected which certification(s) you would like to meet (keep in mind that you can follow more than one!), send out a press release to employees, clients, and investors. Let them know about the steps you are taking and the standards you are holding your company to.

Step 4: Introduce Renewables Where Possible

The renewables industry has suffered during the pandemic, but it is expected to make a comeback once things return to normal. This is good news, since one of the most popular sustainability trends this year is reducing dependence on fossil fuels. As part of the “Business Ambition for 1.5°C — Our Only Future” campaign, 177 companies across different sectors have pledged to reach net-zero emissions by 2050. Many companies are setting ambitious goals to invest in clean energy and transportation and foster sustainability within their operations and global supply chains – this year, for example, Microsoft committed to removing more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere than they emit by the year 2030.

Renewable energy is increasingly affordable, enabling businesses to invest in renewable energy power sources with ease. If your company uses fossil-fuel generated electricity, consider switching to clean power generated by wind, solar, or water. Remember, it doesn’t need to be all or nothing – you can start by getting just a portion of your energy from renewable sources. Additionally, you might consider generating some of your own electricity on-site. There is a growing trend towards micro-generation of electricity in the form of solar panels placed on rooftops, car ports, or outdoor lighting fixtures.  Additionally, energy management software platforms have the ability to track this renewable generation and analyze against your usage and demand.

Step 5: Encourage Employees to Endorse Sustainable Lifestyles

Your company culture of sustainability can extend beyond your facilities and buildings. While it is important to remember that your employees are free to live whatever lifestyle they choose, you can provide them with incentives to take on more sustainable measures outside of the office. Some ideas to consider:

  • Install charging ports for electric cars in your parking lots/garages
  • Offer employee discounts at sustainable fashion stores
  • If you have a company get together involving food (post-COVID, of course), provide a variety of organic, meatless options
  • Gift your employees coupons for Beyond Meat or Impossible burgers
  • Distribute company branded reusable cups and metal straws

Step 6: Anticipate Potential Challenges

COVID-19 may be one of the biggest current challenges standing in the way of implementing new sustainability measures. Your C-suite executives and investors could be leery of spending money on sustainability measures when the current economic situation is so precarious. (In general, administrators tend to be leery of investing in major changes). Your company budget is yet another challenge. However, it is important to remember that you don’t have to implement every sustainability measure under the sun. Once you have identified areas of excessive utility use, you can pick one or two small changes to make. Switching to energy efficient lighting and unplugging appliances and devices that are not in use are two inexpensive ways to cut down on energy use.

Final Step: Set Your Company up for Success

Having a versatile energy management platform for your company is critical to building a solid sustainability strategy. As mentioned above, energy management software helps with measurement and verification, peak load management, real-time data monitoring, and renewable energy production tracking. In addition to providing all of these services, EnergyWatch’s software WatchWire is synced with many sustainability guidelines (like ENERGY STAR and GRESB). This means that you can see how your buildings’ data is measuring up to standards (and what changes you still need to make). To learn more about WatchWire’s features, download the WatchWire fact sheet. Or, if you’re interested in learning more about measuring and verifying your sustainability efforts, download the Guide to Measurement and Verification.