Setting an example
In urging more FTSE 100 companies to report on their estate-specific carbon reduction, Cal Bailey of NG Bailey is only suggesting what his own company is already doing — and successfully exploiting that first-hand experience.
With consumers, big businesses and the Government identifying opportunities that the low-carbon economy presents, the pressure is on for companies to operate more sustainably. One area in particular where businesses could be missing a trick to achieve energy and cost reductions is through their estate carbon emissions.
Recent research from the British Research Establishment (BRE), commissioned by NG Bailey, highlights that FTSE 100 companies are taking the reporting of their overall carbon emission reductions seriously, with 76% of businesses disclosing results on their web sites and in annual reports. Nevertheless, what stands out as being under-represented in terms of focus and reporting is estate-specific carbon reduction.
The research reveals that only 20% of FTSE 100 companies currently report on targets specifically related to their estate and that only 27% outline an estate-specific carbon-reduction strategy. Operating in a sustainable way is no longer a ‘nice thing to do’, it’s a must.
From April 2013, the UK Government will introduce new regulation that requires the measuring and reporting of greenhouse-gas emissions by UK companies on the Main Market of the London Stock Exchange.
NG Bailey welcomes this change. As a nation we need to have greater efficiency in our buildings, which account for 40% of EU greenhouse-gas emissions.
As the new legislation puts a legal obligation on listed companies to make carbon reductions through their estates, it’s important that businesses do not view the process as a simple box-ticking exercise. If companies take seriously the need to reduce estate carbon emissions, energy consumption can be driven down — presenting real savings, and better working environments, with a positive impact on employees and external reputation.
We believe that companies of all sizes should look at this as a priority. You only need consider the energy used in a typical office to realise the impact that addressing energy consumption can have. By assessing, analysing and altering energy usage in buildings and making relatively straightforward changes, companies can reduce energy usage dramatically.
So what steps can companies take to reduce estate-specific carbon emissions and deliver guaranteed savings? Clearly many companies in the building-services sector have the opportunity to help businesses cut emissions in their buildings, and going about this the right way is essential. Here are the steps we suggest.
1.Audit: Start by performing an energy audit to understand what you are using and how you are using it. This is the starting point of our own energy offer — Rare Energy — as it allows you to assess energy-consumption patterns and analyse potential areas to address.
2.Benchmark: Compare your findings to other buildings similar to your own so you know whether the energy consumption is higher or lower than average. You could look at your Energy Performance Certificates or use CIBSE guidelines to help you do this.
3.Act: Action should then be taken, which might take many guises. Replacing old and inefficient assets, such as old lighting, is typically very effective and provides rapid return on investment.
4.Engage: One piece of advice often overlooked is to encourage your people to think about energy conservation. Give individuals and teams responsibility and targets for driving down energy usage, which will help to drive change throughout the organisation.
5.Control: Applying effective controls is an essential part of managing energy use. Using an automated monitoring and control system can give you full control over energy usage across your estate, from heating systems to computer and phone devices.
6.Maintain: It is essential that buildings have a pro-active maintenance plan so that after a refurbishment or retrofit you can ensure the building continues to perform as it should — driving down carbon emissions and costs.
7.Renewables. You should look for opportunities to integrate renewable energy into your business. For example, solar-thermal heating will reduce heating requirements and cut CO2 emissions and energy costs.
We have taken all these principles and applied them to our own business. Our Target 2012 sustainability campaign had four objectives — one of which was to cut carbon emissions across our business by 20% over four years.
Our own focus on cutting emissions not only helped save money, but also helped us learn lessons that we have been able to apply for our customers.
By looking at our own estate portfolio and applying our expertise, including an energy-focused refurbishment of our Grade 1 listed headquarters, we gained first-hand insights into the challenges businesses will face during sustainable refurbishments and retrofitting, which we are now passing on to our customers.
As part of a roll out of smart metering across our entire estate, and through taking an industry lead by having Display Energy Certificates (DECs) in our reception offices, we have had first-hand experience of using energy information to engage our people to change behaviours towards sustained energy efficiency. Displaying the certificates helps to raise awareness amongst our employees of the energy efficiency and energy usage of the buildings they work in. We now have energy champions in every office and have created energy-efficiency league tables to keep up friendly competition across our locations.
Finally, we have also had the opportunity to integrate renewable energy into our business.
Through practical application of solar thermal, photo-voltaics and biomass heating, we have real world understanding of the design, installation, and operation of these technologies. It also led us to develop a new business stream when we realised we could produce wood chip from our own Denton Hall estate to provide fuel for the biomass systems of many customers.
Through analysing our property portfolio and applying these new solutions, we have significantly cut our carbon footprint. We have reduced overall carbon emissions by 24%, more than the target and a year ahead of schedule. Our estate-specific carbon emissions have been reduced by 27%.
Our results prove that there are huge opportunities for businesses, no matter what size, to make a significant difference to their carbon footprint through their estate. By setting sustainability targets and making relatively simple and cost-effective changes, businesses can not only save money but also improve the overall efficiency of their operations. Our sector is in a superb place to support them.
Cal Bailey is sustainability director at NG Bailey.