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Sustainability for businesses: understanding the goals and challenges

The Green Energy Advice Bureau speaks to Louis Brimacombe, a sustainability expert, to understand the goals and challenges faced by businesses today.

Louis Brimacombe is a Fellow of IOM3 and a chartered Chemical Engineer. He is currently working as a consultant and business advisor specialising in sustainable development and life cycle assessment (LCA).

Former Head of Environmental Technology at Tata Steel and current Chairman of the British Standards Committee “Sustainable Performance, Consumption and Production”, Louis offered his expert insight into the need for and challenges of sustainability solutions for businesses when he sat down with The Green Energy Advice Bureau, a UK Hospitality member.

What does sustainability mean to businesses?

There are two types of sustainability: economic sustainability and energy efficiency. Both are important to businesses, but economic sustainability is what keeps operations running. Environmental sustainability, while important, often comes second.

What are the major challenges faced when it comes to sustainability?

The answer that most businesses will give is that sustainability and low carbon require investment. You see a lot of it is driven by cost, of course. The challenge is ensuring you get a return on that investment from using renewables and energy efficiency measures.

So here we are talking about energy efficiency?

Energy efficiency naturally falls into the sustainability category. So, a key question we need to be asking is: how can we make businesses operate more efficiently?

I'll throw that question back to you!

Well, the first thing businesses need to do is become as efficient as possible in their energy usage and then source the energy with the lowest possible carbon.

Some businesses have somebody in-house in charge of energy procurement and sustainability, but for those that don’t, getting an auditor can seem expensive. It’s also an additional thing to think about for a business owner.

From my own experience of auditing, lots of businesses have energy leaks and they have no idea how or where they are coming from. It can be as simple as one employee forgetting to turn all the lights off on a Friday, or unknowingly leaving all the doors open in one building so that heat escapes.

By understanding how energy is used on site, businesses can identify tangible areas for improvement.

This is what your Energy Monitoring System (EMS) is useful for. It offers detailed information to businesses about their day-to-day usage and helps identify wastage at circuit level.

Our EMS is something we are really invested in for 2024. Is there a need for technology to help with sustainability and energy efficiency?

Even if you only have a basic monitoring system, that inevitably flags up areas for people to improve. If I ran a business of any kind, I would want to know what my energy bill meant. I would want somebody in the workforce to understand where that energy was used.

You’d be amazed, though, how many don’t understand their energy usage. That’s why we’ve got a job, really. Businesses need expert advice because it’s unlikely their area of expertise is energy procurement and efficiency.

Energy usage is less complicated than energy pricing, but you still need to be aware of where wastage is happening to be able to reduce it. As you’ve highlighted in your business proposition, an Energy Monitoring System can help businesses with that.

You say energy pricing is more complicated than usage, how so?

Lots of things affect pricing. We’ve seen big changes to the market over the war in Ukraine, for example. We hear a lot of talk about suppliers, but people don’t really think about the actual production of energy. Because the oil-producing countries can control how much they produce, they’ve got a bit of a monopoly on how much they make.

So if they think the price has dropped too low, they stop production, and the price goes up.

Would that mean that if you had alternative, renewable energy sources, you wouldn't be at the mercy of countries that halt production to drive the price up?

Yes absolutely. It would give you more autonomy as a business. The challenge is to create enough renewable energy that you are self-reliant. Solar power or wind energy are good options for this.

The problem is that if investing in renewable energy cuts into the profits that would be used to grow your business, then it’s hard to convince business owners to do it.

We offer both our EMS and our solar panel installations with a CapEx-free option to help businesses become more sustainable without the upfront costs.

I like that. If The Green Energy Advice Bureau offers support by subsidising the installations, that could be a game-changer for businesses. If the barrier to entry is that businesses can’t afford the initial investment, you’ve solved that problem for them.

Making small changes to reduce wastage can mean massive savings both in annual expenditure and emissions.

Anything you are doing to help businesses achieve these results is a step in the right direction for sustainability.

To speak to one of GEAB’s experts about the sustainability options for your business, leave your details here or call 01918210026.

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