Anthesis: putting theory into best practice
Energy Digital spoke with Anthesis CSO Paul Crewe to learn how the global sustainability services and solutions consultancy can help businesses deliver financially-driven sustainability strategies underpinned by technical innovation.
Taking its name from the Greek word for the stage of a plant’s lifecycle when it is most productive, Anthesis was founded in 2013 and driven by the determination to reduce risk, increase resilience and realise opportunity to deliver truly sustainable organisations. Employing a team of 260 with a global reach across 11 countries, Anthesis develop financially-driven sustainability strategies that go hand in hand with commercial success, anchored by technical innovation. “We have grown organically through acquisitions to be able to provide support for all the key aspects of sustainability; from energy reduction, regeneration and storage, to waste and resource management, the circular economy and carbon footprint reduction,” explains CSO Paul Crewe. “Within the group we also have a sustainable chemistry division helping organisations fulfil their legal requirements and a team focused on compliance for CDP (Carbon Disclosure Projects) as part of our sustainability strategy, which also supports the United Nations sustainable development goals.”
Meanwhile, its software design division is able to create bespoke platforms and applications for businesses to help them achieve those sustainability goals. “We are unique in the fact that we don’t just provide traditional consultancy advice, we’re able to offer absolute solutions to aid the delivery of sustainability initiatives,” adds Crewe. “Additionally, in the area of energy and renewables we provide support with alternative financing to access funds to accelerate the delivery of those technologies at scale and at pace.”
Allied to its bespoke software solutions, Anthesis also focus on physical technologies to drive significant benefits and savings in areas like energy, where the company is constantly looking for the next innovation to share with clients to make meaningful step changes towards driving out carbon and reducing energy consumption. “We’re partnering with an aerofoil technology company to significantly reduce the refrigerated energy load within display cases in retail supermarkets,” reveals Crewe. “The tech is actually based on the aerofoil blade used on the back of a Williams Formula 1 car and adapted to fit the edge of a shelf in open refrigerated cabinets. Like the automotive aerofoil, which helps keep a car firmly on the road at high speed, in its vertical position an aerofoil shelf works by keeping the cold air trained inside the case rather than pouring out into the aisle and wasting energy.”
In Crewe’s previous role as Head of Sustainability, Engineering, Energy and the Environment at Sainsbury’s, he supported the introduction of this technology across the whole of the supermarket giant’s estate to deliver significant energy reductions. “At Anthesis we’re helping to roll this solution out across the world enabling our customers to accelerate their plans with economical business cases with a proven ROI,” he adds.
Alongside such practical innovations, digital platforms have allowed for the creation of software systems which ingest data on a massive scale to deliver information that is informative, intuitive and capable of providing actionable insights, based on what is actually happening in an organisation, to drive cost effective solutions that can also provide a positive impact with regard to climate change and sustainability. “It’s an important area of focus for Anthesis,” admits Crewe. “We not only help organisations understand their energy consumption at a micro level, with the data platforms we deploy we also become very intuitive around what a building, project or operation should be doing via self-learning within those environments. People can be quite blasé about data but it’s a vital part of business transformation and understanding your supply chain’s end-to-end commodity needs (from materiality to the environment and the social governance relating to a product) to help businesses make the right decisions both financially and environmentally. The cloud is critical here… Data that’s easily accessible will drive efficiency and awareness at speed and at scale.”
Once just a word used as part of a CSR plan, Crewe believes sustainability is now unequivocally mainstream, having become a critical commercial aspect of any organisation. “Once they understand what sustainability means for them it can inform business decisions and have a massive impact,” he argues. “For example, energy, along with wages, is often the highest controllable cost, so with the rising cost of carbon taxation on energy it’s an area we can help businesses both mitigate against and create revenue streams through the deployment of renewable energy and storage. The CFOs of companies embracing sustainability are understanding it does have a critical commercial aspect to stay optimised and efficient with a positive impact on the bottom line.”
What advice would he give companies eager to achieve this type of positive impact on their sustainability journey? “Regardless of the sector, if you can truly understand how your business operates from an energy, waste, water and carbon perspective, these key drivers of cost generation can become revenue income opportunities. Working with an organisation like Anthesis can help pinpoint demonstrable gains, programs of investment and positive behaviour change to drive those in real time,” asserts Crewe, whose time with Sainsbury’s enabled him to help organisations across the globe understand both the social and economic impact of sustainability: “I had the privilege of leading some of the largest and highest returning investments in the company’s history,” he remembers. “From rolling out energy lighting across the estate through to implementing the largest multi-wreath array of PVs in Europe while pushing innovative tech such as the aerofoil shelf and photovoltaic sensor opaque thermal technologies. We also explored the increasing benefits of battery storage and smart opportunities with control systems linked to IoT to connect these technologies up and generate significant value.”
Crewe believes Anthesis are well place to help organisations with the culture shift towards implementing a sustainability strategy that goes beyond compliance with new technologies and tools like SCATTER (Setting City Area Targets and Trajectories for Emissions Reduction). Anthesis has been working with Greater Manchester Combined Authority and the Tyndall Centre (Manchester University) for over a year with funding from BEIS (the government department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy) to create a carbon and energy footprint, modelling and target tool. “Our internal team have developed the platform and a combination of in-house colleagues have provided expertise and guidance. In a nutshell it’s been a ground-breaking project to measure city-level emissions, model future scenarios, set reduction targets (in line with international standards) and deliver pathways to implement change.” It will be rolled-out to other UK core cities in the coming months and there are plans to create different versions of the tool, working alongside corporate entities and sectors.
Anthesis work in partnership with academia to evaluate and understand opportunities with emerging technologies like these and is also allied with a number of NGOs and non-profits, working closely with the likes of the Waste Resources Action Program to help support solutions for reducing waste across the UK and Europe. “We’re also a partner of the Consumer Goods Forum, an organisation set up to provide sustainable focus and intelligence insight for retailers and manufacturers across the globe,” adds Crewe, who is proud of the opportunities taken by Anthesis to provide thought leadership and guidance on food waste across the UK as part of its collaboration with the Institute of Grocery Distribution (IGD).
Crewe is mindful of the obstacles to further progress and notes that the shifting sands of government legislation can often cause uncertainty when it comes to driving innovation and investment. Meanwhile, the spectre of Brexit has caused organisations to slow down until they have more certainty around what it will mean for their business. Crewe also notes the rate of change with technology has surpassed expectations in the last few years… “For example, with energy lighting the efficiency of the LED processors has improved incredibly. Sometimes organisations see that rate of change and then choose to wait for the next iteration, so it can almost become a challenge to tick that box and try something new.”
Awareness around sustainability has spiked. Thanks to TV shows like Blue Planet, plastics has become extremely topical. “We have a division dedicated to helping people across the world to plan, mitigate and do the right thing by their business when it comes to packaging and the use of plastics. During my time in retail it’s one of the biggest examples of the profile of an issue being raised, it’s such a positive trend and something we’re being asked to help on more and more,” says Crewe.
The recent IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) Special Report was strident about what climate change means for business. What are Crewe’s predictions for how this report will impact on the work Anthesis does? “The next ten years will be crucial to limit global temperature rise,” he says. “There’s a clear message: rapidly decarbonize the global economy to avoid the worst impacts of climate change. Changing weather patterns will produce an impact through temperature change and rising sea levels. We have to start planning to mitigate and adapt to the IPCC report findings. It’s an area of importance not just for business to get right but for communities, cities and countries across the globe. The risks are real so we need to support our clients.”
Looking ahead, Crewe emphasises the need for Anthesis to continue to support its partners and their clients with their legislative ethos requirements to ensure they have up to date ethos assessments while helping to support energy reduction in their buildings allied to delivering good rates of return on their investment. “With new carbon reporting legislation (Streamlined Energy and Carbon Reporting – SECR) coming into effect in April 2019, we’re being asked more and more to help prepare our clients for disclosure on financial reporting on climate related matters.”
In helping companies achieve this type of goal Anthesis has been working with an international retailer which was aiming for ambitious energy and carbon reduction targets within their corporate sustainability strategy. Anthesis undertook investment grade audits to identify energy conservation measures (ECM), financial and non-financial benefits and payback periods. “We worked with the client team to build a business case for the implementation of key recommendations,” recalls Crewe. “The solution included technical insulation to reduce heat loss, gas usage and costs. We also project managed the installation across every UK site. In the end our ECM solution offered projected energy savings of 5.6 million kWh per year and an impressive payback period of just 1.8 years.”
Crewe believes working in partnerships is where Anthesis will continue to excel. Leaving the last word to clients like Cisco Systems shows how far the group has come and the trust they’ve earned: "Anthesis have been excellent partners with their concentration on technical excellence and offering top client value. They are environmental experts, big enough to provide global services but small enough to provide the independence and agility that provides great results." Darrel Stickler, Global Environment/Sustainability Lead, Cisco Systems
Carbon dioxide removal revenues worth £2bn a year by 2030
Carbon dioxide removal revenues could reach £2bn a year by 2030 in the UK with costs per megatonne totalling up to £400 million, according to the National Infrastructure Commission.
Engineered greenhouse gas removals will become "a major new infrastructure sector" in the coming decades - although costs are uncertain given removal technologies are in their infancy - and revenues could match that of the UK’s water sector by 2050. The Commission’s analysis suggests engineered removals technologies need to have capacity to remove five to ten megatonnes of carbon dioxide no later than 2030, and between 40 and 100 megatonnes by 2050.
The Commission states technologies fit into two categories: extracting carbon dioxide directly out of the air; and bioenergy with carbon capture technology – processing biomass to recapture carbon dioxide absorbed as the fuel grew. In both cases, the captured CO2 is then stored permanently out of the atmosphere, typically under the seabed.
The report sets out how the engineered removal and storage of carbon dioxide offers the most realistic way to mitigate the final slice of emissions expected to remain by the 2040s from sources that don’t currently have a decarbonisation solution, like aviation and agriculture.
It stresses that the potential of these technologies is “not an excuse to delay necessary action elsewhere” and cannot replace efforts to reduce emissions from sectors like road transport or power, where removals would be a more expensive alternative.
The critical role these technologies will play in meeting climate targets means government must rapidly kick start the sector so that it becomes viable by the 2030s, according to the report, which was commissioned by government in November 2020.
Early movement by the UK to develop the expertise and capacity in greenhouse gas removal technologies could create a comparative advantage, with the prospect of other countries needing to procure the knowledge and skills the UK develops.
The Commission recommends that government should support the development of this new sector in the short term with policies that drive delivery of these technologies and create demand through obligations on polluting industries, which will over time enable a competitive market to develop. Robust independent regulation must also be put in place from the start to help build public and investor confidence.
While the burden of these costs could be shared by different parts of industries required to pay for removals or in part shared with government, the report acknowledges that, over the longer term, the aim should be to have polluting sectors pay for removals they need to reach carbon targets.
Polluting industries are likely to pass a proportion of the costs onto consumers. While those with bigger household expenditures will pay more than those on lower incomes, the report underlines that government will need to identify ways of protecting vulnerable consumers and to decide where in relevant industry supply chains the costs should fall.
Chair of the National Infrastructure Commission, Sir John Armitt, said taking steps to clean our air is something we’re going to have to get used to, just as we already manage our wastewater and household refuse.
"While engineered removals will not be everyone’s favourite device in the toolkit, they are there for the hardest jobs. And in the overall project of mitigating our impact on the planet for the sake of generations to come, we need every tool we can find," he said.
“But to get close to having the sector operating where and when we need it to, the government needs to get ahead of the game now. The adaptive approach to market building we recommend will create the best environment for emerging technologies to develop quickly and show their worth, avoiding the need for government to pick winners. We know from the dramatic fall in the cost of renewables that this approach works and we must apply the lessons learned to this novel, but necessary, technology.”
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and International Energy Agency estimate a global capacity for engineered removals of 2,000 to 16,000 megatonnes of carbon dioxide each year by 2050 will be needed in order to meet global reduction targets.
Yesterday Summit Carbon Solutions received "a strategic investment" from John Deere to advance a major CCUS project (click here). The project will accelerate decarbonisation efforts across the agriculture industry by enabling the production of low carbon ethanol, resulting in the production of more sustainable food, feed, and fuel. Summit Carbon Solutions has partnered with 31 biorefineries across the Midwest United States to capture and permanently sequester their CO2 emissions.
Cory Reed, President, Agriculture & Turf Division of John Deere, said: "Carbon neutral ethanol would have a positive impact on the environment and bolster the long-term sustainability of the agriculture industry. The work Summit Carbon Solutions is doing will be critical in delivering on these goals."
McKinsey highlights a number of CCUS methods which can drive CO2 to net zero:
- Today’s leader: Enhanced oil recovery Among CO2 uses by industry, enhanced oil recovery leads the field. It accounts for around 90 percent of all CO2 usage today
- Cementing in CO2 for the ages New processes could lock up CO2 permanently in concrete, “storing” CO2 in buildings, sidewalks, or anywhere else concrete is used
- Carbon neutral fuel for jets Technically, CO2 could be used to create virtually any type of fuel. Through a chemical reaction, CO2 captured from industry can be combined with hydrogen to create synthetic gasoline, jet fuel, and diesel
- Capturing CO2 from ambient air - anywhere Direct air capture (DAC) could push CO2 emissions into negative territory in a big way
- The biomass-energy cycle: CO2 neutral or even negative Bioenergy with carbon capture and storage relies on nature to remove CO2 from the atmosphere for use elsewhere