How to keep sustainability at the forefront of your 2017 business strategy
To say 2016 was a milestone year for climate action might be an understatement. While history was made in the ratification of international climate agreements, momentum also took force in the business community. Increasingly, we saw companies across all sectors make significant commitments and take strides to lower their environmental impacts. Additionally, we saw the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) bring experts across all industries together to share knowledge, strategies and best practices.
With 2017 on the horizon, here are three ways business leaders can keep sustainability at the forefront of their plans, foster internal and external collaboration, and use sustainability to drive business value in new ways:
Take collective action
The common theme running through many of the 2016 climate action milestones is the need to take collective action. The SDGs, for example, were formed with the intent to spur involvement from all sectors (public, private and municipal), and today we’re seeing these actions come to fruition. Businesses are aligning corporate goals to broader SDGs, resulting in collaborative, cross-sector initiatives.
With SDGs as an international platform, businesses may question how they can move this effort forward at the local level. However, organizations probably have some of these efforts already in place and can simply enhance them by using the SDG framework to develop industry partnerships and begin new dialogues. A great starting point is aligning a corporate partnership with a non-profit organization that shares a common SDG. By working together, both parties can help realize their potential impact on these global goals.
Report progress on goals
The Paris Agreement put forth voluntary, country-level goals for emissions reductions and climate action. While these international deals bring awareness to environmental issues, they also push businesses, governments and non-profit organizations to band together to reach country-level targets. Reaching these targets requires measurement and can be viewed similar to how a company approaches its business goals. Comparable to corporate goals setting, countries will meet to discuss progress and report out on what’s working – and what’s not. The focus, however, will remain on measuring broader, global impacts, especially given that each country has a different type and level of contribution.
While companies are more aware of their environmental footprint, they still struggle with how to benchmark progress. Based on my experience, before you make changes to improve greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, a critical first step is to create a GHG reduction goal and have the support of your leadership, and all key stakeholders in this effort. Once this goal is in place, all the supporting business functions can be addressed, and you can report your contribution in meeting local, country and international goals.
Similar to the Paris Agreement, the HFC Amendment set forth target dates for achievements of reductions and progress – in this case for the phasing out of HFCs. Having these end dates in mind can help your organization set a plan into motion and give you an advantage if you are able to transition early in the game. For example, these deadlines can help speed up the development of much needed innovations and alternative methods for supporting a low-carbon economy. Internally, the placement of a deadline can set the timer for all actions needed to bring products to market. Having these end dates in mind can help your organization set aside enough time for an early and smooth transition, which may also help create operating efficiencies as well as lowering emissions.
Cumulative climate impact
Seeing the momentum of aggregate actions to curb the impacts of climate change is exciting and inspiring. With international goals in place, we’ll continue to see new climate initiatives resulting in larger, positive impacts from all types of organizations. The SDGs have already begun to spur collaborative action and this type of cumulative impact will continue to grow as the SDGs mature.
At Ingersoll Rand, our Climate Commitment is driving our actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and lower our carbon footprint and we’re using SDGs to help create partnerships to address these often complicated and critical global issues. With sustainability as a lens and driver for your 2017 business plans, you’ll position yourself as a sector leader, uncover new ways to deliver value, and most importantly unlock opportunities to take part in solving the impacts of climate change beyond your own organization.
All but two UK regions failing on school energy efficiency
Most schools are still "treading water" on implementing energy efficient technology, according to new analysis of Government data from eLight.
Yorkshire & the Humber and the North East are the only regions where schools have collectively reduced how much they spend on energy per pupil, cutting expenditure by 4.4% and 0.9% respectively. Every other region of England increased its average energy expenditure per pupil, with schools in Inner London doing so by as much as 23.5%.
According to The Carbon Trust, energy bills in UK schools amount to £543 million per year, with 50% of a school’s total electricity cost being lighting. If every school in the UK implemented any type of energy efficient technology, over £100 million could be saved each year.
Harvey Sinclair, CEO of eEnergy, eLight’s parent company, said the figures demonstrate an uncomfortable truth for the education sector – namely that most schools are still treading water on the implementation of energy efficient technology. Energy efficiency could make a huge difference to meeting net zero ambitions, but most schools are still lagging behind.
“The solutions exist, but they are not being deployed fast enough," he said. "For example, we’ve made great progress in upgrading schools to energy-efficient LED lighting, but with 80% of schools yet to make the switch, there’s an enormous opportunity to make a collective reduction in carbon footprint and save a lot of money on energy bills. Our model means the entire project is financed, doesn’t require any upfront expenditure, and repayments are more than covered by the energy savings made."
He said while it has worked with over 300 schools, most are still far too slow to commit. "We are urging them to act with greater urgency because climate change won’t wait, and the need for action gets more pressing every year. The education sector has an important part to play in that and pupils around the country expect their schools to do so – there is still a huge job to be done."
North Yorkshire County Council is benefiting from the Public Sector Decarbonisation Scheme, which has so far awarded nearly £1bn for energy efficiency and heat decarbonisation projects around the country, and Craven schools has reportedly made a successful £2m bid (click here).
The Department for Education has issued 13 tips for reducing energy and water use in schools.