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  • More than 50% of respondents work for companies that have made public commitments to energy, carbon and waste reduction, and are turning words into action
  • Access to capital is a misleading barrier; getting funds for projects and programmes comes down to demonstrated return on investment and executive leadership
  • Businesses have plenty of data, but source, quality and sharing issues continue to stunt the value of the information 

Global energy solutions provider, Schneider Electric, released its 2019 Corporate Energy & Sustainability Progress Report, a look at the global trends, barriers and opportunities impacting enterprise energy and carbon-management programmes. Although corporate teams responsible for these efforts still struggle with funding and data, the report reveals that a majority of large companies have set public-facing sustainability targets — goals that are driving the adoption of innovative strategies and technologies, and shifting perceptions of the value of conservation and climate action.

Stepping up, leaning in

The report is based on a survey, completed by GreenBiz Research, of more than 300 global professionals responsible for energy and sustainability at businesses with more than $100 million in annual revenue.

More corporations see benefit in making a public commitment to energy, carbon and waste reduction, and are instilling change in their organisations, with or without government or regulatory mandates. Nearly 60% of the organisations surveyed have goals they’ve shared with customers, investors and other stakeholders. An additional 9% are considering commitments. Related findings include:  

  • Twenty-eight percent of corporations are specific and ambitious in their goals, joining established initiatives such as RE100, science-based targets and zero waste to landfill.
  • Global organisations are leading the change; companies that operate in multiple geographies are nearly 10% more likely to make a public commitment than those in one region.
  • Europe-based businesses, whether they operate globally or locally, set public goals more often than their North American peers — 65% versus 58%.
  • Companies that have made a public commitment see environmental concerns (59%) as the primary driver, above financial considerations (52%).
  • Companies that have made a public commitment are more likely to implement advanced technology such as on- and offsite renewables, battery storage and electric vehicles. 

“Now more than ever, business leaders realise they need to take the reins and dictate their role in an evolving energy landscape and environment,” said Jean-Pascal Tricoire, chairman and CEO of Schneider Electric. “Being a passive consumer is a competitive and operational disadvantage. So regardless of regulation or mandates, companies are aggressively adopting strategies to cut emissions, increase efficiency, and put energy to work for the planet and their bottom line.”

New opportunities, new barriers

The research also reveals corporations are looking beyond traditional conservation measures. Energy efficiency initiatives still dominate, but the move toward decarbonisation and decentralisation continues to spur interest and investment in renewable energy. Fifty-two percent of companies have onsite renewables, 40% have contracted for offsite renewables and 34% are using energy attribute certificates, such as renewable energy credits or guarantees of origin, to address the carbon footprint of the electricity they buy and consume (a.k.a. scope 2 emissions).

For businesses planning to take these and additional steps, funding has been a perennial obstacle. However, lack of capital may not be as significant a roadblock as many perceive.

Respondents who disagreed that their department has “been successful in securing budget for energy and/or sustainability initiatives” pointed to limited capital as the reason 57% of the time. However, survey takers who agreed with that statement report that demonstrated return on investment (ROI) and executive leadership are what contribute most to success. Only 10% identified available capital as the primary reason programmes are approved and funded.  

Additionally, lack of data is no longer seen as a challenge. But unreliable and incomplete data, likely attributed to the source of the information, and ineffective sharing limit ROI. The research shows:

  • Companies collect data from almost three different sources on average.
  • Utility bills are the most common, followed by energy management systems; however, 52% of organisations still use spreadsheets and only 18% gather data from IoT devices.
  • The most common barriers to using data effectively are unreliable or incomplete data at 48%, insufficient tools at 41%, and lack of internal expertise at 40%.
  • Only 22% of companies share all energy and sustainability data across departments — 58% share some data and 21% don’t share data at all.
  • Ninety percent of businesses that share data between all departments agree they're able to get funding; and they are more likely to use a diverse portfolio of technologies.

“Information sharing and collaboration are critical to the success of our energy management and sustainability efforts,” said Bill Hoenigmann, global category manager for medical technology leader BD, one of the survey respondents. “We have a cross-functional team of operations, procurement and sustainability professionals. And we have joint goals and responsibilities for delivering energy savings and tracking carbon-reduction improvement.”

This article has been available to ESI Africa by Schneider Electric.