Be an Energy Saver

CEEA’s Efficiency Matters Blog

Forget CSR when it comes to green lighting energy efficiency initiatives

Cost is what motivates businesses, not improving the environment

While CSR can be very buzz-worthy in our politically-correct environment, corporate social responsibility can often be toothless when it comes to turning talk into action for businesses. This is something I’ve been thinking about for a while and it really jumped out at me at our Efficiency Matters Forum two weeks ago. The importance of identifying the right champions was one of the key findings from our 2014 survey results. And as The Gandalf Group’s David Herle pointed out in his wrap-up the energy efficiency champion is not the person responsible for CSR, it’s the person in charge of costs – the CFO.

Business motivation: Cost reduction not carbon reduction

Survey 2014

Cost saving was seen by 69 per cent of businesses to be the greatest benefit for implementing energy efficiency measures.

The reason can be found in our results from CEEA Survey 2014: Canadian Business Attitudes on Energy Efficiency. We found the primary driver for the business sector is saving money, not improving climate change. Cost saving was seen by 69 per cent to be the greatest benefit if they did all their company could to  incorporate energy efficiency measures, but only 24 per cent said it would be the environment and even fewer, 5 per cent, said the key benefit would be good corporate citizenship.

This cost consciousness was consistent given that initial cost was cited by 41 per cent as the biggest reason for not doing more to boost their organization’s energy efficiency and only 27 per cent believe they are doing all they can to save energy.

Why don’t all businesses understand the benefits of energy efficiency?

The Gandalf Group’s Alex Swann led us through all the data and posed a great question — is cost a barrier for companies or do they need to know more when it comes to engaging in energy efficiency practices? As the survey pointed out less than half of the companies are setting targets for reductions in energy consumption, and only 5 per cent have conducted energy efficiency audits, with the exception of the public sector.

The good news is that 79 per cent have made up-front investments and it’s not just turning down the lights — or the low-hanging fruit as we like to say. Of that 42 per cent invested in lighting and 28 per cent improved heating and air. But what really grabbed our attention was that only 13 per cent of companies are very familiar with programs offered by utilities and governments to help with energy efficiency and conservation. And only 38 per cent have taken advantage of government and utility incentive programs.

Call to action: Sell energy efficiency’s ROI

We need to drive communications to attract the CFO, the person who holds the purse strings. We’ve all heard about dead money – companies are sitting on cash. We need to sell them the concept that investing some of that money in energy efficiency programs will give them a return on their investment and make them more competitive. Our panel at the forum had a bit of a wake-up call when they heard the stats on program awareness. Darren McIlwraith from Enbridge admitted they needed to do a better job on awareness and education, to demonstrate the value. Also the payback was seen as needing to be two to three years for SMEs in up-front costs. Andrew Pride of OPA also made that point – while 52 per cent of businesses are aware of their SaveOnEnergy program, there are a lot that aren’t. And as Roger Johnson from TD mentioned success of the Race to Reduce corporate program can be chalked up to landlords and tenants having a common goal, it wasn’t necessarily about communication.

Videos of NRCan’s Carol Buckley, The Gandalf Group presentation and the panel discussion can all be found here.

We’ll take a look at what the building sector’s thoughts were on energy efficiency in a later blog and the call for more stringent building codes and labeling.

Posted May 21, 2014

Elizabeth McDonald  is the president of CEEA.