Although behind other markets, the U.S. is making major strides to catch up in recognition to the challenge global warming presents to businesses, with the private sector leading the charge to cut costs by reducing energy waste.
I was recently listening to a national radio station, where the interviewee was pushing the point that global warming doesn’t exist, that polar bear numbers are increasing and that government allocation of funds to environmental issues (about $2.5bn PA) is a total waste of money. It astounds me at how time and time again, we see the largest global risk we have collectively ever faced, being underplayed.
I personally prefer the term “Climate Change” which more accurately represents the array of side effects from man made changes to our planet. Consider in addition to excessive carbon release, other offences including deforestation (in particular of our rainforests which has the potential to alter global rain patterns), and waste disposal (the average American throws away approx. 185lbs of plastic a year), and you will realize that these are problematic facts not fiction.
For a long time, many of us have felt powerless in the face of the climate change debate. We think the impact towards any energy savings we make, even as a business entity, will be insignificant. We mentally rely on governments to legislate us into change that we hope will just magically happen. It’s something that doesn’t seem real…sure, we see a few news stories about climate change, but it’s all so far from home, and somebody else’s problem….
As a Brit who saw the start of huge momentum in the energy reduction industry in the UK around the Millennium, I arrived in the US last decade, to find things were significantly behind Europe on the energy front (infrastructure, legislation, knowledge, resourcing).
Now in 2015 I’m excited to finally see huge change leadership happening in the US. Energy spend is typically in the top two costs to a company’s bottom line (the other cost being corporate salaries). Even with energy in the US being pretty affordable, this is an area for businesses to tighten their expenditures. And in the era of cost cutting, decision makers are starting to see the value in their changes.
Companies are now starting to implement housekeeping policies to increase employee awareness for behavioural sustainability (turn it off, think before you print). Infrastructure improvements are being made (installation of energy efficient lighting and sensor based equipment, servicing HVAC equipment). And energy policies are being created (installation of sub-metering, building automation systems, and energy management and analysis systems).
We are now seeing this result in energy reduction, and ultimately savings to the bottom line. This combined with legislation, and corporate social responsibility, is driving change.
And there are solid examples of progress. In 2013 $30billion was saved on utility bills and GHG emissions across both residential and commercial sectors in the US. In addition the same year, Greenhouse Gas emissions were recorded as reduced by 9% compared with 2005 levels.
Individually each action has a cumulative effect and there are many things that we as individuals, and as business leaders can be doing.