Managing and Addressing a Company's 'Energy Imperative'

Managing and Addressing a Company's 'Energy Imperative'

We are facing an "energy imperative," says Michel Gelobter, the Chief Green Officer of Hara. Quoting President Obama, he said the future of our country is based on energy economy, reducing energy use, and increasing energy efficiency.

During a free webcast convened by GreenBiz.com and hosted by senior writer Marc Gunther, Gelobter and Matthew Arnold, a principal at PricewaterhouseCoopers, discussed how software can help companies manage the next big imperative of business operations: Resource use.

Gelobter said the business world is moving from an era where monitoring pollution at the parts-per-million level is no longer the primary issue, but that measuring emissions at the millions of tons will be the primary focus. Waste, water, energy -- all are macro resources that companies have begun to focus on.

A proper accounting of these macro resources requires tools that work at a different scale than those used to measure emissions in the past. And that's where Hara's software comes in.

There are a number of complexities involved in measuring macro resource use across a company or across a city, something that grocery chain Safeway has discovered.

Gelobter said that prior to working with Hara, Safeway didn't have a simple platform to make measuring and management cheap. But the partnership with Hara gave Safeway a centralized platform to collect monitor and manage energy costs and emissions, as well as a consolidated, and automated, view of companywide utility spending.

"We have a long history of reducing our energy costs through innovative supply arrangements and implementation of energy efficiency projects," Joe Pettus, Senior Vice President of Fuel and Energy at Safeway, writes in a testimonial. "We believe that by implementing the right tools, we will be well positioned to make significant progress towards our goals. Hara adds value by giving us not only reliable insight into the size and makeup of our energy usage and carbon footprint, but also a solid roadmap for achieving further cost reductions and better carbon management."

And the cost reductions can be significant: The city of Palo Alto, Calif., put Hara's software to work citywide, and found that not only did it save $550,000 in energy and human resources in the first year, but it also cut electricity use by 8 percent, natural gas by 25 percent and solid waste by 22 percent. All told, that gave the city a 12 percent cut in its greenhouse gas emissions -- almost two and a half times its target of 5 percent reduction.

Matthew Arnold of PricewaterhouseCoopers told audience members that a number of factors are driving demand for and benefits of carbon- and resource-management tools like Hara.

There are policy pressures, stakeholder pressures, resource constraints and technological improvements that are all making an in-depth awareness of the impacts of products and operations a mission-critical issue for businesses.

The regulatory pressures in the U.S. are inconsistent, of course, with some states and regions moving forward on climate issues while others lagging behind, but market pressures are providing a kind of certainty even when governments are not.

Arnold offered Walmart as an example; the company's supplier scorecard initiative is going to have a cascade effect on a huge swath of companies operating in the U.S. and around the world, as companies that supply the retail giant must begin mapping their supply chain and its impacts.

And a trend in the Carbon Disclosure Project's annual survey of companies finds that that 35 percent of companies are linking compensation incentives to achieving climate change-related goals.

But beyond the sticks that companies are using to drive resource management, Arnold noted a significant carrot as well: Deeper knowledge of your products can lead to greater efficiency and bigger margins.

"Companies [that are managing their resource use] are evaluating the sustainability attributes of their products, and finding out where they're strong and working to make them stronger," Arnold said.

The free webcast, "From Reporting to Reduction: The Resource Optimization Imperative," has been archived at ON24.com until June 2011. To listen to the webcast for free, register at ON24.com.