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Pew Center report on best practices for energy efficiency

Pew Center report on best practices for energy efficiency

companies be the former when it comes to saving energy, the Pew Center on Global Climate Change recently released a report on the best business practices for energy efficiency.

The report “From Shop Floor to Top Floor: Best Business Practices in Energy gives guidelines to corporations and businesses that want to get serious about saving kilowatts and reducing their carbon impact.

The details are on the Pew Center’s energy efficiency portal, which includes the Seven Habits of Highly Efficient Companies. Those are:

  1. Efficiency is a core strategy, not just another sustainability “box” to check.
  2. Leadership and organizational support is real and sustained, all the way to the CEO.
  3. The company has ambitious energy savings goals or targets, and a plan to meet them.
  4. The plan has a “robust tracking and performance measurement system” that allows transparency and adjustments to problem areas.
  5. The company devotes considerable resources into its efficiency program
  6. The energy efficiency plan shows demonstrable results.
  7. The company communicates that energy efficiency is part of its “story”.

From “Shop Floor to Top Floor” notes that companies with a serious energy plan can save millions of tons of greenhouse gas emissions, not to mention millions of dollars. And it’s not just about the HVAC system at corporate headquarters, its about sourcing raw and manufactured materials, how supply chains are managed, packaging and distribution and mitigating environmental impacts.

The report, compiled over two years, points to six case studies to highlight and explain the best practices it has identified. The companies featured in the study were Dow Chemical, United Technologies Corporation, IBM, Toyota Motor Engineering & Manufacturing, PepsiCo and Best Buy.

The focus on major multi-national corporations was not accidental. Dow Chemical’s energy purchases are “roughly equal to Australia’s entire energy bill,” the authors note, explaining that everything about Dow’s energy-intensive business is done on a large scale.

Dow’s ability to cut its energy consumption by 22 percent per pound of product (from 1995 to 2005), therefore, has significant impact on global carbon emissions, according to the report.

The report on PepsiCo illuminates how water also factors into the energy equation. It is needed not only for the product, but to irrigate the crops involved and propel the energy used in the bottling factories.

The PepsiCo profile also highlights how these large global stakeholders have business, as well as altruistic, reasons to act responsibly. When the Georgia drought occurred two years ago, bringing water restrictions, a PepsiCo Gatorade plant had to find efficiencies to remain in operation. The Atlanta plant changed some practices to reduce water use in the conveyor lines and in the bottle washing process. The new process helped keep the plant operating during the drought, and saved on natural resources, a win-win.

The company now uses the lessons learned in Georgia for company-wide teaching, the report noted. It praised PepsiCo for having formed its first green teams in the 1990s, which evolved into the Frito Lay Energy Department and became a model for the entire company.

At Frito Lay, innovation in energy conservation has led to some pleasant surprises, such as learning that changing a damper setting on chip ovens to recapture lost heat also helped cook the chips better.

The Pew report looked at “leading edge” energy business practices. Its scope did not extend to assessing the sustainability or overall environmental impacts of the products produced by these multi-national firms.

It noted, for instance, that Dow’s Styrofoam insulation can help houses save energy, but did not examine the larger impact of Styrofoam, which has been criticized for being non-biodegradable. With regard to Pepsico, the Pew report did not look at the packaging issues around single-serve drinks, or question the composition of these products, which have been linked to the U.S. obesity problem.

The project was funded by a three year, $1.4 million grant from Toyota. Its author is William R. Prindle, vice president of the consulting firm ICF International. For more about the report, see the website.