In 2015, the UN identified the reduction of carbon-intense energy as one of the key measures needed for sustainable development. As it’s been nearly two years since these goals for sustainable development were agreed upon, we thought it would be a good time to reflect on the state of renewable energy in 2017 and what potential action needs to take place to achieve these long term goals.
How are they linked?
For many of us, having electricity is something that is taken for granted. What many don’t realise, is that having access to a reliable and stable energy source is actually the backbone of a strong and growing economy. A good energy system is what is needed to support all aspects of society, from large businesses all the way to agriculture and education. The problem is that at the moment, energy is by far the largest contributor to climate change, accounting for approximately 60% of global greenhouse gas emissions – and the global demand for electricity is only going up. The use of fossil fuels to produce electricity is not only unsustainable, but also causes significant damage on our environment and general health (look at the air pollution problem in Beijing).
What’s the state of renewable energy, and why is it so important?
By 2030, the UN wants “universal access to reliable and modern energy”, as well as to “increase substantially the share of renewable energy”. Today, approximately 1.2 billion people do not have access to electricity at all, whilst a further 2.8 billion a forced to rely on wood, charcoal, coal, etc for their energy. On top of that, less than 20% of the world’s energy is generated through renewable sources. There is good news, though. In 2016, renewable energy capacity increased by 10%, whilst the cost of investment actually decreased by 23% – this is certainly a good sign and reflects a global desire to push for renewable energies. There are some countries out there leading by example – 42% of Denmark’s energy comes from wind turbines (with a target of 100% by 2050), and China accounting for over half of the world’s solar power capacity last year.
Renewable energy has the greatest potential to boost the economies of the poorest nations, specifically those in Africa and Asia. Renewable technology is linked heavily with human development, as they can provide electricity, heat, mechanical energy at a far more efficient rate, and would significantly reduce the 400 million deaths caused by current energy solutions in these countries.
What’s on the horizon, and what else can we do?
In a world with so much political and economic volatility, it would be nice to have something to rely on, and there are so many things that we can do individually and as a society to push for a sustainably developing world. On a large scale, governments need to accelerate the transition to renewable energy – through both investment (in resources and research) and promoting best practice (ways for the population to be smarter with energy consumption). One such example could be a transition towards grid-scale energy storage, which would make renewable energy sources more reliable and save lots of money on energy overall. Most importantly, there needs to be more help and investment from the strongest nations to developing countries to improve technology, affordable energy and infrastructure as a whole.
Being sustainable should be an essential consideration and aim for any business and your supply chain should be no different. Although it is often identified as being one of the most difficult aspects of a business to make sustainable, it is one of the most important and holds more benefits than you may think. This post will explore why you should use them, what the benefits are and how you can go about ensuring your supply chain is sustainable.
Why use sustainable supply chains?
Calculating and controlling your carbon footprint should be of paramount importance to a business, the sustainability and conservation of the environment is a serious issue not to be ignored. One of the biggest impacts a business can have is to make its supply chain more sustainable. This can lead to a much wider impact than just locally within the business you’re in, but worldwide.
Effects of a sustainable supply chain
A sustainable supply chain can massively reduce the amount of wasted resources, increase efficiency and reduce the spending on resources consumed within the process of bringing a product to market. Creating a sustainable supply chain is not simply about buying into the concept of morality, but more the practicality of making better decisions to reduce costs, improve productivity, supporting growth and make longer-term decisions.
A common misconception associated with a sustainable supply chain – or simply having one closer to home – is increased costs. But despite upfront costs, investment in sustainability can significantly reduce expenses in the long term, help increase the perceived brand value by customers and help improve the lives and working conditions of those early on in the supply chain. So, the benefits of using a sustainable supply chain can surpass your expectations, reducing costs in the long term as opposed to increasing them.
Framework for a sustainable supply chain
A UN global initiative named United Nations Global Compact sets out 4 goals for businesses around the world to adopt social responsible policies. The 4 general areas sustainability issues fall into are; Human Rights, Fair Labour Prices, Environmental Progress/Protection and Anti-Corruption measures.
With considerations in all 4 of these areas you can ensure you are achieving the most sustainable supply chain possible. This again highlights the importance of considering a sustainable supply chain, that the benefits stretch far beyond simply just costs.
Sustainability is something all forward-thinking businesses should, and must consider. The benefits to use them allows for benefits to not only your bottom line but to society as a whole and also to individuals within the supply chain too. To talk about your business and its carbon footprint, get in touch with us today.
Being sustainable has positive impacts on society and the planet, reducing the amount of resources used and ensuring that the methods used in your production are sustainable, in the long run is crucial. However, many may be unaware to the other aspects associated with sustainability, the effects it can have on wider society – setting the standards for other companies to step up to. Closer to home, ensuring better working conditions for those in your supply chain can also help drastically increase the livelihood and living conditions of those effected by your business. Ultimately, actions like this do not go unnoticed; remember, sustainability isn’t just about being green and environmentally friendly. Consider the triple bottom line of people, planet, and profit.
Why is sustainability important? Simply stated; the future depends on it.
Sustainability is a key consideration for any business, whether they are small or large, not only to ensure you are environmentally conscious but by measuring these practises you have the potential to save both time and money.
- Carbon Footprint
- Energy Consumption
- Product Recycling Rate
- Saving Levels due to conservation and improvement efforts
- Supplier Environmental Sustainability Index
- Supply Chain Miles
- Water Footprint
- Waste Reduction Rate
- Waste Recycling Rate
For example, by measuring Supply Chain Miles, it provides a powerful indicator of how far your product is travelling before reaching its destination. By measuring this KPI it can become apparent that goods are travelling large distances before reaching their destination, incurring heavy costs along the way. This KPI then may make an influence on your choice of suppliers, not just to reduce carbon footprint along the way but possibly even costs too.
When it comes to comparing green energy, there are so many factors and variables that need to be taken in to account – it’s never as simple as ‘which is better?’ On a global scale, it’s relatively simple to look at the stats and compare, however, for a homeowner trying to decide between solar and wind it can cause quite a headache trying to weigh the two options. We’ve put together our thoughts on the two green energy sources and some helpful advice for choosing what’s best for your needs.
On a large scale
There is no doubt that wind is a far more efficient source of energy than solar. A wind turbines is cleaner than a solar panel (in terms of how much carbon dioxide is released) and can produce about forty-eight thousand times the amount of energy per kWh than a solar panel can. Last year, wind energy supplied 4% of the world’s electricity needs, whereas solar energy provided just 0.5%. The reason for this is that wind farms, which are built offshore, can generate huge amounts of power thanks to the strong and constant supply of wind. Solar panels, on the other hand, have a very limited time frame in which they can produce energy. Many countries are increasingly using wind energy as a major substitute for fossil fuels – the best example of this is Denmark, where 42% of their electricity was generated by wind turbines. Currently, there are no countries that can use solar energy on that kind of scale – most likely because of how new and how relatively little investment and R&D has been put into solar at this point. Having said that, China has become a huge driver of solar energy, after building the world’s largest solar farm (30sq km) and accounting for nearly half of the world’s solar capacity in 2016.
Whilst we have already established that wind power is easily the most efficient power source, it is certainly not the clear favourite for high population areas. For starters, they are generally seen as an eyesore, are likely to be pretty noisy and they are a disruption to nature and wildlife. Solar panels are far less conspicuous and require less space than wind turbines, and they don’t make any noise. It’s also generally assumed that a wind turbine will work well in windy areas, but that is never usually the case. For a wind turbine to work well, there needs to be a constant smooth flow of strong wind, which you don’t get in a residential area thanks to trees, houses, cars, etc. You will also find that wind turbines are much harder to install properly and require more maintenance as they suffer wear and tear. On the contrary, a solar panel will produce a more predictable output than a wind turbine, are fairly simple to install and require very little maintenance once installed. The main benefit of wind over solar is that turbines can be generating power 24 hours a day, however with the implementation of solar batteries that store unused energy, you can still use solar energy when the Sun is away. In a recent experiment conducted by Inland Power in Washington, USA, it was found that solar panels produced five times as much electricity as the wind turbines that they had set up.
So, whilst solar panels appear to be the most practical option for urban areas, solar continues to be less popular than wind energy as a renewable energy source. This is probably because it is a more established type of energy source and has received long term investment from large scale economies such as USA, Germany and China. On top of this, people perceive that the wind turbines will be as efficient in their residential areas as they are in offshore wind farms, which is not the case. Solar panels have therefore been playing catch up to wind turbines, but have seen significant growth in the last few years – both in residential areas and in terms of construction of solar farms.
One thing that all corporate board have in common is the shared interest for progress. It is well known that corporations are aiming to maximise the profits while minimising the expenses. Thus, if you want to approach a corporation board, you have to use an approach that they are open to. So, the best way to sell sustainability to corporations is to focus on the benefits of such agendas, rather than on the actions themselves. For example instead of saying that “we need to cut down on the amount of paper we use”, focus on the results: “by cutting down the amount of paper we use, we will save up to x% of the costs”. For maximum result don’t hold back on using other companies as an example. By seeing how their competitors are benefiting from such changes, the board will be more eager to accept it.
Some corporate boards are reluctant to adopt sustainable agendas because they do not fully understand what sustainability is and requires. So be prepared to educate. Before presenting your thought and suggestions, make sure you are confident on your knowledge surrounding this subject. You may need to spend time explaining what a sustainable approach is, before you have to convince them of the benefits.
Not all of your suggestions will be accepted, and those who made the list will most likely be subject to change. This should not discourage you but motivate you to make the most of them. Be open to negotiation and make sure you state your desires clearly.
As a part of a business you are naturally working alongside colleagues, some of which may share your ambitions for a greener lifestyle, and some who may need an incentive to do so. We’ve put together some ideas to give your employees incentives to go green, to reduce the footprint of your business and improve their lives!
Cycle to work schemes
The government’s cycle-to-work scheme is an easy start, as it allows your employees to pay for their bicycle over a year without any interest, and avoid paying any tax on their bicycle, accessories or clothing! This means that a £500 investment could save you £125 after paying your equipment off for 4 years. This is a great way to encourage your employees to be healthier, reduce their environmental footprint and have an incentive from their employer!
Incentives in the workplace
Incentives in the workplace can be drivers for employees to reduce their environmental footprint from a variety of activities in the workplace, such as:
- Reducing waste and placing a focus on recycling
- Energy saving throughout the day
- Measurable positive actions such as printing less, dimming screens and producing less waste.
- Improving the company’s supply chain to reduce water use and CO2 emissions.
While these incentives may appeal to some employees and may engage without any form of reward, the human brain is wired to want some form of recompense, which can be introduced in many ways.
Financial rewards can be introduced, linking environmental performance to the compensation every employee receives, effectively turning the company’s sustainability goals into a part of everyone’s job. This type of incentive was introduced by chip manufacturing giant Intel, who saw emissions go down by 35% on an absolute basis.
Another system to offer incentives can be via a points system, which allows employees to donate to a charity based on how many points they have accrued. While the effectiveness of a system like this may vary from one workplace to another, its success can have positive repercussions beyond your workplace by contributing to charities striving for environmental sustainability.
At work and at home
Though these incentives may only affect the time your employees spend at work, what is learnt and incentivised may make its way even further, into the homes, social circles and leisure times of your employees, making the impact of your green incentives go beyond the workplace. Not only will this contribute to the ethos of your company, but will drive employee engagement, job satisfaction and, of course, a reduction in people’s environmental footprint!
These green incentives will help your business achieve green goals, as well as giving your employees a goal to work towards as a team with group and individual incentives. The benefits of this will also go beyond the workplace, hopefully helping your employees lead greener and healthier lifestyles.
A popular buzzword in the tech world, the Internet of Things (IoT) refers to products beyond typical computers that connect to the internet and have “smart” capabilities. This includes connected lightbulbs, smart speakers and even fridges with intelligent inventory display. IoT products are becoming more popular, as they improve efficiency and convenience while providing added useful functionality. These new “smart” devices have a lot of benefits in sustainability, however. For example, smart lighting uses modern, efficient LED technology and can be used to automatically turn off lights when they are not needed, saving valuable energy. What’s more, smart devices typically have a lot of sensors which feedback large amounts of information. IoT devices can pass information about their lifecycles, enabling owners to understand exactly when components or hardware might need to be replaced, rather than doing so prematurely and increasing waste.
The idea of sustainable energy has been around for a long time, but only recently have we seen large-scale implementation of these ideas in business. Companies with dedicated sites can use sustainable energy sources like solar power, and store excess power in modern energy storage units which help to reduce the impact of energy spikes and troughs from these sources. The combination of these technologies can help to make a business more environmentally efficient and bring cost savings to a company’s energy portfolio. Looking to the future, Tesla Energy is introducing solar roof panels that can generate energy without looking out of place – something to watch out for over the next few years, as it presents an appealing sustainability opportunity for new buildings.
As manufacturing and transport processes become more augmented with the use of technology, it’s clear that there is now more information than ever about the supply chain of a company and its products. Many consumers are interested in this information as they look to support sustainable businesses and products in their lives. As a result of all this new technology, we see the possibility now for networked supply chain data analytics and insights, allowing us to make supply chains more transparent than ever – both to businesses and their consumers. This drive will encourage and allow both consumers and businesses to make more sustainable decisions.
The EU has ensured that the UK, along with the rest of Europe, has cleaner environments, greater protection for wildlife and ambitious greenhouse gas targets. However, now that the UK has voted to leave the European Union, charities such as the WWF, RSPB and Wildlife Trusts are asking many questions – many of which are hard to answer, especially around energy targets, wildlife conservation, recycling, clean air policy and agriculture.
Green energy targets
Under the EU Renewable Energy Directive, the UK is required to generate 30% of its electricity and 12% of its heating energy from renewable sources, as well as 10% of energy in the transport sector to come from renewable sources. So far, this is the main reason the government backed the rapid growth of wind and solar farms, which drove UK electricity from renewable sources to 19% in 2014. While Brexit may not put an end to that, as the UK already has its own unilateral Climate Change Act, the future of the environment in the UK is conditional on future government policies.
Just like other EU members, the UK is expected to meet the target of recycling 50% of its household waste by 2020, and 65% by 2030. In Wales and Scotland any changes to legislation after leaving the EU would have little effect as the countries have already set themselves more challenging targets, yet it England exiting the EU could give politicians flexibility to set more lax targets. In a world where resources are under ever-increasing pressure, this flexibility could have harmful environmental effects.
Clean air has recently been at the forefront of the media, with several areas of the UK – and London in particular – facing illegal levels of noxious gases, particularly nitrogen dioxide. EU laws have set the benchmark against which the public can put pressure on the government to curb emissions, and Brexit could pave the way for the UK to repeal laws around clean air. This would be an issue of great concern for the UK public, and would pave the way to what many consider to be a ‘public health crisis’.
The EU’s cornerstone, the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), rewards farmers for particular types of land use and tending to wild grassland, amongst other benefits such as subsidies. In 2015 UK farmers received around £2.4Bn in direct payments from the CAP scheme, accounting for a staggering 55% of the total income in the farming sector. What happens to the farming sector once the UK officially leaves the EU is mostly unknown, and is something farmers have repeatedly been asking about.
Another aspect affecting agriculture is the use of pesticides – especially neonicotinoids, which have been at the forefront of agricultural media coverage over the past years. The future of these bee-harming pesticides remains is in the hands of future UK policy regarding them, and could be undermined by the UK leaving the EU.
Wildlife conservation is at the mercy of most other environmental issues, heavily affected by agricultural policy, urban expansion and air quality. Many of the laws that protect the UK’s wildlife and environment are tied to the UK’s EU membership, and could be affected if the UK leaves the EU, again depending on future potential policy changes. However, this is something the public can campaign for, especially with the help of public figures such as David Attenborough.
As with many Brexit-related issues, be it the economy, social policy, politics or the environment, uncertainty is the overarching theme, we are more likely to see the number of environmental policies dwindling. Emissions targets may change, recycling policies may become laxer and wildlife conservation may continue to suffer.