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What is business’ role in tackling environmental challenges?

The UK has some of the most ambitious carbon reduction targets in the world, and every business in the country must play its part in helping to tackle the huge challenges climate change presents.

As the UK’s leading energy supplier, we have a responsibility to manage our environmental impact and we work hard not only to reduce our internal carbon footprint, but the carbon emissions of our customers too. And with £9.4 billion of goods and services purchased from over 6,000 UK businesses in Britain in 2012 – we also endeavour to embed sustainability through the operations of our suppliers.

The energy industry is at the fore of some of the biggest issues faced by society today — affordability and climate change.

The energy industry is at the fore of some of the biggest issues faced by society today — affordability and climate change. However, the biggest single source of carbon emissions related to our business is the use of energy in our customers’ homes and businesses. It is solutions that meet these shared challenges, where the customer, environment and the business benefit that will help us become a more sustainable company.

To illustrate, we calculate that since 2010, the energy efficiency measures we have installed for customers, such as insulation, new efficient boilers, solar and smart meters have saved over 9.8m tonnes of CO2e – equivalent to taking 668,000 cars off the road.

Smart meters have the power to change people’s habits.

We have installed over a million smart meters in UK homes and businesses.

Smart meters have the power to change people’s habits – a recent experiment showed that an average saving of up to £66 (6%) a year could be achieved from energy bills by giving customers the information they need to better manage their energy consumption.

Similarly the efficient use of resources in our operations such as energy, water and waste not only helps reduce our carbon emissions and environmental impacts but reduces our costs as well. And by working with communities to closely manage environmental impacts where we work, we can become the operator of choice, making us distinct from our competitors.

What more can businesses do?
To measure an issue is to shine a light on it, only then can action be stimulated.

Businesses must seek to fully understand their environmental impacts and not only within their own operations but also the impact of their suppliers and their customers. Measurement and transparency in reporting of these impacts is a prerequisite of a business becoming more sustainable and tackling issues such as climate change. To measure an issue is to shine a light on it, and only then can action be stimulated to address it and reduce carbon emissions.

In 2014, out of nearly 2,000 companies, we were one of only 24 (and one of only 11 FTSE 350) companies to feature in both The CDP’s Indexes for Climate Performance and Disclosure Leadership.

This gap must be addressed – it is by giving investors the information they need to make informed decisions as to the sustainability of a company that will ensure we have capital markets that reward those companies that are doing the right thing.

However, there is positive evidence that a growing number of businesses are thinking about the fundamental questions of how much energy they use, and where that energy comes from as discussed in our next piece from Martin Orrill, Head of Energy Technology and Innovation at British Gas Business.

CS_Centrica - Jim_Rushen_800x400Jim Rushen is Group Head of Environment at Centrica and has oversight of all environmental matters for the group.

Jim is responsible for developing Centrica’s environmental strategy, policy and standards, working with our businesses to ensure we understand and manage our environmental impacts through innovation, technology and cultural change, as well as making sure we are open and transparent about our performance through reporting. Prior to joining Centrica, Jim worked for GDF-Suez.

Read Part 2 of this article: How can business make more sustainable energy choices? Martin Orrill, Head of Energy Technology and Innovation, British Gas Business, argues that more companies are waking up to the business benefits of going green.


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