2015 – What’s ahead for UK Business?

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According to reports just in, the global environment industry is down. Less money is available for what some CEO’s still see as grudge expenditure, and many U.S. agencies are seeking soft budget cuts. The UK is proving to be an exception following the announcement of ESOS, and EcoVaro does not expect the May elections will have much impact in this regard.

ESOS calls for mandatory energy assessments in companies above a certain size, and requires specific proposals to cut consumption. There is no indication of compulsory follow-through, although it is clear the Environment Agency hopes rising electricity prices and the prospect of monetary savings will do the trick.

It is an open question whether the Tory government would have interfered with commerce to this extent, were it not for the European directive that enforced it. The overall goal is to cut EU energy consumption across the board by 20% by 2020. Energy consultants are rubbing their hands in glee. EcoVaro’s response is to provide cloud-based software.

We will be interested to see how many UK companies make the first deadline of 5 December 2015, in the light of reports that half the 9,000 firms affected appear not to even know that ESOS exists. Some will no doubt pay last-minute lip service. Those with an eye on their own sustainability will grasp the Energy Saving Opportunity Scheme with both hands.

The initial ESOS deadline was always going to be a challenge. Some big corporates have stolen a march albeit egged on by green stakeholders. The next challenge comes in June 2015 with the implementation of the European Union’s ‘Waste Catalogue’ of hazardous substances, and rules for their disposal. We hope a new ISO 14001 will arrive soon and pull the loose threads together.

The introduction of carbon trading late this year brings further opportunities to increase profits through wise stewardship. Auditable metrics are essential for this.

EcoVaro can assist by processing your raw data. We provide this service on a virtual cloud. In return, you can get advice on optimising the quality of your graphs for presentations. 

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When Carrefour Pushed the Right Buttons

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Retail giant Carrefour based in Boulogne Billancourt, France is big business in anybody’s numbers. Europe’s #1 retailer opened its first store in 1958 near a crossroads (Carrefour means ‘crossroad’ in French) and has largely not looked back since then. The slogan for the hypermarket chain with more than 1,500 outlets and close to a half million employees is ‘choice and quality for everyone’. Our story begins when Carrefour decided these things belong at home too.

The company implemented a worldwide universal responsibility program firmly anchored on a tripod of goals for environmental, economic and social progress. Its first step was to appoint a five-person project team tasked with liaising with program delegates in all thirty countries in which it operates, and who had responsibility for driving these goals.

The team’s job was to make sure that policies, standards, procedures and key performance areas were common visions throughout Carrefour. By contrast, the local managers’ were tasked with aligning these specifics to local conditions in terms of environmental, political and social issues. The project team checked the fit quarterly via video conferences.

The Triple Bottom Line Goals were woven through with Carrefour’s Seven Core Values, namely Freedom, Responsibility, Sharing, Respect, Integrity, Solidarity and Progress. Constant contact was maintained with staff and other stakeholders through ‘awareness training’ seminars and other dialogues. As the program took hold and flourished, it became evident that the retail giant needed help with managing the constant stream of metrics flowing in.

After reviewing options, Carrefour appointed a software provider to monitor progress against its primary focuses on energy, water, waste, refrigeration, paper, disposable checkout bags, hygiene & quality, management gender parity, disabled people and logistics. This enabled it to track progress online against past performance, and produce meaningful reports.

The Environmental Manager in the Corporate Sustainability Department waxed lyrical when he said, “We believe that our sustainability strategy and software solution have powerfully improved collaboration, innovation, and overall performance”. He went on to describe how it was helping drive cost down and profitability up, while simultaneously growing brand.

Non-conformance costs can be high and run counter to the imperative to make a profit – while simultaneously ensuring a better world for our children’s children. In Carrefour’s case, having a consultant to measure progress was the key that unblocked the administrative bottleneck. Irish company Ecovaro does this for companies around the world. Click here. Discover what we will do for you.

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2015 ESOS Guidelines Chapter 2 – Deadlines and Status Changes

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The ESOS process is deadline driven and meeting key dates is a non-negotiable. The penalties for not complying / providing false or misleading information are £50,000 each. Simply not maintaining adequate records could cost you £5,000. The carrot on the end of the stick is the financial benefits you stand to gain.

Qualifying for inclusion under the ESOS umbrella depends on the status of your company in terms of employee numbers, turnover and balance sheet on 31 December 2014. Regardless of whether you meet the 2014 threshold or not, you must reconsider your situation on 31 December 2018, 2022 and 2026.

Compliance PeriodQualification Date Compliance Period Compliance Date
131 December 2014From 17 July 2014* to 5 December 20155 December 2015
231 December 2018From 6 December 2015 to 5 December 20195 December 2019
331 December 2022From 6 December 2019 to 5 December 20235 December 2023
431 December 2026From 6 December 2023 to 5 December 20275 December 2027

Notes:

1. The first compliance period begins on the date the regulations became effective

2. Energy audits from 6 December 2011 onward may go towards the first compliance report

Changes in Organisation Status

If your organisation status changes after a qualification date when you met compliance thresholds, you are still bound to complete your ESOS assessment for that compliance period. This is regardless of any change in size or structure. Your qualification status then remains in force until the next qualification date when you must reconsider it.

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ESOS Guide for UK Manufacturers Available

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The Engineering Employers’ Federation (EEF) is the UK’s largest sectoral structure. Its goal is to promote the interests of manufacturing, engineering and technology-based businesses in order to enhance their competitiveness.

EEF has positioned itself in London and Brussels in order to be in a position to lobby at EU and Westminster level. Part of its role is helping its members adapt to change and capitalise on it. When it discovered that a third of UK manufacturers must comply with ESOS (and 49% had not even heard of it) EEF decided it was time to publish a handbook for its members.

According to EEF’s head of climate and environment policy Gareth Stace, ‘For the many manufacturers that have already taken significant steps to improve energy efficiency, ESOS can be viewed as a ‘stock taking exercise’, ensuring that momentum is maintained and new measures are highlighted and taken when possible’.

He goes on to add that others that have not begun the process should view it as an ‘impetus’ to go head down and find the most cost-effective ways to slash energy costs. ecoVaro adds that they would also have the opportunity to reduce carbon emissions almost as a by-product.

Firms with more than 250 employees, over £50 million revenue or both must comply with ESOS across all UK sectors. In simplest terms, they must have conducted an energy audit by 5th December 2015, and logged their energy saving plan with the Environmental Agency that is Britain’s sustainability watchdog.

The Department of Energy & Climate Change (DEEC) that oversees it believes that large UK businesses are wasting £2.8 billion a year on electricity they do not need. Clearly it makes sense to focus on larger targets; however EcoVaro believes those halfway to the threshold should voluntarily comply if cutting their energy bills by 25% sounds appealing.

We are able to assist with interpreting their energy audits. These are often a matter of installing sub-meters at distribution points, and reading these for a few representative months to establish a trend. Meters are inexpensive compared to electricity costs, and maintenance teams can install them during maintenance shutdowns.

Ecovaro helps these firms process the data into manageable summaries using cloud-based technology. This is on a pay-when-used basis, and hence considerably cheaper than acquiring the software, or appointing a consultant.

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How Bouygues manages an Empire-Sized Footprint

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Bouygues is into telecoms / media, and building and road construction. It also knows it has to watch its energy footprint closely. Owning 47% of energy giant Alstom keeps it constantly in the media spotlight. Shall we find out more about its facility management policies?

The journal Premises and Facilities Management interviewed MD Martin Bouygues on his personal opinions concerning managing energy consumption in facilities. He began by commenting that this was hardly a subject for the C-Suite in years gone by. Low-level clerks simply paid the bills following which the actual amounts were lost in the general expenses account. That of course has changed.

Early pressure came from soaring energy bills, which were pursued by a whole host of electricity-saving gadgets. However, it was only after the carbon crisis caught business by surprise that the link was forged to aerial pollution, and the social responsibilities of big business to help with the solution. The duty to have an energy strategy became an obligation eagerly policed by organisations such as Greenpeace.

Unsurprisingly, Martin Bouygues’ advice begins with keeping energy consumption and its carbon footprint as high up on the agenda as health and safety. “It needs bravery and a lot of hard work to get it there,” he says, “so perseverance is the key”. 

The company has developed proprietary software that enables it to pull data from remote sensors in more than 80 countries every fifteen minutes. A single large building can contribute 50 million data items annually making data big business in the system. Every building has an allocated energy performance contract against which results are reported monthly, as a basis for reviewing progress.

The system is intelligent and able to incorporate low-occupancy periods such as weekends and public holidays. What is measured gets managed. We all know that, but how many of us apply the principle to our energy bills. With assistance from ecoVaro, the possible becomes real.

We offer a similar service to the Bouygues model with one notable exception. You don’t buy the software and you only pay when you use it. Our systems are simply designed for busy financial managers.

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2015 ESOS Guidelines Chapter 6 – Role of Lead Assessor

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The primary role of the lead assessor is to make sure the enterprise’s assessment meets ESOS requirements. Their contribution is mandatory, with the only exception being where 100% of energy consumption received attention in an ISO 50001 that forms the basis of the ESOS report.

How to Find a Lead Assessor

An enterprise subject to ESOS must negotiate with a lead assessor with the necessary specialisms from one of the panels approved by the UK government. This can be a person within the organisation or an third party. If independent, then only one director of the enterprise need countersign the assessment report. If an employee, then two signatures are necessary. Before reaching a decision, consider

  • Whether the person has auditing experience in the sector
  • Whether they are familiar with the technology and the processes
  • Whether they have experience of auditing against a standard

The choice rests on the enterprise itself. The lead assessor performs the appointed role.

The Lead Assessor’s Role

The Lead Assessor’s main job is reviewing an ESOS assessment prepared by others against the standard, and deciding whether it meets the requirements. They may also contribute towards it. Typically their role includes:

  • Checking the calculation for total energy consumption across the entire enterprise
  • Reviewing the process whereby the 90% areas of significant consumption were identified
  • Confirming that certifications are in place for all alternate routes to compliance chosen
  • Checking that the audit reports meet the minimum criteria laid down by the ESOS system

Note: A lead assessor may partly prepare the assessment themselves, or simply verify that others did it correctly.

In the former instance a lead assessor might

  • Determine energy use profiles
  • Identify savings opportunities
  • Calculate savings measures
  • Present audit findings
  • Determine future methodology
  • Define sampling methods
  • Develop audit timetables
  • Establish site visit programs
  • Assemble ESOS information pack

Core Enterprise Responsibilities

The enterprise cannot absolve itself from responsibility for good governance. Accordingly, it remains liable for

  • Ensuring compliance with ESOS requirements
  • Selecting and appointing the lead assessor
  • Drawing attention to previous audit work
  • Agreeing with what the lead assessor does
  • Requesting directors to sign the assessment

The Environment Agency does not provide assessment templates as it believes this reduces the administrative burden on the enterprises it serves.

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2015 ESOS Guidelines Chapter 1 – Who Qualifies

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The base criteria are any UK undertaking that employs more than 250 people and/or has a turnover in excess of €50 million and/or has a balance sheet total greater than €43 million. There is little point in attempting to separate off high polluting areas. If one corporate group qualifies for ESOS, then all the others are obligated to take part too. The sterling equivalents of £38,937,777 and £33,486,489 were set on 31 December 2014 and apply to the first compliance period.

Representatives of Overseas Entities

UK registered branches of foreign entities are treated as if fully UK owned. They also have to sign up if any overseas corporate element meets the threshold no matter where in the world. The deciding factor is common ownership throughout the ESOS system. ecoVaro appreciates this. We have seen European companies dumping pollution in under-regulated countries for far too long.

Generic Undertakings that Could Comply

The common factor is energy consumption and the organisation’s type of work is irrelevant. The Environmental Agency has provided the following generic checklist of undertakings that could qualify:

Limited CompaniesPublic CompaniesTrusts
PartnershipsPrivate Equity CompaniesLimited Liability Partnerships
Unincorporated AssociationsNot-for-Profit BodiesUniversities (Per Funding)

Organisations Close to Thresholds

Organisations that come close to, but do not quite meet the qualification threshold should cast their minds back to previous accounting periods, because ESOS considers current and previous years. The exact wording in the regulations states:

“Where, in any accounting period, an undertaking is a large undertaking (or a small or medium undertaking, as the case may be), it retains that status until it falls within the definition of a small or medium undertaking (or a large undertaking, as the case may be) for two consecutive accounting periods.”

Considering the £50,000 penalty for not completing an assessment or making a false or misleading statement, it makes good sense for close misses to comply.

Joint Ventures and Participative Undertakings

If one element of a UK group qualifies for ESOS, then the others must follow suit with the highest one carrying responsibility. Franchisees are independent undertakings although they may collectively agree to participate. If trusts receive energy from a third party that must do an ESOS, then so must they. Private equity firms and private finance initiatives receive the same treatment as other enterprises. De-aggregations must be in writing following which separated ESOS accountability applies.

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2015 ESOS Guidelines Chapter 3 to 5 – The ESOS Assessment

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ESOS operates in tandem with the ISO 50001 (Energy Management) system that encourages continual improvement in the efficient use of energy. Any UK enterprise qualifying for ESOS that has current ISO 50001 certification on the compliance date by an approved body (and that covers the entire UK corporate group) may present this as evidence of having completed its ESOS assessment. It does however still require board-level certification, following which it must notify the Environment Agency accordingly.

The Alternate ESOS Route

In the absence of an ISO 50001 energy management certificate addressing comprehensive energy use, a qualifying UK enterprise must:

  1. Measure Total Energy Consumption in either kWh or energy spend in pounds sterling, and across the entire operation including buildings, industrial processes and transport.
  2. Identify Areas of Significant Energy Consumption that account for at least 90% of the total. The balance falls into a de minimis group that is officially too trivial to merit consideration.
  1. Consider Available Routes to Compliance. These could include ISO 500001 part-certification, display energy certificates, green deal assessments, ESOS compliant energy audits, self-audits and independent assessments
  1. Do an Internal Review to make sure that you have covered every area of significant consumption. This is an important strategic step to avoid the possibility of failing to comply completely.
  1. Appoint an Approved Lead Assessor who may be internal or external to your enterprise, but must have ESOS approval. This person confirms you have met all ESOS requirements (unless you have no de minimis exceptions).
  1. Obtain Internal Certification by one of more board-level directors. They must certify they are satisfied with the veracity of the reports. They must also confirm that the enterprise is compliant with the scheme.
  1. Notify the Environment Agency of Compliance within the deadline using the online notification system as soon as the enterprise believes is fully compliant.
  1. Assemble your ESOS Evidential Pack and back it up in a safe place. Remember, it is your responsibility to provide proof of the above. Unearthing evidence a year later it not something to look forward to.

The ESOS assessment process is largely self-regulatory, although there are checks and balances in place including lead assessor and board-level certifications. As you work through what may seem to be a nuisance remember the primary objectives. These are saving money and reducing carbon emissions. Contact ecoVaro if we can assist in any way.

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Monitoring Water Banks with Telemetrics

River Lot in France

Longstanding droughts across South Australia are forcing farmers to rethink the moisture in the soil they once regarded as their inalienable right. Trend monitoring is an essential input to applying pesticides and fertilisers in balanced ratios. Soil moisture sensors are transmitting data to central points for onward processing on a cloud, and this is making a positive difference to agricultural output.

Peter Buss, co-founder of Sentek Technology calls ground moisture a water bank and manufactures ground sensors to interrogate it. His hometown of Adelaide is in one of the driest states in Australia. This makes monitoring soil water even more critical, if agriculture is to continue. Sentek has been helping farmers deliver optimum amounts of water since 1992.

The analogy of a water bank is interesting. Agriculturists must ‘bank’ water for less-than-rainy days instead of squeezing the last drop. They need a stream of online data and a safe place somewhere in the cloud to curate it. Sentek is in the lead in places as remote as Peru’s Atacamba desert and the mountains of Mongolia, where it supports sustainable floriculture, forestry, horticulture, pastures, row crops and viticulture through precise delivery of scarce water.

This relies on precision measurement using a variety of drill and drop probes with sensors fixed at 4” / 10cm increments along multiples of 12” / 30cm up to 4 times. These probe soil moisture, soil temperature and soil salinity, and are readily re-positioned to other locations as crops rotate.

Peter Buss is convinced that measurement is a means to the end and only the beginning. ‘Too often, growers start watering when plants don’t really need it, wasting water, energy, and labour. By monitoring that need accurately, that water can be saved until later when the plant really needs it.’ He goes on to add that the crop is the ultimate sensor, and that ‘we should ask the plant what it needs’.

This takes the debate a stage further. Water wise farmers should plant water-wise crops, not try to close the stable door after the horse has bolted and dry years return. The South Australia government thinks the answer also lies in correct farm dam management. It wants farmers to build ones that allow sufficient water to bypass in order to sustain the natural environment too.

There is more to water management than squeezing the last drop. Soil moisture goes beyond measuring for profit. It is about farming sustainably using data from sensors to guide us. ecoVaro is ahead of the curve as we explore imaginative ways to exploit the data these provide for the common good of all.

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What ISO 14001 Status did for Cummins Inc.

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Cummins manufactures engines and power generation products, and has been a household name almost since inception in 1919. It sells its products in over 300 countries, through approximately 6,000 dealerships employing 40,000 people. Because its product line runs off fossil fuel it is under steady pressure to display a cleaner carbon footprint.

Cummins decided to go for the big one by qualifying for ISO 14001 certification. This is a subset of a family of standards relating to managing environmental impact while complying with all applicable legislation. In this sense, it is similar to the ISO 9000 quality management system, because it focuses on how products are produced (as opposed to how those products perform). Compliance with ISO 14001 was a doubly important goal, because it is part of the European Union’s Eco Management and Audit Scheme and fast becoming mandatory on suppliers to governments.

The qualification process follows the well-established principle of plan, do, check, act. It begins with gap analysis to detect materials and processes that affect the environment. This is followed by implementation of necessary changes affecting operations, documentation, emergency strategies and employee education. The third step involves measuring and monitoring performance. Finally, the project moves into a phase of ongoing maintenance, and continuous improvement as circumstances change.

In Cummins case, the project was almost worldwide and called for environmental, health and safety reporting throughout the organisation. The information was shared via a globally accessible document repository, and then processed centrally at the head office in Columbia, Indiana USA.

Measuring environmental performance almost inevitably has other benefits that make it doubly worthwhile. Speaking at the 2014 National Safety Council Congress after receiving the top award for excellence, Cummins chairman and ceo Tom Linebarger commented on a journey that was ‘nothing short of amazing’ yet wasn’t even a ‘pathway to the finish line’.

‘All of us feel like we have way more to do to make sure that our environment is as safe as it could be,’ he added, ‘so that our sustainability footprint is as good as it can be and that we continue to set more aggressive goals every year. That’s just how we think about it.’ Linebarger concluded.

If you are taking your company on a journey to new heights of environmental excellence, then you should consider choosing ecoVaro as your travelling companion. We are environmental management specialists and have proprietary software geared to process your data. We also have a wealth of experience, and a treasure chest of roadmaps to help you achieve your goal.

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