EU Energy Efficiency Directive & UK’s ESOS

Photovoltaic solar panels

In 2012 the European Union passed its EU Energy Efficiency Directive (EED) into law. This aims to reduce overall energy consumption by 20% by 2020. It placed an obligation on member states to pass back-to-back local legislation by June 2014.

EED Guidelines

The EED provides specific guidelines it expects member nations to address. The list is long and here are a few excerpts from it:

  • Large companies must use energy audits to identify ways to cut their energy consumption
  • Small and medium companies must be incentivised to voluntarily take similar steps
  • Public sector bodies must purchase energy-efficient buildings, products and services
  • Private energy-consumers must be empowered with information to help manage demand
  • Energy distributors / resellers must cut their own consumption by 1.5% annually
  • Legislators are free to substitute green building technology e.g. through better insulation
  • Every year, European governments must audit 3% of the buildings they own

Definition of Energy Audit

An energy-consumption audit is a question of measuring demand throughout a supply grid, with particular attention to individual modules and high demand equipment. While this could be an exercise repeated every four years to satisfy ESOS, it makes more sense to incorporate it into the monthly energy billing cycle.

Because energy use is not consistent but varies according to production cycle, this can produce reams of printouts designed to frustrate busy managers. ecoVaro offers an inexpensive, cloud-based analytic service that effortlessly accepts client data and returns it in the form of high-level graphic summaries.

Potential ESOS Beneficiaries

As many as 9,000 UK companies are obligated to do energy audits because they employ more than 250 employees, have a balance sheet total over £36.5m or an annual turnover in excess of £42m. Any smaller enterprise that finds energy a significant input cost, should also consider enlisting Ecovaro to help it to:

  • Obtain a better understanding of the energy side of their business
  • Achieve energy savings and share in a estimated £3bn bonanza to 2030
  • Reduce carbon emissions to help meet their CRC commitments

More About ecoVaro

We offer web-based energy management software that helps you measure and manage energy costs. This strips data from your meters and generates personalised reports on a dashboard you control. This information helps you accurately zoom in on worthwhile opportunities. With Ecovaro on your side, ESOS truly becomes an Energy Saving OPPORTUNITY Scheme.

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The Rights of Individuals Under The General Data Protection Regulation

Man holding a CFL energy saving lamp

The General Data Protection Regulation or GDPR is a European Union law reinforcing the rights of citizens concerning the confidentiality of their information, and confirming that they own it. We thought it would be interesting to examine the GDPR effective 25 May 2018 from an Irish citizen’s perspective. This article is a summary of information on the Data Protection Commissioner’s website, but as viewed through a businessperson’s lens.

How the Office Defines Data Protection

The Office believes that organisations receiving personal details have a duty to keep them private and safe. This applies inter alia to information that individuals supply to government, financial institutions, insurance companies, medical providers, telecoms services, and lenders. It also applies to information provided when they open accounts.

This information may be on paper, on computers, or in video, voice, or photographic records. The true owners of this information, the individuals have a right:

  • To make sure that it is factually correct
  • To the assurance that it is shared responsibly
  • That all with access only use it for stated purposes

Any organisation requesting personal information must state who they are, what the information is for, why they need to have it, and to whom else they may provide it.

Consumer Rights to Access Their Personal Information

Private persons have a right under the GDPR to a copy of all their information held or processed by a business. The regulation refers to such businesses as ‘data controllers’ as opposed to owners, which is interesting. They have to provide both paper and digital data, and ‘related information’.

Data controller fees for this are discretionary within limits. The request may be denied under certain circumstances. The data controller may release information about children to parents and guardians, only if it considers a minor too young to understand its significance. Other third parties such as attorneys must prove they have consent.

Consumer Rights to Port Their Data to Different Services

Since the personal information belongs to the individual, they have a right not only to access it, but also to copy or move it from one digital environment to another. The GDPR requires this be ‘in a safe way, without hindrance to usability’. An application could be a banking client that wants to upload their transaction history to a third party price comparison website.

However, the right to data portability only applies to data originally provided by the consumer. Moreover, an automated method must be available for porting. Data controllers must release the information in an open format, and may not charge for the porting service.

Consumer Rights to Complain About Personal Data Abuse

Individuals have a right under the General Data Protection Regulation to have their information rectified if they discover errors. This right extends to an assurance that third parties know about the changes – and who these third party entities are. Data controllers must respond within one month. If they decline the request, they must inform the complainant of their right to further remedial action.

If a data controller refuses to release personal information to the owner, or to correct errors, then the Data Protection Office has legal power to enforce the consumer’s rights. The complainant must make full disclosure of the history of their complaint, and the steps they have taken themselves to attempt to set things right.

Further Advice on Getting Things Ready for 25 May 2018

The General Data Protection Regulation has the full force of law from 25 May 2018 onward, and supersedes all applicable Irish laws, regulations, and policies from that date. We recommend incorporating rights of data owners who are also your customers into your immediate plans. We doubt that forgetting to do so will cut much sway with the Data Commissioner. Remember, you have one month to respond to consumer requests, and only one more month to close things out subject to the matter being complex.

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Article 8 of the EU Energy Efficiency Directive – Orientation

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Following in-depth discussion of the UK’s ESOS response, we decided to backtrack to the source, especially since every EU member is facing similar challenges. The core purpose of the directive is to place a pair of obligations on member states. These are

  1. To promote the availability of energy audits among final customers in all sectors, and;
  2. To ensure that enterprises that are not SMEs carry out energy audits at least every four years.

Given the ability for business to look twice at every piece of legislation it considers unproductive, the Brussels legislators took care to define what constitutes an enterprise larger than an SME.

Definition of a Large Undertaking

A large undertaking meets one or both of the following conditions:

  1. It employs 250 or more people
  2. Its annual turnover is more than €50 million and its balance sheet total exceeds €43 million

Rules for Energy Audits

If accredited / qualified in-house specialists are unavailable then independent experts should supervise audits. The talent shortage seems common to many EU businesses. In hindsight, the Union could have ramped up slower, especially since the first compliance date of 5 December 2015 does not leave much swing room.

ecoVaro doubts there was a viable alternative, given the urgent imperative to beat back the scourge of carbon that is threatening the viability of our planet. The legislators must have been of a similar mind when laying down the guidelines. Witness for example the requirement that penalties be ‘effective, proportionate and dissuasive’.

In order to be compliant, an energy audit must

  1. Be based on twelve months of verifiable data that is
    • over a continuous period beginning no more than 24 months before the beginning of the energy audit, and;
    • identifies energy saving opportunities including paths to their achievement
  2. Analyse the participant’s energy consumption and energy efficiency
  3. Have not been used as the basis for an energy audit in a previous compliance period

Measurement of current status and progress tracing are at the core of energy saving and good governance generally. EcoVaro has a powerhouse of software tools available on the cloud to help project teams save time and money.

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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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How CRM-eCommerce Integration can help you Win a Price War

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There are a number of reasons why more people are buying stuff online. One of the biggest is price. You can afford to sell your goods at cheaper prices on the Internet because you’re free of the usual operating expenses like rent, electricity, and staff salaries. That should translate to some nice savings, right?

No savings in a price war

Sadly, there’s one more thing that can drive your prices even lower: a price war. Just like in the brick-and-mortar world, a good number of online retailers are now trying to undersell each other. So even if they are able to achieve reduced OPEX, they would still find it difficult to make substantial savings.

What you need to understand is that, while price is a big motivator for buying online, it is no longer the only factor experienced online shoppers consider when choosing between two online shops.

Customers who buy purely on the basis of price, are very fickle. They can easily jump ship as soon as they discover another online store offering better discount. If what you’re looking for are repeating, loyal customers, you can’t make low prices your key differentiator.

Winning customer loyalty

Just like in the brick-and-mortar world, buyers will keep coming back to you if they find in your website true value for their money. There certainly are people who don’t just look at price tags when buying products from the Web. These folks are looking for the total package.

But other than affordable prices, what factors can win customer loyalty? You’re probably thinking a fresh user interface, multiple payment options, a good return policy, prompt delivery, reviews and testimonials, product comparisons, and so on.

Well, those are important too and you certainly should have those features and characteristics in place.

Meeting customers’ needs through CRM-eCommerce integration

But there’s more you can do to enhance the customer’s experience on your site. Offering exactly the products they’re looking for and providing all relevant information they need when they need it, will give them a sense of belonging.

Since different customers have different desires you obviously would have to know your customers first before you can attempt to fulfil those desires. And, honestly, the only way to do that with accuracy and precision, and the only way to collect a significant amount of relevant customer information and make sense of it all, is by integrating CRM with your e-commerce platform.

Increasing Sales and Savings from integrating CRM into e-Commerce

The main benefit of integrating CRM with e-commerce is that it will help you enhance the customer experience. That’s cool but what does that translate to monetarily? Well, for one, that can significantly increase customer retention. Higher customer retention can only lead to increased sales in the long run.

As with regards to savings, if you are able to deliver exactly what your customers want, you can significantly bring down refunds and charge-backs.

Very few businesses have the financial resources to meet their competitors head on in a price war. Chances are, you’re not one of those few. Still, whether you like it or not you’re already in the thick of it. By building customer relationships, you can win the price war without engaging in it.

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Top 3 reasons to get into Multi-Channel Retail

Person Shopping Online Connection Concept

Multi-channel retail, which nowadays understandably includes online channels, is something you just have to do this year. Every single day you put off doing it, the competition gobbles up market share that should have been yours. There are a number of reasons why even successful retailers are now going into multi-channel retailing. Here’s three of the most important ones.

1. You’ll get a BIG jump in sales

Not counting this year, which could be getting a big boost from major activities like the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee and the 2012 Olympics, sales of UK retailers have been experiencing tremendous growth particularly from their online channels. Already two years ago (2010), a number of UK retailers boasted significant increases in sales as a result of multi-channel retail initiatives. These retailers included:

  • Argos, which got a whopping £1.9bn from multichannel sales back then;
  • House of Fraser, which reported a 150% jump in its online sales in just 6 months; and
  • Debenhams, whose profits rose by 20%

There were many others. Now, the reason I’m showing you 2010 figures is because online retail sales increased by 14% in 2011 and those same businesses still added to that growth. So, if only you had enough foresight and started expanding your business to the Web two years ago, you could just imagine what your sales would have been today.

The good news is that, it’s not yet too late if you start now. Here’s why…

2. Those numbers are going to keep on growing

We’re getting all sorts of predictions from leading researchers regarding the possible growth of the Internet economy. All these predictions have one thing in common. They all have a positive outlook. The Boston Consulting Group (BCG), for instance, predicts an average growth of no less than 10% per year in the G-20 nations.

3. Most online retailers aren’t doing it right yet

Although many retailers have already started bringing their business to the Web, most of them are doing it the wrong way. For example, many of them fail to integrate their offline and online channels. This is a serious shortcoming because it leads to customer dissatisfaction.

When a customer goes to your website and sees something he likes, you wouldn’t want him to drive all the way to your store only to find out that the item isn’t available there or, if the item is there, that it isn’t priced as he expected. The lack of multi-channel integration is very common among multi-channel retailers.

These inadequacies are actually good news because it means there are still many areas you can improve on. After improving on them, you can then highlight those areas as your key differentiators.

If you’re still looking for more reasons on why you should go into multi-channel retailing, read this post:

5 Numbers Showing Why the Time to Invest on eCommerce in the UK is Now

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5 Numbers showing why the Time to Invest in eCommerce in the UK is Now

e-commerce symbol on a computer keyboard, black friday concept. 3d illustration

A decade or two ago, you might have already had the urge to invest in eCommerce. But astute as you are, you must have decided to wait for the right time and perhaps the right place to do it. That time has come. And the right place to do it? Try the United Kingdom.

Here’s why:

1. £100 billion worth to the UK economy

A report conducted by US-based BCG (Boston Consulting Group) showed that Internet-based business in the UK reached £100 billion in 2009. That translated to 7.2% of the country’s GDP that year, making it bigger than industries like construction, education, and health & social work, and even slightly bigger than agriculture, hotels & restaurants, and mining, combined. Click here to see the comparison shown as a graph.

£100 billion is certainly huge, but the market potential of the Internet in UK is even made more evident if you also look at the numbers based on amount spent per capita…

2. # 1 in per capita spending

According to IMRG (Interactive Media in Retail Group), “the UK’s per capita spend of €1333 (£1108) per annum” is number one in the world. This shows that people from the United Kingdom are more willing to buy goods from the Internet than other people on the planet. And this alone should tell you why UK is the best place for e-commerce.

But while you’re still pondering whether now is really the best time to invest, bear in mind that competitors who have gone to the Internet before you are already thinking of expanding …

3. 1.5 million workers in Internet retailing by 2015

Last year (2011), the number of people employed in UK e-businesses was about 730,000. While conducting its second annual e-Jobs index in 2011, IMRG (Interactive Media in Retail Group) found out that it was largely due to a rise in employment in 63% of e-businesses. The study also showed that 60% of e-businesses were also planning to beef up their employees within a year’s time.

While other sectors are shrinking their  workforce, businesses on the Internet are growing theirs. Were they just speculating? Perhaps not…

4. 50% of parsels during 2016 pre-Christmas peak will come from e-commerce

Last year (2011), parcels coming from e-commerce accounted for 37% of all items sent through UK couriers during the November-December stretch. That volume from e-commerce was 15% higher than the previous year. This remarkable climb, which was reported by Global Freight Solutions (GFS), shows the growing confidence of customers when it comes to buying products online.

If this rate continues, items from e-commerce will easily comprise 50% of parcels by 2016. Chances this rate will continue? Let’s go to number 5 and you be the judge.

5. 66% of all adults made online purchases in 2011

A statistical bulletin published by the  Office for National Statistics revealed that 32 million people made online purchases in 2011. That actually comprises 66% of all adults in the UK. Significant as that may seem, what is really striking is that that figure used to be 62% in 2010. So again, this proves that the number of people who buy products and services online is steadily growing.

If you really think about it, these statistics should not be surprising. The smartphone is now practically the default mobile device of anyone who owns a mobile phone. And then of course there are laptops and tablets.

With these devices on hand, coupled with the ever growing number of WiFi hotspots and telecommunications bandwidth, gaining access to the Web has never been easier. It can be done practically anytime, anywhere.

This makes it so easy for people to search for products, compare competing brands, and eventually make a purchase from home, the office, on the terminal, or on the train.

Related post:

Integrated e-commerce – The right way to do extend your business online

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Making Click-and-Collect click

Hand holding using mouse clicking

In my previous post, I introduced you to integrated e-commerce and explained why it is the right way to extend your business online. If you already have a brick-and-mortar retailing business and you’re looking to improve your online presence, you could start offering a click-and-collect service.

With click-and-collect, customers order online and then collect their merchandise from one of the retailer’s local branches. Why would they want to do that?

Apparently, there are buyers who now prefer a click-and-collect service over the delivery service of a purely online retailer. With the latter, they sometimes have to wait forever for the delivery van to arrive or contend with a missed-delivery card.

Basically, customers who want both the convenience of placing orders online and better control of their time find click-and-collect a better option.

Last December 2011, IMRG (Interactive Media in Retail Group) reported a “significant rise in the percentage of click-and-collect e-retail sales in the 3rd quarter of 2011”. This accounted for 10.4% of all e-retail sales in that quarter. More specifically, the gain was 7.4%, which was also the strongest quarterly gain since IMRG started collecting this data.

Clearly, this particular service is gaining popularity. But how do you meet the rising demand in this area?

A click-and-collect service requires a highly synchronised ecosystem. You don’t want to have a customer order items from your online store, drive a couple of minutes from his house to your nearest outlet, only to find out that one of the items is no longer available.

This can only work if all systems involved are interconnected. Changes in the inventory in your individual outlets should reflect on your database in real time. In turn, these changes have to be reflected instantly on your online store. Conversely, once a buyer has picked items online and is already directed to a local outlet, those items have to be reserved there.

But that’s not all. Your system has to be seamless enough to support fast and reliable service. You don’t want your buyer to have to wait a long time before the items are ready for pick-up. It also has to be capable of tracking the status of ordered products, handling uncollected orders, and monitoring inventory.

By implementing an integrated e-commerce system, these won’t be the only things you’d be able to do. You can even add more value to your service. For example, you can connect to your CRM and learn more about your customers’ purchase history, buying habits, and preferences.

That way, it would be easier for you to provide a faster and more convenient buying experience for them in the future.

Click-and-collect is a very promising way to increase your sales and improve customer loyalty.

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Integrated eCommerce – The right way to do extend your business online

Young bearded man pays by credit card online shopping

With more people spending more time on the Web, now is the perfect time to start selling your products and services online. And if you think those people are only busy posting status updates on Facebook and Twitter but avoid all other websites, think again. Many are actually buying stuff online. E-commerce has never been bigger. In the UK, it was already worth £100 Billion two years ago.

Buyers are finding it more convenient to buy products and services online because they can do so from practically anywhere; even in the comfort of their homes. What’s more, they could browse through more choices at a fraction of the time they’d have spent doing the same thing in brick and mortar establishments.

So if your potential buyers are already out there, what’s stopping you from opening your virtual doors to greet them?

Antiquated e-Commerce

Now, before you start getting excited in setting up your own idea of an eCommerce-ready website, you might want to be aware of what a sound e-commerce investment entails these days. If all you’re thinking is a site that accepts orders and have someone enter those orders in your accounting system, then you’ve got it all wrong.

You’re never going to get good returns on your investment that way. While you’re opening doors for new income streams, you’re also introducing additional costs and sophistication for processes that are highly susceptible to errors, inconsistencies, delays, and, eventually, client dissatisfaction.

Doing it right with integrated e-Commerce

To compete with others who are also offering the same products and services as yours, you need to ensure complete customer satisfaction. The best way to achieve this is to employ integrated e-commerce. This is an e-commerce system that combines your payment system, accounting, ERP, CRM, inventory management, analytics, and others into a cohesive, synchronised environment.

The idea is to do away with majority of your manual tasks in order to achieve fast, efficient, accurate, and secure transactions and other related processes.

eCommerce integration will allow you to do business 24/7 without requiring any of your staff to render the same number of hours. That means, your company continues to operate and earn even while all of you are fast sleep.

Then when you’re up, you can view reports telling you what transpired overnight, over the weekend or over any specified period of time. The information you obtain can help you make well-informed decisions and act on issues much quicker.

And because your business is on the Web, you can serve customers and obtain new ones from geographical locations far from where your office or store is actually located. If you want, you can even gain customers from halfway around the world.

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