Manage your Risk Using Sustainability Metrics

Paul Taylor
If you – like a majority of UK businesses – have rightly recognised the trio of pressures of legislation, CSR and cost as the most important drivers today for organisational change, and you are seeking to implement such change to lower your costs and environmental impact, then sustainability metrics should be central to developing your strategy.

‘You cannot manage what you cannot measure’ said Lord Kelvin, 19th Century physicist and engineer. And intelligent, focused sustainability metrics bring within your reach better sustainability management information, informing better decisions, whether this be for energy, water or waste.

The trend in rising energy costs is firmly set to continue, so using good metrics in effective management has never been so important in maintaining your competitive edge in today’s challenging economic environment.

To properly plan strategy, you must know where you’re starting from.

Without accurate and comparable metrics for building energy consumption you cannot make intelligent decisions around change or investment across your property portfolio. In order to properly plan and produce a management strategy, you must know where you’re starting from. Legislation requires the collection of sustainability data, so why is this data not used to best effect?

Many organisations simply procure the cheapest mechanism to tick the legislative box without seeing it as an opportunity to invest to help deliver valuable outcomes.

Having, and more importantly using, meaningful and accurate sustainability data is central to making smart decisions to reduce costs and environmental impact. The key is the careful and intelligent use of metrics that will best help you fulfil your objectives.

To make benchmarking easier, and to understand and see better the cost savings from your actions, it is vital to use a standardised or ‘normalised’ approach in data collection. Data collected in this way is easier to benchmark across your organisation and those similar to yours. For example, rather than a simple ‘total’ of energy consumption per building (an absolute measure), real value is derived from metrics of energy consumption per unit.

However, we must make appropriate comparisons; you cannot compare apples and pears. If you elect for a kWh/m2 normalisation, you must decide on whether your data will be drawn from, for example, Gross Internal Area, Net Lettable Area, or Treated Area, you must select one method and stick to it.

Additionally if your portfolio is diverse and includes office buildings, retail facilities, and domestic housing, you will have to group these buildings into typologies, and compare within these groups.

Benchmarking also allows you to develop more meaningful reduction targets. It has been all too easy in the past to underestimate the importance of having accurate and comparable metrics for energy consumption. But without such data you simply cannot make intelligent decisions around change or investment across your portfolio.

Too many organisations begin a programme of change without informing their strategy with the simple baseline it needs.

The idea of energy benchmarks is far from a new, but still many organisations have not structured their energy data to allow them understand the performance of their portfolios properly before making investment decisions. There are also many benchmarks available to enable you to compare the performance of your portfolio against national data, and as you develop your approach you may also want to develop your own internal benchmarks.

The drivers to reduce energy consumption are already strong; they will only get stronger.

The cost, legislative and economic drivers to reduce your energy consumption are already strong; they will only get stronger.

If the CRC Energy Efficiency Scheme is scrapped, it will be replaced with another form of environmental tax. Energy prices have doubled in the last 5 years, and there is no good reason why that trend won’t persist.

How is the Sustainability team at Faithful+Gould able to help?

With sound and demonstrable experience measured in decades, our sustainability and carbon management team can help you to develop a metrics strategy that will deliver real benefits to your organisation.

Our in-depth experience of benchmarking means that we can identify and deliver cost-savings and provide the right impetus for your long-term strategy, saving you time and money.