Our workplaces can be ‘power plants of the future'

Environmental and social responsibility has leapt up the corporate agenda among UK businesses, as they increasingly look for leadership in energy to ensure their long-term viability, according to new research.

•Energy savvy businesses are more likely to be successful – six in ten (61%) best performing businesses demonstrate advanced energy leadership

•Only one in eight modern businesses identified as true ‘sustainable businesses’

•Seven in ten businesses recognise the need to be more flexible in how energy is generated and used

The research report, Distributed Energy Future Trends: The insights behind sustainable business growth, from Centrica Business Solutions, points to the growing importance of environmental stewardship for UK businesses, who now view it as the third most important organisational priority behind financial prudence and efficiency, jumping three places in just two years.

The survey of nearly 600 UK companies identifies eight traits that truly sustainable businesses demonstrate, from continuous innovation through to action on the environment, with only one in eight businesses deserving of the title of a ‘sustainable business’ – one that balances economic and environmental performance well.

The most forward-thinking businesses are those taking control of their energy supply, with energy security seen as one of the fastest growing business risks – over a third (36%) viewing it as a substantial risk to their long-term success.

Businesses are ready to respond to the need for new energy capacity, with seven in ten recognising the need to be more flexible with how they generate and use energy. Four out of five (81%) of those already generating energy on-site plan to increase the amount they self-generate over the next five years, essentially becoming the ‘power plants of the future’

Profitability is a further driver for sustainability, with one in five (22%) now viewing energy as an asset that can be traded, unlocking revenue streams and competitive advantage through the use of smart technology, such as demand side response services.

Ian Hopkins, Sales Director at Centrica Business Solutions, said: “Our research shows that UK businesses are responding to market forces around environmental performance to ensure their long-term success, we call this end-state the Sustainable Business. One action many are taking is to seize control of their energy needs, effectively becoming power plants in their own right. Crucially, we’re finding that the firms doing this tend to be the most economically sustainable and resilient businesses.

“Speaking to our customers, they’re seeing a number of wider benefits as a direct result of investing in on-site energy generation. For example, many report improved brand perception because they can better demonstrate energy efficiency and low-carbon credentials, while others are able to create additional revenue from selling electricity back to the grid.

“The Government’s Net Zero target puts the country right at the forefront of the global climate change agenda. Businesses have an important role to play and the research indicates that today’s sustainable businesses see energy as an opportunity and a strategic asset, not simply a cost.”

In our report we share the most significant results from our research and introduce our Sustainable Business Model. We outline the key characteristics and action points to become a sustainable business, and how energy can help prepare businesses for a more commercially and environmentally sustainable future.