Energy and Sustainability: Looking Forward by Reflecting Back

Mathias Lelievre, President & CEO at ENGIE Insight

As I think back on the many changes that occurred in 2017 – from a new era of climate action among international business leaders to the surge of pro-environment voters on Election Day 2017 to massive climate events across the country – I’m struck by how the core values that have fueled ENGIE Insight (formerly Ecova) since 1997 remain resilient. Our mission to make businesses and utilities more successful through global energy and sustainability management is more relevant today than ever. Our belief that data is the key to unlocking deep savings and value has only been validated over time.

The industry’s evolution has created an increased appetite for smart energy management strategies to combat climate change and improve profitability. We have seen two decades of powerful results demonstrate the value of sustainability efforts to corporate stakeholders, transforming environmental responsibility from a “nice to have” feature to an essential business strategy.

Now, as we approach year’s end, I want to recognize a few ways that the data-driven insight that fueled our past has laid a foundation for deeper sustainability engagement—and positioned top companies to lead the way in balancing business and environmental action.

20 Years of History Paves the Way to the Next 20

ENGIE Insight has changed significantly since our grassroots beginning in 1997: we now provide innovative energy management solutions to more than 800 commercial and industrial clients and nearly 60 utilities and related organizations nationwide. We also serve global customers with large footprints outside of North America. The energy industry has grown at a similar rate, throwing out constant challenges for businesses and utilities to navigate. The early days of utility deregulation have led to a market in which nearly two dozen states are at least partially deregulated. Internationally binding emission reduction targets established by the Paris Agreement in 2015 are now supplemented by ambitious corporate reduction goals, complete with comprehensive carbon reporting. Meaningful action towards those energy efficiency targets is already being taken, bolstered by new data analytics capabilities and tools linked to the Internet of Things (IoT). And the technologies that seemed cutting-edge twenty years ago have evolved into more disruptive innovations like high-efficiency power converters and transparent solar cells—all with major implications and potential improvements for the electrical grid.

The Commitment to Sustainability is Surging

With a new administration in place this year, we saw significant political changes to U.S. climate action policy, including a planned withdrawal from the Paris Climate Accord and the E.P.A.’s proposed repeal of the Clean Power Plan. As our commercial and industrial clients demonstrate daily, however, this shift in government shows no sign of deterring leading companies from taking action to reduce their carbon footprint and use resources wisely. The challenge now is for business leaders to mitigate any perception of “greenwashing” by formalizing their commitments to environmental sustainability—and by turning those commitments into real action. To date, nearly 1,100 businesses have committed to bold climate action through the We Mean Business coalition, of which 118 companies have made a commitment to RE100, transitioning to 100 percent renewable power, and 85 industry leaders have adopted science-based targets—including Coca-Cola, Dell, Nestlé, Sony and Wal-Mart. These commitments ensure that successful businesses will continue their environmental leadership in the years ahead, regardless of the regulatory environment. As Ecova and ENGIE, we see an increased appetite for energy efficiency projects, new energy procurement strategies (particularly renewables), innovative waste reduction approaches and measures that decrease water consumption.

Data-Driven Insight Will Continue to Differentiate Industry Leaders

Big data has been ENGIE Insight’s focus since day one, and the megatrend of digitization and connectivity has enabled the value of big data to manifest through a variety of tools. The rise of the IoT and connected technology has given businesses access to more data than ever before. Research group IDC forecasts that by 2025, 163 zettabytes (a trillion gigabytes) of data will be created each year—a tenfold increase from 2016. ENGIE Insight alone currently gathers data from nearly 725,000 commercial and industrial sites we manage across North America and Europe. But knowing how to understand and use this data effectively to make informed decisions is what differentiates top businesses. Managing data and extracting actionable insight can be challenging for any company, especially as the complexity of that data increases. Knowing how to form meaningful connections based on output from data-collection mechanisms, software analytics and smart devices can be transformative, informing everything from capital spend to benchmarking and long-term resource planning.

Companies that Do Good Perform Well

Time and time again, companies that take action to reduce their environmental footprint outperform competitors. Integrating a sustainable resource management policy into business operations drives success by creating shared value (CSV), a management strategy that links a company’s competitiveness with the health of the greater community. Identifying solutions to environmental problems therefore makes sense from both a financial and a business perspective – benefiting the bottom line and serving as a viable competitive advantage. CSV is also highlighted by a recent PwC report, which found that 90 percent of global consumers believe it is important for companies to adopt Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and that 78 percent were more likely to buy from companies that had done so. I’m especially proud of our own corporate responsibility efforts at ENGIE Insight, which included a series of impressive targets this year: a three percent reduction in business-related GHG emissions, $600 million in identified cost savings for our clients, and 9,000 volunteer hours contributed to our community.

The Future Is Bright

As we enter 2018, the future of energy and sustainability shines brightly. I believe the powerful momentum gathered over the past year will continue to accelerate, and that environmental sustainability will no longer be a nice add-on but at the heart of every business strategy and process. Technology improvements are providing meaningful and profitable solutions; data and analytics are providing the right insights to make informed decisions and public demand for environmental responsibility is enabling us to move faster toward bold objectives. By responding proactively to the industry’s evolution, taking sincere steps to reduce our carbon footprint, collecting and gleaning insight from quality data and understanding the competitive advantage of environmental responsibility, we will navigate and shape this energy and environmental revolution together—and see our businesses thrive.

Follow Mathias on LinkedIn.

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