Energy is the telecommunications industry’s biggest operational expense. For example, a large cable television company can spend more than $300 million on electricity annually to deliver programming, Internet and digital phone service to its subscribers. However, rising global energy prices and the continued economic downturn are forcing many in the industry to seek ways of reducing the amount of energy they consume.
At the same time, public opinion over climate change is shifting—stakeholders are pressuring companies to disclose the impact of their operations on the environment. Since much of the electricity in the U.S. is generated by fossil-fuel-burning power plants, cable television companies are indirectly responsible for a substantial share of carbon emissions.
IT’S THE ECONOMY & THE ENVIRONMENT, STUPID
Significant attention is now focused on the intersection of these two macro trends: economic and environmental sustainability. The good news is that companies that reduce the amount of energy they are wasting would also reduce their environmental impact. The challenge is how to monetize this waste so that it gets the proper attention inside organizations. Unfortunately, many companies lack the knowledge, experience, or infrastructure to identify the opportunities.
For sustainability consultancy Coppervale, it all begins by understanding how broadband clients use the energy they purchase. As energy efficiency experts, Coppervale is always looking for energy-saving opportunities. Typically, it can identify initial short-term cost savings of 10% to 20% per individual system.
Many of the company’s recommendations are low-cost solutions, but others involve capital investment, such as a plant upgrade; these tend to have a longer ROI but also positive, long-term consequences on the bottom-line.
The organization also helps its clients change the way they think about energy. Experience suggests that the technical solutions stand a better chance of succeeding over the long term if they are coupled with behavioral change programs and dedicated champions who instill a workplace culture of energy efficiency.
Like all organizational change initiatives, sustainability requires committed executive leadership, the right tools and training, and the ideas and enthusiasm of rank-and-file employees. Engage in all three of these areas and you’ll see better sustainability results.
Without executive-level commitment and involvement, sustainability will not succeed inside an organization on a scale large enough to make a positive financial or environmental impact. Using facilitated working sessions, a strong communications team can help cross-functional executive teams come to a common, foundational understanding of sustainability principles, build a framework for addressing sustainability within their business and set organizational goals and strategies into a sustainability plan.
EMPLOYEE IDEAS AND ENTHUSIASM
Businesses must harness the energy of those green employees who already express a unique enthusiasm and understanding of sustainability principles. Coppervale works with its clients to create internal Green Teams by identifying and recruiting employees who can generate innovative ideas. Members create “idea labs” that identify potential energy conservation measures and experiment to find the most applicable solutions for their organizations, and then rapidly share best practices with their co-workers and managers.
TOOLS AND TRAINING
Training and education about sustainability help employees understand the company’s business goals of lowering operating costs and reducing its environmental impact, and how they can make a difference in their particular jobs.
By providing the right training for groups responsible for the most energy usage, companies can make significant improvements in lowering total operating costs, eliminating waste, reducing energy usage and improving the impact of its operations on the environment. Here are a few examples:
1. Fleet vehicle use can account for nearly 25% of a cable television company’s carbon footprint. By providing field technicians and fleet managers with smart driving tips, vehicle maintenance training, technological tools (like GPS) companies can significantly reduce amount of carbon emitted by its vehicles.
2. Office employees and facility managers can reduce the energy needed in buildings by eliminating wasteful use of office equipment, lighting and climate control.
3. Engineers, operations managers and procurement staff are equally responsible for plants and network energy efficiency. Setting standardized design guidelines across divisions can help meet the desired energy efficiency standards.
Most important, work with managers to develop goals, incentives and success indices as part of regular employee reviews. This provides workers with a sense of ownership that leads to positive results. PRN
[Editor’s Note: This article was excerpted from PR News’ Corporate Social Responsibility & Green PR Guidebook, Vol. 4. This and other guidebooks like it can be ordered at http:/www.prnewsonline.com/store.]
This article was written by Lew Rakowsky, director of marketing and stakeholder engagement at Coppervale Enterprises. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org