Carbon management skills, systems and processes: how adaptable is your business?

12 Oct 2011Archived News Climate Change Matters

The introduction of a price on carbon in July 2012 will touch many aspects of a business. Right now the task is to understand the impact on energy prices, your supply chain and the degree to which the carbon cost will be passed through, as well as the effects on customers and competitors.

However a price on carbon also raises significant questions for your management team about the capacity of your business to respond, adapt and innovate ahead of your competitors to the increasing number of sustainability issues arising in your industry.

Questions for your business:

  • Do your management teams from the Executive through to finance and planning, operations and maintenance, sales and marketing, understand how the shift to a low carbon economy impacts your business into the future?
  • Is your business organised to respond effectively to the range of challenges and opportunities presented by a price on carbon?
  • Are processes in place to ensure consistency in decision making between business units so that carbon management and initiatives to improve sustainability are supported?
  • Does your organisation have the systems, tools and methodologies in place to integrate the range of carbon management considerations into the planning processes of your business?
  • Does your business have the necessary analytical, management and implementation skills to minimise your carbon exposure and identify risks and opportunities ahead of your competitors?

Carbonproof your business

Over the past year Energetics worked with the Australian food processing sector, in partnership with the peak skills body AgriFood Skills Australia to develop an integrated business planning and skills development program to address the identified gap in "green skills". This sector identified the need to foster new skills in energy, water efficiency and carbon management in response to the emerging low carbon economy, increased focus on resource efficiency and climate change adaptation, and related sustainability issues.

The planning and skills development approach is highly pragmatic and business focussed. Carbonproof is comprised of five learning experiences relating directly to the key areas of sustainability in business:

  • Global Sustainability Trends and Business Planning
  • Carbon Inventory and Supply Chain
  • Energy Procurement
  • Resource Efficiency Opportunities
  • Management Systems to Support Your Strategic Intent

However, to realise the full benefit to the business of the program, the leadership team's involvement is vital.

A strategic approach to sustainability must start at the top

The principles of sustainability and its benefits should be incorporated into a whole-of-business approach. To date, however, the sustainability agenda has been dominated by compliance programs which report on energy usage and greenhouse emissions, and for large energy users, require the identification of energy efficiency opportunities.

With the release of the government's "Securing a clean energy future", Australia's business environment will change.

Champions for sustainability currently exist in many businesses but often act as lone "flag wavers". An example could be a manager responsible for reporting opportunities under the Federal Government's Energy Efficiency Opportunities scheme, who has identified a list of thirty opportunities that may deliver significant savings to the business. However their work is frustrated because there may be only two or three opportunities that attract the attention of management.

Carbonproof facilitates a decision making forum that turns the dynamic around, with the Executive team demanding more initiatives to support sustainability as they come to fully understand the issues and opportunities for their business. Through the Carbonproof program the leadership team embraces a new approach to planning because they start with a focus on the external issues that impact their business and the business prospects of their customers.

With the involvement of the leadership team the focus shifts from managing the risks identified in an examination of external business drivers, to a consideration of the business opportunities.

Integrating principles of sustainability: managing risk and identifying new opportunities

An innovative aspect of Carbonproof is the way the program models a business planning meeting. A facilitator manages the session, subject matter experts are brought in as required, and guides, tools and run sheets provide further supporting material. The issues considered are real business issues using real business data. Importantly the program can build on work already done in the business: energy assessments, water audits, carbon inventory and footprint development (even if only in its infancy) and life cycle analysis around a particular product.

As carbon, energy and resource management touches all aspects of a business, the program asks participants to think about how they monitor the progress of a wide range of plans and initiatives by integrating sustainability as a routine part of their functional area's accountabilities and regular meetings. In this way, Carbonproof does not seek to add another layer of management to drive outcomes.

With the participation of representatives from the range of business functions: engineering, marketing, corporate sustainability and the executive, the facilitated planning approach examines trends, competitors, the cost of energy using real data and understanding the business' carbon exposure in a way that looks to the whole-of-business impacts. The significant issues will receive focus from a management perspective, not an engineering perspective. Through the Carbonproof process, the leaders of the business will prioritise actions, forming possibly new areas of focus for the organisation’s sustainability plan. The CEO in the room will focus the attention of all participants and, as other group members represent different parts of the business, greater consistency can be achieved in cross-function decision making.

As Australia moves towards a low carbon economy, shifting the mindset of business leaders from compliance on carbon and energy management, to sustainability, makes very good business sense.

Benefits to business

  • Understanding your carbon exposure.
  • Understanding the impact of energy price volatility and impacts on the business.
  • Cross-business understanding of carbon, energy and resource management challenges and opportunities relative to your market position.
  • Capacity to adapt and innovate as the economy decarbonises.
  • Principles of sustainability are integrated, not additional, to business practice.
  • Consistency in decision making with involvement from all levels across the business
  • Alignment of values and effort
  • Cost savings
  • Stronger relationships across the supply chain
  • Green credentials. The need for which is steadily increasing (for example in the food retailing sector, carbon, water and efficiencies are in the top 5 of customer concerns.)
  • Opportunity to attract and retain staff as employees and prospective employees support more sustainable business practices.
  • Once complete, the Carbonproof program aims to be self-sustaining using self paced guides

Energetics can help

Energetics brings our own multi-disciplinary approach and expertise to the Carbonproof program. We see the connections between the micro- and macro- aspects of sustainability, understand the breadth of engineering, compliance and financial issues, possess insights into the Federal Government’s policies, and can consider customer-driven market issues based on 25 years of experience working with a range of Australian industries.

Energetics was integral in the development of the Carbonproof program and facilitated the rollout for four Tier 2 food processing companies. 

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