How energy and utilities management is directly connected to sustainability in companies

Submitted by Aline Gonçalves on Mon, 12/30/2019 - 14:23
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Understand how awareness of Sustainability will change the way resources like Energy and Utilities are managed in your company.

 

In August of this year, the New York Times discussed sustainability as an important pillar of new investments and business models, highlighting the paradigm shift driven by current generations. The new workforce wants to buy from, work for, and invest in companies aligned with their values, and is increasingly motivated to produce positive changes that bring benefits to society.

Organizations have shown interest in understanding how to increase their production capacity and respect economic, social, and environmental aspects, in addition to considering future generations and ensuring that their opportunities to live and produce are as good as or better than today's.

In 2015, heads of state and government and senior representatives of private organizations met in New York to develop a strategic plan for Sustainable Development, or Agenda 2030. 17 objectives and 169 goals were delineated with the goal of putting the world on a sustainable and resilient path. The agenda was based on three fundamental dimensions for humanity: economic, social, and environmental, or the Triple Bottom Line, a term coined by John Elkington, founder Volans Ventures limited in the United Kingdom.

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In the economic area, corporate governance, accounting transparency, business ethics are highlighted and define the long-term objectives. The social dimension seeks the enforcement of legislation, good working conditions, community investments, and respect for the consumer. The environmental pillar seeks reductions in waste, recycling, use of renewable energy, and control of pollutants.

Also read: Triple Bottom Line: Sustainability and Energy Efficiency

Management focused on sustainability

The strategy for sustainability should closely tied to the strategies of the business, with the aim of establishing the concept of unity and of integrated actions, ensuring the company's success with actions that contribute to sustainable development.

The answer from the financial market to companies that promote sustainable development practices continuously adds value and increases the company's assets, providing greater return to investors.

Sustainability in Energy and Utilities Management

It is understood that sustainable management of resources like energy and utilities is an emerging need for making strategic planning more organic and dynamic. Therefore it is very important to adopt a vision and mission that are more responsive to the demands of today's world.

Management of waste with the Circular Economy

Achieving sustainability in waste management is essential for achieving freedom of operation. By fulfilling the legal requirements of the correct destination of packaging, Reverse Logistics and the Circular Economy help prevent contamination of soil, surface water, and groundwater in addition to helping avoid fines.

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According to the Brazilian Ministry of the Environment, the circular economy is the process by which the product manufactured has its packaging returned to the point of origin after the product it contained is consumed. It is a component of management focused on continuous improvement and process efficiency, which bundles standards and procedures to reduce the volume of waste, minimize health risks, and improve environmental quality. The circular economy can be understood as an instrument that coordinates the sharing of responsibilities between manufacturers, importers, distributors, traders, and consumers, ensuring sustainability of the life cycle of the product.

Water and effluent management

The great challenge of water and effluent management is to unite the interests of every part of the production chain with a focus on conservation of resources, guaranteeing of supply, rational use, and authorization to operate. In addition to promoting cost reductions and risk management, it is essential to ensure the sustainability of operations that include uptake, treatment, reuse, and when there is no alternative of reuse, treatment and release of effluents into the environment.

In the industrial sector, water management depends on the implementation of concepts of environmental management, eco-efficiency of the production process, and implementation of clean production practices. A large number of treatment techniques are still applied to water as well as effluents. The choice of one or the combination of a variety of technologies should be based on the availability of water resources, geographic location, and the possibility of reusing the water or modifying the process and restrictions with regard to the release of effluents into the environment.

Electricity Management

Electricity is considered as one of the principal resources in industrial operations, and depending on the sector can represent more than half of the costs of production, which directly influences competitiveness and survival in today's market. In addition to the financial impact of increasing tariffs and the need to meet current standards, it is necessary to consider whether generation, distribution, and consumption are based on the best practices of energy efficiency.

The great challenge for companies is to understand how to incorporate the concept of sustainability in future projects as well as existing processes. The first step to be taken in the journey of orientation is to become familiar withthe ISO standards for energy efficiency: ISO 50001 for management, ISO 50002 for energy diagnostics, ISO 50006 for measurement of energy performance, and ISO 50015 for managing products and services under the ESCO model.

The involvement of leadership is crucial to generate motivation and influence the change of culture in the company, raising awareness of sustainability in its employees. An open communication channel between operators and leadership is important for finding opportunities to reduce consumption and improve energy efficiency in internal processes.

Other large initiatives for sustainability in electricity generation can be considered, such as migration to the Free Market and the option of buying energy from 100% renewable sources or investing in generating solar energy internally or in partnership with solar farms. In the market there are still options for certifying the generation source and even trading carbon credits, but everything will depend on the business needs of each company.

Also read: Infographic ISO 50001 Certification: concepts and application in companies

 

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The next step, but no less important, is to establish an energy baseline according to the International Performance Measurement and Verification Protocol (IPMVP) to quantify the performance gains resulting from efficiency improvement projects. With modern energy and utilities management systems it is possible to transform project data, process variables, and financial assumptions into information that promotes continuous improvement of sustainability in operations.

Energy Management Analyst, Viridis

Energy Management Analyst at Viridis, working in Energy Management and Strategic Planning at Bayer. Trained in Electrical Engineering with emphasis on Control and Automation at the Federal University of Uberlândia. Participated in R&D projects for intelligent energy measurement at Enel and CEMIG, conducted innovation, artificial intelligence, robotics, and gamification projects for corporate environments. 

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