‘Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without a strategy is the noise before defeat.’ This is how Sun Tzu (‘Master Sun’), a strategist, philosopher and general, described the interrelationship of strategy and tactics in ancient China. Sun’s ancient wisdom is applicable to modern-day facility management as well. We know that it is possible to use different tactics to influence the energy costs of buildings. These tactics are mainly related to the correct use of buildings and the energy-efficiency of machines and equipment. However, it is more important and, at the same time, more challenging to appreciate how one can consistently reduce the energy costs of one’s business. For that, one needs a goal-oriented long-term plan, or an energy strategy. In 2011, EUR 15.5 billion, of which 40% on average consists of energy costs, were used for the maintenance of the building stock in Finland, which underscores the importance of having a plan for improving energy efficiency.
The influences of sustainable development on commercial activity have been studied worldwide, and many large corporations have acknowledged the significance of energy issues and sustainable development on their respective businesses. ‘The most fruitful sustainable development innovations in businesses are not new hit products but business model improvements.’ (Teemu Ruska, Boston Consulting Group’s partner in the energy and forestry sector in Finland, Talouselämä magazine, 29 April 2013).
Businesses profit by adopting principles of sustainable development
The Boston Consulting Group and MIT Sloan Management Review interviewed 2,600 business executives around the world on the benefits of sustainable development for their businesses. Half of the large corporations have amended their business models in order to accommodate the principles of sustainable development (20% growth from 2011). Of all the companies in the survey, 37% had succeeded in increasing their profitability through improvements made with sustainable development in mind. According to the survey, the most important sustainable development related benefits for the companies were: improved brand image, product and service innovations, improved corporate management image, competitive edge and energy efficiency.
The most important thing that property owners or developers can do to promote sustainable development is to prepare a plan to minimise the energy consumption and carbon footprint of the buildings they own. An energy strategy is heavily influenced by the management’s and employees’ view of the prevailing situation and the target. Based on the company’s vision, a specialist outside the company prepares an action plan specifying how the company should change its operations in order to achieve the target. In the property development and building management sectors, the targets may be set on the basis of national and EU-level guidance systems (such as municipalities’ or companies’ energy efficiency agreements) or they may be created on the basis of an existing energy savings potential at the grassroots level. The target of the energy strategy may be expressed as the quantity of the energy consumed, as euros or as carbon dioxide emissions, for instance.
ISO 50001 energy management certificate for large corporations
The target may also be to obtain a certificate for the company. Soon, the requirements of the energy management standard (ISO 50001), published in 2011, will be incorporated in the EU’s energy efficiency directive (EED). According to a recent draft, large corporations are required to carry out mandatory energy audits by 5 December 2015. A company may be exempt from the mandatory energy audit if it adopts an ISO 50001 certified energy management system. In the words of Master Sun, tactics require a strategy. Carrying out energy audits without a plan for adopting the recommended measures in the property development or management strategy may be ineffective as regards the energy consumption in the buildings. Energy audits are an excellent way of assessing energy savings potential in buildings but in the absence of an energy strategy most of the energy saving measures may remain unimplemented (inadequate development plan) or their effects may be short-lived (energy management and control measures inadequate).
An energy strategy is, however, only a plan. By obtaining an ISO 50001 certificate a company can show in practice that it continuously improves its buildings and optimises its energy use and maintenance procedures. At the same time, it shows its commitment to sustainable development and to the reduction of environmental impacts. In addition, the different interest groups of the company can see that the company is not only trying to increase its productivity but is also taking its social responsibility seriously.
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