Focus on the basics for sustainability strategy

If you type “sustainability strategy” or “sustainability plan” into any Internet search engine, more than 1 million results are returned. Similarly, a recent study conducted by the Vandiver Group indicated that approximately 70% of the companies surveyed have or are in the process of developing a sustainability strategy.


If you type “sustainability strategy” or “sustainability plan” into any Internet search engine, more than 1 million results are returned. Similarly, a recent study conducted by the Vandiver Group indicated that approximately 70% of the companies surveyed have or are in the process of developing a sustainability strategy.

A wide variety of goals and activities are undoubtedly included in all of those strategies. But how do you determine what type of sustainability plan is appropriate for your business and your facilities?

The good news is sustainability does not have to be complicated or costly. To get started, simply focus on the basics, such as energy efficiency. Energy efficiency improvements help the environment by conserving natural resources and by reducing emissions; they also help you save money and start you on the path to developing a customized approach to sustainability.

Energy efficiency, sometimes called sustainability's “little brother,” refers to technologies and standard operating procedures that reduce the volume of energy consumed per unit of production. Often, the very activities that provide energy efficiency also provide additional benefits, such as better control over company assets and operations. Your local electric and natural gas utility can be an excellent resource to identify energy savings for your facility.

Numerous case studies describe how companies in industries ranging from large aerospace corporations to local wastewater treatment plants have identified and implemented energy savings opportunities by working with their local utility. For example, Boeing identified the opportunity for substantial energy savings (136,984 kWh/yr and 9,929 therms of natural gas) in one of their facilities through improvements to their motor, fan, heating and cooling systems.

While the savings were large, they were not in the range of Boeing's payback parameters. Rather than abandon the project, Boeing worked with their local utility, Puget Sound Energy, which was able to offer technical assistance and sufficient financial assistance to make the project viable. Similar partnerships are described in case studies provided by the Motor Decisions Matter campaign.

How to get help

Many utilities throughout the U.S. and Canada offer similar assistance, including both funding and technical guidance related to energy efficiency and energy management. Through prescriptive programs, efficiency programs provide financial incentives in the form of rebates for the purchase of equipment that meets defined efficiency standards.

Prescriptive programs cover multiple measures that can be implemented in the average plant, such as the purchase of NEMA Premium motors, variable speed drives, compact fluorescent lighting and fixtures and high-efficiency heating, ventilation and air conditioning equipment.

Utility efficiency programs also support other ways of finding and implementing energy efficiency solutions. Customized plant assessments, feasibility studies and design assistance for new construction and renovation or expansion projects all fall into this category.

For these customized approaches, efficiency program staff works with your company to perform an energy audit and establish a customized baseline of your facility's energy use. Financial incentives for more efficient equipment or process improvements can then be based on projected energy savings over the baseline.

Identifying attractive energy savings opportunities and credible partners are two fundamental components of an effective sustainability plan that is customized to meet your company's needs.

Energy management can put into place technologies and practices that not only reduce energy consumption, but also optimize operations and reduce energy costs.

For more ideas

The Consortium for Energy Efficiency is a nonprofit organization that develops energy efficiency initiatives with its member utilities. CEE members include utilities, statewide and regional market transformation administrators, environmental groups, research organizations and state energy offices in the U.S. and Canada. CEE has prepared summaries of efficiency programs that can be searched at the CEE Website.

Whether you are looking for more information to start identifying energy efficiency opportunities at your facility, or are well on your way toward implementing improvements, check out the resources available on the CEE Web site or contact your local utility.

Author Information

Marc Hoffman is executive director of the Boston-based Consortium for Energy Efficiency. More information can be found at its Website,

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