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Energy is at large a central challenge for human society today.
It is essential for economic development and yet its impact on the environment must be minimized. The United Nations Sustainable Energy for All initiative aims to mobilize the world around this issue. In support of this initiative, Accenture and the United Nations Global Compact undertook research to uncover the business opportunities in sustainable energy across 19 industries. In addition to the Sustainable Energy for All: The Business Opportunity, read the Sustainable Energy for All Industry reports:
Energy is central to nearly every major challenge and opportunity the world faces today. Energy enables social and economic development, from basic needs to advanced industrial activity. However, energy sourcing and usage also have a significant impact on the environment, and companies are under more scrutiny than ever about producing and consuming energy in a more sustainable manner while continuing to generate business value.
To mobilize action and partnerships focused on sustainably meeting the increasing energy requirements of businesses and society, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has launched a global initiative. Called “Sustainable Energy for All,” the initiative has set three primary objectives, to be met by 2030: ensuring universal access to modern energy services; doubling the global rate of improvement in energy efficiency; and doubling the share of renewable energy in the global energy mix. The initiative strives to leverage the global convening power of the United Nations; facilitate a rapidly expanding, cross-sector knowledge network; and mobilize people, organizations, and investments on a broad scale.
In support of this initiative, Accenture and the United Nations Global Compact conducted research by interviewing more than 70 companies across 19 industries to identify business opportunities. Companies were primarily United Nations Global Compact LEAD companies and Caring for Climate signatories.
Ninety percent of consumers worldwide want more renewable energy.
Seventy-nine percent of consumers worldwide have a more positive perception of brands produced with wind energy.
Fifty percent of consumers worldwide would pay extra for products based on renewable energy.
The largest share of the identified priority industry actions for improving energy efficiency (45 percent) are related to core business operations.
Fifty percent of the priority actions identified are oriented toward energy efficiency, 37 percent focus on renewable energy, and 13 percent target increased energy access.
There are four ways the private sector can drive business value from sustainable energy actions:
Revenue growth. Businesses can develop and adapt products for current and new sets of customers, expand into new geographical markets for existing or new products, and establish and improve relations with government and policy makers.
Cost reduction. Reducing energy costs has now become critical: According to the recent United Nations Global Compact-Accenture CEO Study, 91 percent of CEOs will employ energy efficiency measures to address sustainability issues over the next five years. The potential energy savings for industry could equal the total annual electricity consumption of the US and China combined.
Brand enhancement. Although intangible assets are difficult to quantify and directly link to a business’ bottom line or top line, a brand with strong associations to sustainability in the minds of consumers can be a source of competitive advantage, especially in increasingly commoditized markets.
Risk management. Renewable energy can act as a hedge by shifting a company’s energy budget from a variable to a fixed cost.
In spite of the differences between industries, many common themes are observable. Four priority actions emerged as central to most industries and therefore are important for executives to consider. These priority actions can also help to identify opportunities for public-private partnerships and cross-industry collaboration.
The four priority actions are:
Business Value Lever: Revenue Growth
Common action: Provide more energy-efficient products and services. For example, one notable innovation is the advent of cold-wash clothing detergent.
Business Value Lever: Cost Reduction
Common action: Increase the energy efficiency of operations. For example, the airline industry is using limited power to taxi, reducing the weight of onboard equipment, and shortening the flight path distance during takeoff and landing.
Business Value Lever: Brand Enhancement
Common action: Educate stakeholders on how to achieve energy efficiency. For example, utility companies that educate consumers on energy-efficient practices and appliances, or that provide free energy audits, can help build their brands.
Business Value Lever: Risk Management
Common action: Increase the use of renewable energy in operations. For example, bio-based chemical feedstock’s can be used to replace petrochemical raw materials and also serve as new building blocks for chemical production.
June 15, 2012
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