So, you’ve got some great ideas about how your organisation can be more sustainable. What do you do now?
Getting buy-in from decision-makers on projects in which you can invest a little and save a lot seems like an easy sell, particularly in the public sector, where buildings are often owned and operated by the same people who pay the utility bills. Why then is the public sector lagging behind and missing out on opportunities to make itself more financially and environmentally sustainable?
A recent study by think-tank and sustainable business network 2Degrees shows that the public sector is trailing most business sectors in the UK, including retail and media, on energy efficiency investment and prioritisation of sustainable development principles.
Admittedly, there have been strong pressures on the public sector in recent years, and austerity measures have hit budgets hard. It now falls upon those who know there are opportunities for considerable savings to reframe the argument.
Here are four ways you can help turn business cases into action:
Put the investment in context
Almost invariably, the investment that you propose will have additional benefits to energy and cash saving. A new heating, ventilation and air-conditioning system in a hospital could, for example, improve temperatures for staff and patients, increase the resilience of the system, and free up space in the building that could be used for core business purposes. Whatever your sector, understand what the organisation’s priorities and business objectives are, and link your business case back to the heart of what you are trying to achieve. Make your proposal impossible to ignore.
Consider your project and ask yourself if you’re leaving out key investment opportunities. Is there scope to look at projects in another part of the building or site? Are there opportunities that may have a longer payback period that you don’t think you can get over the line on their own? Put everything on the table and consider all of your options. It’s worth looking at the estate as a whole to realise the long-term savings .
Avoid the ‘they said no before’ trap
Don’t assume that because you asked for investment a few years ago and were turned down, that the answer will still be no. Increasingly, key decision makers are learning about the benefits of investing in their estate for future gains. It’s a tried and tested means to directly improve the bottom line and given the pressure from Europe to reduce carbon emissions, low interest rates and financing options for the public sector are increasingly favourable and available.
Learn from others
Wisdom from those who have successfully pushed their projects over the line is invaluable. Ask people within your organisation who have been successful with their business cases, as well as approaching other organisations in your sector that have made investments. Learning from others’ successes (and failures!) can save you a huge amount of time and avoid a lot of frustration.
Alexandra Hammond is Essentia’s Associate Director of Sustainability – need more advice on getting your sustainability ideas into practice? Get in touch at email@example.com