Additionality and goals

Posted by on Feb 5, 2013 in My Book | 0 comments

Plus_signA key concept in sustainability, widely applied to carbon markets, is “additionality”. It centres on whether a specific intervention that an organisation makes to improve sustainability delivers an improvement that would not otherwise have occurred. Understanding this concept is essential if one wants to set  resource efficiency goals that are not open to criticism.

While it is clear that the measure of resource efficiency that has greatest environmental integrity is the measure of the absolute resource use in relation to the sustainable capacity of the planet, it does not necessarily follow that all improvements an organisation makes in absolute resource use can be recognized towards their own resource efficiency goal.

Read More

Why certainty drives the resource efficiency proposal

Posted by on Jan 5, 2013 in My Book | 1 comment

Ever wondered why there is such a high level resource waste in our organisations despite study after study showing a vast cash-positive potential across most sectors of our economy? Could this be a reflection of quality of resource efficiency proposals that are reaching senior executives?  Are the engineers, consultants, environmental managers or operations staff who are developing these proposals simply not effective in communicating the benefits to decision-makers?

In defence of the proponents of resource efficiency the magnitude of the obstacles to the adoption of resource efficiency are only just now being appreciated. We shall see later in Part 3 “The Barriers to Resource Efficiency”, that the dice are well and truly loaded against resource efficiency right from the start. There are numerous psychological factors, organisational, financial and information issues, which conspire to make the case for resource efficiency much more challenging than it need be.

Read More

The Hare and the Tortoise: the importance of continuous improvement

Posted by on Nov 28, 2012 in My Book | 0 comments

One of the most common errors that folks make in the delivery of energy and resource efficiency programs is to mistakenly set objectives to maximise the short term-returns from the program. The consequence of this approach can be disastrous for long-term value.

Some organisations take the view that the goal of the resource efficiency program is simply to optimise resource use in existing operations and managers will insist on a project-by-project justification with very rapid paybacks, leaving no room for the implementation of overarching continuous improvement systems. In other cases I have seen the program managers themselves get so carried away with the success and praise they receive that they become totally preoccupied with delivering the short-term savings as rapidly as possible and are reluctant to put in the effort to lay the foundations for longer-term success.

Read More

A Framework for Resource Efficiency

Posted by on Oct 27, 2012 in My Book | 0 comments

Over two decades and hundreds of projects I have been fortunate to encounter some of the best, and worst, examples of resource efficiency programs. My own observations are that around a third of projects have done very well, another third delivered some value but have not been sustained in the long-run, and the final third fell short of expectations from early on.

This success rate is typical of most change management or business process re-engineering projects[ bah2003bpr  ], so we should not single out resource efficiency programs for especial criticism. If one reads what many organisations say publicly about their resource efficiency programs we can only find stories of success and the benefits to the organisation and their stakeholders of environmental thinking. No mention anywhere of challenges, disappointments, steps backwards. Consultants, like me, are also silent on the true level of success of resource efficiency programs because we are either bound by client confidentiality or we quite simply don’t want to advertise our involvement in failed projects – it is not good for business!.

Read More

The precautionary principle – friend or foe?

Posted by on Oct 15, 2012 in My Book | 0 comments

The English language is rich with aphorisms that warn us to take care before we proceed: “look before you leap”, “better safe than sorry”, “first do no harm” and “prevention is better than cure”. This notion of caution, originating in the German concept of Vorsorgeprinzip, loosely “forecaring principle”, lies at the heart of the debate about roles and responsibilities for resource efficiency.

The precautionary principle states:

When an activity raises threats of harm to human health or the environment, precautionary measures should be taken even if some cause and effect relationships are not fully established scientifically.

The key here is whether there is an obligation to act in the absence of absolute scientific evidence pointing to possible harm. Clearly, if such an obligation exists, then organisations today that are contributing to climate change by, for example, emitting CO2 to the atmosphere or reducing forests, have an obligation to take measures to reduce the threat to the environment brought about by their actions.  And the same principle applies to other forms of resource depletion, around water or biodiversity and so forth.

Read More

Sources, Sinks and Peak Oil

Posted by on Oct 12, 2012 in My Book | 0 comments

The economy which we operate today is largely based on a one-way journey of natural resources – from source to sink:

Sources and Sinks drive the economy

Figure 1: Our economy depends both on the availability of natural resources and on the ability of the environment to deal with the wastes that we produce.

However, oil, like other fossil fuels, is a non-renewable resource, in other words it is not replenished by nature – it can only be used once. The source of oil is finite. Furthermore the use of oil leads to emissions of CO2 whose natural sinks are already saturated. Given the importance of oil to the economy it is not surprising that there has been a lot of debate about whether the Source or the Sink would ever limit our use of this resource, and when those limits would arrive.Amongst all the resources that we use oil is particularly important. It has been the availability of huge quantities of very cheap oil that has powered the unprecedented economic growth of the last century, just as coal was the energy source that underpinned the Industrial Revolution in the years before. Oil has wondrously been described as “fossilised sunlight” because it is derived from the sun that fell on plants over thousands of years. Oil is an incredible material –it is very portable, its derivatives – gasoline/petrol, diesel etc. – are volatile and so can drive combustion engines and as chemical feedstock oil underpins a huge range of industries. Oil also has around one and half times the energy density of coal and over four times that of wood – one litre of gasoline/petrol contains 32 MJ or 8.5 kWh – which is equivalent to about 8.5 days of human labour[1]!

Read More

Fiduciaries duty-bound to consider Resource Efficiency

Posted by on Oct 10, 2012 in My Book | 0 comments

A fiduciary is someone who is entrusted with another person’s money, rights or assets. The word is derived from the Latin fiducia for “trust” and reflects the expectation that the owner has that the custodian will act exclusively with the owner’s interests in mind.

It is a lovely concept. It describes how one person, perhaps vulnerable, in good faith places reliance and trust in another, and how that second person in good conscience, and bearing in mind the trust placed in them, acts in such a way to benefit and support the first person. A fiduciary will not allow their personal interests to interfere with their obligations to the first person, nor will they profit from the relationship.    

Read More

The Limits to Growth Reviewed

Posted by on Oct 9, 2012 in Books, My Book | 1 comment

The Limits to GrowthOne of the most influential books on the subject of resource efficiency in the 20th Century was The Limits to Growth [ meadows1972limits  ] by Donella H. Meadows, Dennis L. Meadows, Jørgen Randers, and William W. Behrens III.  Commissioned in 1972 by the Club of Rome, an influential think-tank, the study used computer systems – an innovation at the time – to model the interaction of population, pollution, capital investment, agriculture and natural resources. Each of these drivers had positive and negative feedbacks with each other – e.g. as agriculture improved so did food per capita which boosted population, at the same time as population increased so too did pollution and natural resource consumption, while a decline in resources decreased industrial output.

Read More

$,£,¥ – Efficiency and share price

Posted by on Oct 4, 2012 in My Book | 0 comments

In our earlier discussion of fiduciary duty we have established that it is the duty of private company Directors to enhance the value of their business on behalf of shareholders. One way of achieving this, but by no means the only way, is to increase the profits of the business. We have also seen that resource efficiency offers very large no and low cost savings opportunities for business and that many leading businesses are proving these savings are real. So just what is the connection between efficiency and share price?

Read More

The big secret – Resource Efficiency is not easy!

Posted by on Oct 4, 2012 in My Book | 0 comments

Let’s be clear from the outset, if resource efficiency were easy then everyone would be doing it. Resource efficiency is complex. It requires many parts of the organisation to be engaged for protracted periods of time. It seems never-ending, no sooner has some improvement been made but there is a demand for more – whether to satisfy regulators or to remain competitive. In short, resource efficiency is not easy! The reasons to start the resource efficiency journey are nevertheless quite compelling:

Read More

Why now?

Posted by on Oct 4, 2012 in My Book | 0 comments

Procrastination is opportunity’s assassin.  – Victor Kiam

If one were to ask 100 senior managers what they thought of resource efficiency they would probably all agree with the proposition it is a “Good Thing”, like “apple pie and motherhood”. But the data shows us that in the majority of organisations there remains a large un-tapped potential to improve efficiency. It seems that resource efficiency gets stuck on the organisational “to do” list, in limbo, its value un-realised or only part-realised.

In many cases the challenge is not only to convince management about the benefits of resource efficiency but why implementing a program now is desirable. We must accept that there is always some other corporate imperative that can claim greater priority: the big acquisition; the reorganisation; addressing a downturn; the new management system; the expansion; or the new service development.

Read More

Why is resource efficiency like the hotel business?

Posted by on Oct 4, 2012 in My Book | 0 comments

There are many businesses where the principal product becomes worthless after a certain point in time. An empty hotel room cannot be sold again the next day, theatre tickets have no market once the curtain goes up, fresh fruit has a finite shelf-life and an unoccupied airline seat is valueless once the plane has taken off.

Resource efficiency is the same in that the potential savings in any day can never be realised again at a later date, they are gone, lost forever. Needless money has been spent; it has flowed out of the organisation, never to be seen again. Meantime, the emissions, waste or other environmental impacts are accumulating, becoming more difficult, and expensive, to undo.

Read More