Coca-Cola and Ikea Share Energy Transformation Insights at Fortune's Brainstorm E Conference
A little over a decade ago, David Brewster and I founded EnerNOC with the vision of changing the way the world uses energy. We knocked on a lot of doors, and—at the time—most of them were promptly closed. In time, however, the businesses we were hoping to work with started listening to what we had to say. At first, most of those conversations were with facility managers and plant engineers, and focused mostly on opportunities to earn money through demand response—something with a very cut-and-dry ROI. But more recently, we’ve been having a lot of conversations with C-level executives at some of the biggest companies in the world, and what we’re hearing is all very encouraging. Business leaders are starting to look at energy strategy through a whole new lens.
This sense that the energy conversation is evolving was reinforced for me last week at the Fortune Brainstorm E conference, where the world’s foremost experts on energy, technology, and sustainability gathered to exchange ideas and discuss actionable strategies for solving today’s energy challenges.
What stood out most to me were the insights into some of the world’s most successful enterprise energy strategies. You don’t have to be Ikea or Coca-Cola to execute an effective energy strategy, but everyone can take valuable lessons from how they are embracing the trends and opportunities driving the energy transformation.
Laying the Foundation of an Energy Strategy with Streamlined Data
One way to gauge the maturity of an enterprise’s energy strategy is by asking how they handle their energy data. In a lot of cases, you’ll find energy data from different systems or facilities scattered across disparate documents or spreadsheets. Not only does this limit an organization’s ability to analyze or compare data on a company-wide scale, it leaves the information vulnerable to being lost in the shuffle.
Some executives may not think twice about this, but consider how other valuable business data is handled today. Salesforce streamlines management of customer data. Workday centralizes human resources for employees across the company. Why should energy data be treated differently?
Bea Perez, Chief Sustainability Officer at Coca-Cola, said during a panel at Brainstorm E that the foundation of the company’s energy strategy is built on its system of information. Using energy intelligence software to gather the data and strategic advisors to analyze and package the data, Coca-Cola has established a process that ensures its energy reporting is accurate.
This was essential to putting the company’s energy strategy into action. Prior to adopting the tools and processes, Perez explained, energy data was too disorganized for executives to trust it, let alone rely on it to inform strategic decisions.
The Many Advantages of a Comprehensive Energy Strategy
We also got a fascinating view into the impact of some of the world’s most successful energy efficiency and sustainability strategies.
Ikea’s Chief Sustainability Officer Steve Howard said the company has “taken power from a cost to profit center.” Specifically, Howard pointed to Ikea’s impressive renewable energy investments—totaling nearly $1.8 billion to date and culminating in 29 wind farms and 800,000 solar panels.
The value of these efforts reaches beyond operational energy efficiency in its buildings. Howard says Ikea now considers itself “a renewable power company,” a reputation which will only help as it aims to sell solar panels and LED light bulbs in its stores.
Similarly, Coca-Cola’s Perez elaborated on how the company plans to apply its energy intelligence to production. In pilot programs using technology designed to reuse water in production, Perez said Coca-Cola has seen a 30% reduction in water usage.
The immediate value of this capability is obvious—reducing water usage will save on production costs. But over time, efforts to reduce consumption of resources in production will both improve Coca-Cola’s reputation among increasingly sustainability-minded customers and better prepare it to handle unexpected issues with access to clean water.
The global trends driving energy transformation are already materializing, with Nielsen finding last year that businesses that demonstrated a commitment to sustainability showed stronger sales growth than those that did not. It’s clear that how your organization approaches its energy strategy will determine how it fares in the new world of energy.