The most energy-efficient businesses in the UK

November 25th, 2020
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What makes an energy-efficient business? ‘Efficiency’ is defined by the Cambridge Dictionary as “the good use of time and energy in a way that does not waste any”. But how does that transfer into energy-efficiency in business?

The answer is of course that energy efficiency is not a black and white matter of ‘efficient’ or ‘inefficient’. What is more, running your business efficiently and sustainably is no longer a matter of choice. As well as many consumers making their brand choices based on eco-friendly credentials, the government has introduced legislation to reward energy efficiency and penalise waste.

A company’s viability can now swing on how sustainably they act and how energy-conscious their choices are. Is the UK eco friendly? Well, a recent global survey run by J. Walter Thompson Intelligence found that 83% of adults in the UK, the US, China and Australia would choose a brand over others because of their better sustainability record.

Another factor to consider is that a whopping fifth of all waste in England is generated by businesses – and 60% of that waste in the rubbish bin could have been recycled. That means companies really can make a significant impact on the world we all live in.

How to gauge energy efficiency

We can focus on what companies use the most energy on, and the least, and explore which businesses are dedicated to using only renewable and the best green energy suppliers.

Then there are companies working hard to become ‘zero waste’ or ‘closed-loop’ – the process in which they minimise or eliminate any waste they produce. There is also a group of companies dedicating themselves to using only eco-friendly and ethical products and suppliers. Finally, of course, we can gauge the energy efficiency they encourage or enable in their customers as a real step towards energy efficiency, too (take biodegradable bags in supermarkets, for example).

Many of the UK’s most energy-efficient brands take on most if not all, of these issues. It’s hard to prioritise some of these factors over others in terms of overall efficiency, just as it’s unfair to laud the huge companies doing a little over the small companies doing a lot. So this blog is going to celebrate a range of businesses in the UK, small and large, who are doing their best to be energy-efficient.

Renewable Energy Companies: Which is the Greenest Energy Supplier UK?

Renewable energy organisations in the UK are now providing a competitively-priced energy supply, as well as being a sustainable and future-proof solution to the energy crises facing the world, which are only intensifying. Octopus Energy was given the Renewable Energy Association’s award for ‘the company that’s done the most to advance UK renewables’ in 2019, so these green energy suppliers are really stepping up to the mark to satisfy an eco-conscious consumer and alleviate the country’s fossil fuels footprint.

Octopus was also voted the best green energy supplier for customer service. Green Energy UK is the only green provider to 100% green gas, though the other companies carbon offset any percentage of non-green gas in their supplies. Companies can be judged on several metrics of success, but five of the best and biggest renewable energy companies in the UK are Ecotricity, Bulb, Octopus, Solarplicity and the Good Energy Group.

In 2015, the UK’s energy usage was 30% from natural gas, 19% electricity and 51% petroleum, solid fuels and bioenergy – so working out which gas supplier to choose, and ditto which electricity supplier, for your business, are essential considerations, taking in almost 50% of total usage.

Commitment to using only renewable energies

Many companies are creating green targets that they want to reach within a certain time period, illustrating their growing concern for their environmental impact and how that is judged by their customers. Some launched with efficiency in mind, though, rather than as a box to tick as a later concern.

Green Tomato Cars were the first taxi service to launch with a fleet of Toyota Prius in London back in 2006. Their fleet (the UK’s largest) of hydrogen fuel cell EVs are pioneering fully zero-emission corporate transport. This eco-friendly private transport company prioritises ethics and the environment in an industry not known for either. The car’s limited emissions are offset by a project the company runs in Uganda, subsidising fuel-efficient cooking stoves, and they plant nearly 200 trees a year.

Rapanui, meanwhile, are a clothing manufacturer who use only renewable energy. Their clothing is made from natural materials, and all the products are designed to be sent back and reused when worn out – it’s a circular supply chain. The factory, in the Isle of Wight, manufactures products as soon as you order them, only making what is needed when needed, and they have an ethically-accredited, wind-powered factory in India too.

Making a commitment to Minimising energy use

Minimising energy use is a big no-brainer for businesses, as it cuts expenditure for the company as well as the environmental savings it brings. ClimateWorks Australia’s Energy Productivity Index found back in 2013 that companies could improve their profitability by 2-10% per year by saving energy.

Aerial Power, a company based in London, draws on the skills of several engineers and specialists for their product – a drone-based cleaning system for solar panels and wind turbines. This self-flying UAV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle) makes for a more efficient, cheaper and environmentally-friendly alternative to the usual cleaning methods. It could reimagine cleaning for solar farms in arid, dusty regions where dust inhibits the solar panels’ productivity.

Kelda Tech is a company working towards sustainability in harnessing another of the earth’s elements – water. Kelda Technology has designed the world’s most efficient shower system, an ‘air-powered’ shower which offers power at half the water usage and heating than a traditional shower requires.

Commitment to zero-waste/closed loop

Plenty of companies are getting wise to the abundance of free, ‘waste’ products which can be recycled and upcycled into a new product. Therefore minimising their environmental impact and working towards a ‘closed-loop’ system – where there is no such thing as waste, only resources in the wrong place.

Bio Bean is the world’s largest recycler of coffee grounds. They use the grounds to create “coffee logs”, which burn 25% hotter and longer than kiln-dried wood. Each one is made from the grounds from 25 cups of coffee – generating 80% fewer emissions than if the grounds went into landfill.

Macrebur Roads tackle both the problem of waste plastics internationally and the problem of using fossil fuel-based ingredients in road surfacing. By taking non-recyclable plastic waste that was destined for incineration or landfill, and mixing it with asphalt, MacRebur creates road surfaces which are more durable than straight asphalt or tarmac. They also begin to close the dangerous loop of non-recyclable plastics. Each kilometre of road necessitates the equivalent of 740,541 single-use plastic bags. By extending part of the bitumen in the mix, MacRebur also helps to reduce fossil fuel usage, meaning a reduction in carbon footprint.

Rothy’s are a shoe brand whose pioneering tech ‘knits’ plastic from waste bottles and the like into a durable, comfortable material for footwear. So far, they have used more than 70 million plastic water bottles to create their innovative designs. They offset any environmental impact they do have through their project The Envira Amazonia Project, a tropical forest conservation project.

Using only Eco-suppliers and products

Dash Water is thinking about the monumental piles of waste generated by our food industry. Those ‘wonky’ fruits that cannot be sold in supermarkets go into their sparkling water. Free from sugar, sweeteners and even calories, Dash has made a virtuous fizzy drink to tackle the worrying statistic that up to 40% of UK-grown fruit and veg currently goes to waste. All of their direct deliveries are now carbon-neutral, and their cans are recyclable, too.

Patagonia is an outdoors clothing brand dedicated to honesty, ethics and sustainability. They are honest about the work they still have to do, but they are dedicated to energy-efficient, sustainable and ethical production. They are lowering their emissions through recycling (72% of this season’s clothes were made from recycled fabrics). Plus, they use organic cotton (without the harmful chemicals cotton-growing often entails) and they are investing in ways to remove greenhouse gases from the atmosphere, through the use of regenerative organic agriculture.

Snact noticed the shocking amount of fruit wasted at London markets, and soon realised it was a national problem. Now, they save ‘rejected’ or surplus fruit from being wasted, making it into pure fruit ‘jerky’ – whizzed up and dehydrated fruit leather, for snacking. It’s pure fruit – no further sugar (or anything else) added. They now source directly from British farmers in Kent, who now have buyers for their rejected stock, and tonnes of fruit is saved from being wasted.

To conclude, let’s look at the flipside. We’ve looked into what brands are environmentally friendly, and what companies are the most eco-friendly, but who is the worst? It’s useful to know this too, so you can be wise about your usage and mitigate your consumption where possible.

What companies use the most energy? Well, it’s no secret that the global energy sector has a massive environmental impact. The top 20 fossil fuel companies contribute over 35% of greenhouse gas emissions in the world, according to a 2019 report. You also likely won’t be surprised to hear that the sector using the most energy is transport (accounting for 40% of the UK’s energy consumption), whilst goods and services use 14% of that consumption total. Commercial Businesses account for 65% of that 14% service sector usage. More surprisingly, a Greenpeace report illustrates that the big tech firms Amazon, Microsoft and Google are having a massive harmful effect by using fossil fuels to power their cloud technologies.

Changing how you choose your business energy, moving to become more energy-efficient and considering how to be a more sustainable, ethical and energy-efficient company could have real, tangible effects on the world we live in – and the world of the future

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