Cutting back on the energy your business uses could be easier than you think, says Dr Garry Felgate, director of delivery and external relations at the Carbon Trust
Climate change is the biggest environmental threat currently faced by the UK and the reduction of carbon emissions, the main cause of climate change, is now a priority for all organisations, including those in the hospitality sector. With energy prices continuing to rise, the need for companies in the catering and hotel industry to improve their energy efficiency has never been greater.
The financial benefits of improving energy efficiency are clear: our experience at the Carbon Trust shows that a 20% saving in energy - easily achievable by many businesses - can have the same positive effect as a 5% increase in sales. Research has also shown that, as consumers become more aware of the issue of climate change, organisations that fail to make efforts to tackle it run the risk of losing customers.
The good news is that implementing straightforward energy-saving measures can quickly reduce energy bills. Heating is the largest area of energy use in the hospitality sector, and yet turning down the temperature by just one degree can reduce bills by 8-10%.
In hotels, rooms can be kept at 14°C without risking damp or condensation, so you can avoid excessively heating unoccupied rooms. Replacing standard light bulbs with energy-saving equivalents will result in a 75% reduction in energy use without compromising quality of light.
Many businesses in the hospitality sector have clearly realised the benefits of reducing their energy bills and cutting carbon emissions: a recent survey among Caterer readers, conducted in conjunction with the Carbon Trust, found that 82% had already taken steps to reduce energy consumption.
However, with businesses in the UK still wasting on average 30% of the energy they buy, there's still clearly much more to be done if the hospitality sector is to fulfil its role in the fight against climate change.
How important is reducing carbon emissions?
Emma Hibbert, corporate affairs manager, Adnams Brewery, Southwold, Suffolk
"Adnams believes in doing things right. We've just opened our eco-distribution centre, and we're working with the University of East Anglia to reduce our carbon footprint. Reducing carbon emissions not only makes sense for the environment, but in times of soaring fuel costs, makes business sense too."
Greg Dawson, director of communications, Travelodge
"The most important thing is that customers want it - 82% want to stay at a hotel that's environmentally friendly. It's in our interests to be sustainable, it drives our costs down and allows us to pass savings on to customers, and it's also the right thing to do. If we can change staff attitudes at work then this could translate into their home lives."
Will Smith, proprietor, Arbutus restaurant, London
"I don't think the issue is priority for most small businesses. Margins are tight in the restaurant trade and proprietors need to see a real benefit in taking time to reduce their own emissions. Most restaurateurs feel their restaurants are small businesses and not the main offenders. They think of emissions and they think of big businesses."
Andrew Beale, managing director, Beales Hotels
"Our day-to-day reality is more concerned with reducing gas and electricity. Subscribing to the Hospitable Climates programme is a key way of getting hotel staff involved. Being Green has proved good for the business, good for the staff and good for the environment. We've planted over 3,000 trees at the hotels in the last 40 years."