Insight: How can boards be switched on to energy?

What can be done to make energy strategy a board-level priority?

One word comes to mind – more. In the light of the findings in the Telegraph/YouGov survey on energy attitudes, awareness and policies across British industry, since 2016 business energy policy has slipped down the list of priorities both in boardrooms and among employees.

Awareness of how companies buy energy has weakened, and the proportion of decision makers who discuss sustainability issues with employees has dropped from almost 70% to just 40%. While the respondent samples were not identical between the two years, the drop is remarkable.

This is perhaps due in part to the closure of the ESOS (Energy Saving Opportunity Scheme) compliance obligation period, resulting in the assumption that energy efficiency is no longer an issue. But there also appears to be a conviction among managers across industry that investment in energy efficiency will not pay off in their tenure.

Lagging behind the hospitality, tourism and travel and retail sectors, manufacturing seems to be the industry sector least concerned by the issue of energy. This is surprising, given that almost three in 10 of manufacturers spend more than £250,000 a year on energy, as opposed to the 16% in retail that spend the same amount.

Barely a quarter of decision makers in manufacturing consider the price of energy to be a threat to their business, whereas that figure goes up to around four in ten in retail and hospitality.

In manufacturing, only 15% of employees understand their company’s energy policy, against 29% in hospitality and almost 40% in retail. In both manufacturing and hospitality, 45% of managers were neutral about whether their boards consider an energy strategy as part of an overall business strategy; 42% didn’t think it was important at all.

However, in retail, more than two thirds of managers said it was important to their boards. While businesses in all sectors said that energy efficiency is important, along with compliance with energy legislation, only retail shows a marked interest in the value of energy self-sufficiency.

The conclusion is that there is a degree of complacency over energy policy in manufacturing, and to a slightly lesser degree in hospitality, but that it is far less of an issue in the more cutthroat environment of retail. With the end of ESOS, it seems, many decision makers took their eye off the ball regarding the benefits of energy efficiency.

It is probable that the commercial pressures that concentrate minds in retail will come to bear on hospitality and manufacturing. When that happens, the importance of having a proper focus on energy policy at board level, and an awareness of energy efficiency and sustainability throughout workforces, will most likely happen. Until then, retail leads the way, hospitality follows and manufacturing lags well behind both.


Sustainability and business success go hand in hand. We teamed up with The Telegraph to help businesses better understand how they could reduce costs and become more self-sufficient. 

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