Three myths about small businesses and energy goals debunked

This article was originally published by Stephen Dixon on LinkedIn

An energy plan is now a basic requirement for major corporations – and for good reason. One report published in 2017 showed that big businesses are saving billions of dollars by making energy efficiency a priority. The same report found that 63 per cent of Fortune 100 companies have at least one clean energy target, and that nearly half of Fortune 500 companies have at last one climate or clean energy target – up from just five per cent in 2014.

So, what about the smaller guys?

Often, small or independent businesses don’t feel empowered to make energy efficiency a priority because they don’t think they’ll see results, it won’t drive new business or they simple don’t have time. But no matter the size or stage of your business, saving energy is a good move for your bottom line.

Here are some common myths I often see that need busting.

“I need a lot of resources to have an impact.”

Energy management doesn’t require the heavy investment you might think it does.

It can begin with some small habit changes. Energy saving often comes down to people, and that’s true regardless of your company size. There are simple steps your business can take to reduce energy consumption and costs, without breaking your budget.

For many small businesses in the food and beverage industry, for example, inefficient refrigeration can be costly. By making regular maintenance, including cleaning, a priority, those businesses can reduce their monthly energy bills and add to the lifespan of their equipment – at no cost, just by changing their practices.

And when new equipment is necessary, there are opportunities to help lower the costs. In Ontario, Save on Energy works with local hydro companies to provide financial incentives to help businesses upgrade to new, efficient equipment. The Small Business Refrigeration program, for example, offers a practical and no-cost approach to selective upgrades to small refrigeration systems.

“My customers and employees don’t really care about how I use energy.”

Being considered a “green business” can increase the marketing value of your company. More and more of us are seeking out responsible and environmentally conscious businesses to spend our money with. Millennials in particular are drawn to companies that have made sustainability part of their mandate. An energy efficient story could help give your company an edge over competitors – or at least make sure you don’t fall behind.

Meanwhile, your energy efficient practices might make for a happier workforce for more practical reasons. Take the example of Gears Bike Shop, a Mississauga hotspot for cycling enthusiasts. It was just that – hot. Employees who were working on bikes and helping to fit customers to their equipment weren’t always comfortable under the existing lights, but an upgrade to more efficient LED lighting changed that. This simple swap out drove an increase in employee satisfaction and engagement, which translated into productivity and, finally, sales for this Ontario-based small business.

“Energy saving is too time consuming and I’m too busy.”

I understand that time is tight for many small business owners, which can seem like a barrier to energy efficiency initiatives. Luckily, saving energy doesn’t have to be time-consuming. My simple suggestion is to reach out to one of the many organizations, such as the electricity and gas utilities, or even your local Chamber of Commerce, that are offering to help you save energy costs. See what is possible – you may be surprised!

And don’t forget some of newest cost-effective automation and technology. Lighting sensors in areas that aren’t always in use, like washrooms or break rooms, can help you save. Using a smart thermostat or smart lighting can do the saving for you, while you focus on what’s important: your customers.

Save on Energy offers several incentive programs for things like new lighting, which will result in immediate savings without disrupting your day-to-day.


How I helped business owner Gary save…

Talking to an energy expert can also help. I worked with one business owner named Gary, who operated a small office equipment service company with three rooms in a strip mall. He cut his monthly electricity costs by 25 per cent just by running the fan on his rooftop HVAC unit on “Auto,” instead of “On.”

Gary couldn’t have known what that rooftop unit was even costing him without understanding his overall energy use and how simple switches could help. His walkthrough with an energy expert – me – helped him know the true costs of his energy use in just half an hour. He reaped big savings without a headache.

Gary’s story just goes to show that making energy efficiency a priority doesn’t need to be costly or time consuming and be limited to the Fortune 500 companies out there. Every business, no matter the size, can – and should – take energy management into their hands.