By Elena Avesani, Principal Product Strategy Manager, Oracle
On February 19th and 20th, 2013 Agrion, a global business network for energy, cleantech and corporate sustainability, held its annual energy and sustainability summit in New York. Business leaders came together to exchange experience and expertise in order to advance the conversation on energy and sustainability. I was at the summit along with 400 other participants. We heard from experts in the renewable energy, smart cities, smart grid, corporate sustainability and energy efficiency fields.
In the sustainability track, speakers from various companies discussed their sustainability programs in terms of ROI of corporate social responsibility, employee engagement, materiality, relations with the investor’s community, and sustainable supply chains. Some of my key take-aways included:
It is imperative for practitioners in the sustainability space to build a business case with their CFOs to continue pushing forward their sustainability agenda within their organizations. Activities and projects should be linked to financial and operational metrics and results.
While the proliferation of sustainability performance surveys from customers and vendors often generates confusion, it also indicates a significant cultural change. Sustainability is being further integrated into organizations’ business values and overall strategy and companies are being more transparent in what they are disclosing.
While organizations and thought leaders around the world are pushing for further integration of sustainability data – with financial information and for environmental and social factors to be considered as equal contributors to the value of a company – the disconnect on the financial markets and the investor relations (IR) team is still a blocking factor. In some companies the CSO office and IR office rarely communicate. However, analysts are increasingly looking at companies’ environmental practices and investors better understand how sustainability practices affect the value of the company and have a strong impact on risk.
Uniform regulation remains the missing element in the field and could be the final catalyst. Stock exchanges are now requiring or recommending companies to disclose environmental, social, and governance data, but the implementation of this requirement requires a common action in the industry as this type of requirement can discourage companies that want to get listed.
Highlights from the energy track included keynote presentations by Richard Kauffman, Chair of Energy Policy and Finance Sub-Cabinet in the State of New York, and Reed Hundt, CEO of the Coalition for Green Capital. Both made the case for green banks, intended to provide low cost financing to clean energy projects, and the need for partnering within the private sector to foster investment in alternative energy. Low cost lending can substantially reduce the cost of a clean energy project, making it cost competitive with fossil fuel generation or close to cost competitive and thus requiring lower subsidies.
Bradley Williams, VP of Industry Strategy at Oracle, spoke about the impact that the Microgrid will have on the energy industry from production to distribution, storage, billing and the connection to the grid, and the technology skills and assets required.
It was an interesting summit and the Oracle participants, myself included, enjoyed participating in these energy and sustainability discussions.