ICP Networks bid to create the most eco friendly IT HQ in Britain is making national headlines.
The networking and IT specialists were featured for their endeavours to installing the largest solar panel installation in the North West.
ICP Networks MD Matt Archer, one of the UK’s leading authorities lifted the lid on ICP Network’s focus on placing the environment – and ICP Networks impact on it – at the centre of their planning for the future.
Read Sean Hargrave’s feature in The Guardian, as part of their ‘Efficiency Hub from the Small Business Section’ in full below:
Meet the small business owners cutting costs by saving energy
When Sharan Purewal received an electricity bill that was, for the time, larger than the mortgage on the Perry Bar Stores convenience shop she owns with her husband, she knew it was time to take action.
Like many small business owners she and her husband realised they could never quite compete with a large chain but could offer new local services, such as a free cash point machine, a Subway sandwich franchise and an array of fridge and freezers for drinks and snacks. The trouble was, every new service meant plugging in a new device and that was increasing their electricity use.
Without the means to hire a green consultancy she decided any progress would have to be made through her own research and asking her new electricity supplier for tips. A year later, though, she has now shaved 30% to 40% off the store’s electricity costs.
“There are some very obvious things such as putting lights on different circuits so they’re not always all on at the same time,” she said.
“That’s very useful for the outside light which doesn’t need to be on at the same time as the indoor lights. When we’re quiet for food, we’ll turn a microwave off and we now switch off beer fridges because they’ve got time to get cold again from when we get in each morning.
“The more sophisticated savings have been from rewiring the shop and installing a more efficient three phase electrical system. We’ve ordered voltage optimisation devices which will make sure our fridges and freezers run at the optimum voltage and so use less electricity.”
To make sure everyone adopts the new system, Sharan has a checklist for when each shift starts so staff can tour the shop to see if energy can be saved by switching off lights or turning air conditioning units off or down.
Matt Archer, founder of ICP Networks, has taken this to the other extreme by producing more electricity than his Cheshire-based computer recycling and refurbishment business consumes. When he and his dozen staff members moved to a new office and warehouse building last year he knew it was a good time to install solar panels. He now has a solar array which produces roughly twice the amount of electricity per year as the company uses and he has also modernised the lighting system.
“Solar power just makes so much sense, so long as you own your building and can raise the revenue,” he said.
“It’s a shame you have to raise it yourself and there’s not so much government help any more. We spent around £60,000 which is forecast to be paid back within seven years through bill reductions and the feed-in tariff we get from electricity we generate but don’t need. So far we’ve hit year one targets within nine months, so we’re looking good.”
In fact, not only does being environmentally friendly make money through bill reductions, it can also generate revenue through opening up paths to new business clients. Matt certainly believes clients are impressed when they visit the office by the inverter units which show how much electricity is being generated from the roof. The project is also the central focus of the business applying for, and hoping to soon receive, ISO14001 accreditation.
This green badge of honour opens up routes to new business, according to Paul Bates, managing director of pest control company Cleankill. As an SME the business did not want to go down the consultancy route to going green which it feared might involve large fees more suited to a corporation. Instead, it has put in place some simple measures which have earned ISO14001 certification.
“It’s very useful to have because it shows other like-minded businesses and public organisations that you take environment responsibility very seriously,” he said.
“We’ve always looked at what the big boys in our industry do and wondered how we can offer a better service that’s built around customers rather than shareholders. So our vehicles are now being replaced with a Prius and vans with BlueMotion energy efficient engines. We also have an office bike some of our guys will use when they don’t need a lot of kit and our directors cycle around London on Boris bikes rather than using company cars.”
Technology can play a part too. Bates’ staff are given intelligent pen and pad sets which digitally record the boxes being ticked in reports and any handwritten notes. The digitised forms are then emailed to clients via smartphones, significantly cutting down on paper use. In the winter, their old office has heat retaining blinds to cut down on the energy required to keep the space warm.
At a time when the cost of electricity and fuel only appear to be going in one direction, it makes sense for SME owners to seek to cut bills which serves the twin purpose of saving money as well as attracting clients who prefer to work with forward-thinking partners.
Most owners would agree, though, the key is not just in deciding to cut costs but in engaging staff as to how reductions can be achieved. Crucially green thinking has to originate from, or at least be fully supported by, the owners and directors of a business because it is they who can commit a company fully to energy saving ideas.
Ultimately it is also only they who can insist staff adopt a more environmentally friendly way of working, such as paper-saving technology, switching off lights and fridges and consider using a bike or public transport above a company car.