Corporate America's secret truth about energy

Did you know you work for an energy company?

It doesn't matter if your employer is a retailer, an insurance company or a manufacturer of widgets. If energy isn't influencing corporate decisions, it will soon.

From a new Deloitte Touche report: "Every company is an energy company. This might come as a surprise to many of them. But a decade from now, a company without an 'energy and sustainability' department could be as unusual as one without a human resources department. Either that, or it might be out of business. "

The sustainability movement is growing. Sure, it's in infancy, but energy can account for up to 20% of a corporation's expense sheet, and is increasingly unreliable and hard to budget. So, the motivation to slash costs and become more efficient while decreasing the carbon footprint is there.

Sustainability, at its heart, is just good business. "The most crucial spur for action may be the risk that a company’s operations could be disrupted by energy shortages, outages, or an unplanned and unmanageable rise in the price of energy," Deloitte says.

"The sooner companies begin to understand and actively manage their energy use—and their energy sources, including possible ways to produce their own energy—the faster they’ll enter a more enlightened world, one with the potential for a number of advantages including significant savings, a better bottom line, greater customer loyalty, a cost-edge over competitors, lower business risk, and a company-wide awareness of sustainability that can rein in resource waste across the board."

I particularly like the phrase, "Enlightened world." It's true, judging from our vantage point as a nonprofit involved in energy efficiency work with cities throughout the San Joaquin Valley, and with educational partners. People want cleaner air and energy.

And, perhaps, more employment possibilities. Check out this story about building energy rating and disclosure, which is close to our heart, and this one about growth and salaries.

Environmental enlightenment is growing. Well, maybe not in Congress, but Corporate America (Honeywell is doing something cool), the military, professional sports, schools, local governments and, yes, even NASCAR are picking up the theme. Even my teen-age daughter references the carbon footprint when I suggest she go pick up something I forgot at the store.

"I don't want to increase my carbon footprint," she says from her position on the couch.

Ok, so that isn't exactly what I mean, but you get the picture. Sustainability is "in", despite what you hear from politicians running for election, and could be a solution, not a problem. Even Warren Buffett, one of the world's richest men and most famous investor acknowledges it here.

Deloitte suggests ways to enhance corporate sustainability efforts, suggesting directors make them a mandate. They should measure progress, offer incentives to employees who improve efficiency and then springboard off their sustainability efforts to build their brands.

"The drive to sustainability is a drive to creativity and innovation," The Deloitte report states as its final paragraph." May the cleanest, most energy efficient corporations win."