Category Archives: CSR

Business need for reduced costs drives Cleantech demand

By David Bicknell

New research from audit specialist Grant Thornton has highlighted the change drivers behind the growing demand for cleantech products to reduce business costs.

Grant Thornton’s third annual International Business Report (IBR) report on the global cleantech industry shows that in general the adoption of cleantech products and practices is motivated by the commercial need to reduce costs and increase profits. It is no longer about being ‘green’.

For example, despite short-term fluctuations, the trend for key commodity prices continues upwards for example, Brent Crude oil recently rose back above US$120 a barrel. The outlook for nuclear energy is unclear following the Fukushima disaster – Germany, for example, has opted for the renewables route – and partly due to this uncertainty, cleantech is emerging as a suitable alternative source of energy or a means of reducing  consumption of expensive resources.

Over half of the business practitioners surveyed for the IBR who choose cleantech options do so to reduce their costs (52%); with 45% making the choice as a way to increase profitability. Corporate social responsibility (CSR) requirements and environmental concerns also remain important, but are not the main reason for adoption.

This increasing maturity of the sector is filtering through to expectations of cleantech business for the year ahead creating a bullish outlook for 2012.

Compared with companies in other sectors, the Grant Thornton report suggests that privately held businesses in the cleantech sector are now among the most confident enterprises in the world when it comes to future prosperity, far outpacing the optimism found in most global industries – and with good reason.

64% of cleantech businesses interviewed expect revenue to increase this year, up from 54% the previous year. 64% of respondents also expect higher profitability this year compared to 42% in 2011.  Cleantech providers currently see the greatest demand from the developed economies of Europe (51%), and US and Canada (39%).

Nathan Goode, head of energy, environment and sustainability at Grant Thornton UK said: “Interest in cleantech is no longer just about environmental concerns, it’s about whether it offers solutions that can boost the financial performance of companies. What we’re seeing is the potential for these technologies to compete with traditional forms of energy and the expectation that over time, they should.

“Governmental support remains key in many sectors and jurisdictions for cleantech to be successful, and fluctuations in this support are causing short term volatility for the cleantech arena. The mood of optimism in the sector appears to be driven by fundamental trends and reflected in broader indicators such as oil prices.

“Cleantech is a sector on the road to commercialisation but it is not necessarily all the way there yet. We’re at a stage now where the value proposition for cleantech is to save money and consequently demand for cleantech is set to increase meaning we could be on the cusp of something very big indeed.”

Cleantech and IT

The Grant Thornton report demonstrates how the cleantech sector is in transition. There are more companies involved in R&D (42%) and IT (29%) than in previous years (31% and 22% respectively).

Goode said: “Judging by this analysis, cleantech appears to have parallels with the biotech industry in that R&D is being used to explore new concepts and applications for existing technologies. As a result, R&D and IT is receiving greater focus as companies exploit advances in areas such as storage and smart grid technologies. In addition, the sector is adopting a broader base on which to apply its learning, putting greater focus on areas such as waste and water.”

In contrast, manufacturing activity has become relatively more subdued. The number of businesses citing involvement in manufacturing of energy efficient products has decreased over the past year from 26% in the 2012 survey to 19% in 2011, although manufacturing of products for cleantech energy generation has increased marginally to 17%, up from 14% the previous year.

There could be a number of reasons for this, but the Grant Thornton report stresses that the issue of capital constraint represents a big challenge for the sector and as a result, governments.

Goode added: “Manufacturing items such as wind turbines and waste processing plants is an incredibly capital intensive business.  However, what we’re seeing is a slowing in the pace of growth as a result of constraints on raising capital.  This continues to be an issue, especially in European economies where credit is constrained.

“Governments must be mindful of acting as a brake on investment, as it will quickly become a barrier to achieving carbon reduction targets and the desire to supply businesses and households with alternative supplies of energy – and at a time when it’s really starting to compete.”

Zizzi Restaurant lands Corporate IT Forum award for innovative CSR project

By David Bicknell

Zizzi Restaurant picked up the IT project of the year  accolade in The Corporate IT Forum’s 8th Real IT Awards held last night.

Zizzi’s ‘Pennies with Zizzi’ project involved working with The Pennies Foundation to create an electronic charity box that allows customers paying by card to donate spare change to charity.  The corporate, social and environmental responsbility project is already on track to deliver £100,000 of micro donations to The Prince’s Trust.

According to the judges, drawn from leading UK and international user organisations such as South West Water, DHL, GlaxoSmithKline and Laing O’Rourke, “Zizzi showed its determination to create a way of supporting casual donations in the new age of electronic payment; they paid close attention to communications to make sure all stakeholders – particularly customers – would embrace it. We were very impressed by the way this was driven by the IT department.”

The Real IT award winners covered a broad spectrum of corporate IT users including public and private sector organisations such as HM Revenue and Customs, Balfour Beatty, The Environment Agency and British Sugar, as well as high street retailers New Look and Pizza Express.

The winning entries across 13 categories ranged from the world’s first ever iPhone app for payment by smartphone, to a targeted flood warning service for emergency flood responders and a rapid deployment of IT project in the new Tripoli.

The awards featured new categories to recognise the breadth of innovation being provided by and the growing importance of corporate IT within business.  The additions included Innovation in Business, Innovation in Mobile, Security as an Enabler and Social Media.

A new skills-related category, Developing Talent in Business, was also introduced, reflecting The Corporate IT Forum’s desire to tackle the education, training and skills challenge.  In this new category HM Revenue and Customs was recognised for its ‘Capability Development Programme’, a programme of investment in employees designed to establish them as experts in their chosen field, with external accreditation of their professional skills.

Chairman of The Corporate IT Forum John Harris said, “What is particularly striking this year is that the innovation we are seeing is in areas where IT is giving something back, rather than where it is solely focused on delivering cost savings and doing more with less.  This year IT is all about listening to user and customer needs – within the business and externally – and coming up with innovative ways to make things faster, easier and more efficient for them.”

Throughout the coming months the winners and runners-up will present their projects through Forum workshops that are open to all user organisations. By collating learning and sharing their experiences, the Corporate IT Forum suggests, corporate IT departments will become more proactive and successful in delivering business advantage for their organisations.

The Winners of the Real IT Awards:

Overall winner – Project of the year 2012

Winner: Zizzi Restaurant – Pennies with Zizzi

Runner-up: GlaxoSmithKline – Diseases of the Developing World

Corporate, Social and Environmental Responsibility

Winner: Zizzi Restaurant – Pennies with Zizzi

Delivering Business Value and E-Commerce

Winner: Land Registry – Register Extract Service

Developing Talent in Business

Winner: HM Revenue and Customs – Capability Development Programme

Innovation in Business

Winner: Environment Agency – Targeted Flood Warnings

Innovation in Mobile

Winner: Pizza Express – Pizza Express App

Innovation in Technology

Winner: Environment Agency – Targeted Flood Warnings


Winners: GlaxoSmithKline – Diseases of the Developing World

And: The Co-operative Banking Group – The Big Card Programme

Rapid Response

Winner: Foreign & Commonwealth Office – Tripoli – Rapid Deployment of IT

Security as an Enabler

Winner: GlaxoSmithKline – Secure Enhance

Service Improvement

Winner: Balfour Beatty – Platform for Growth

Social Media

Winner: New Look – NL Daily

Working Smarter

Winner: British Sugar – Load Slots – Optiflex

A full list of winners and runners up is on the Corporate IT Forum website