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Finance sector gets serious about energy efficiency, sustainability

Banks and insurance companies have come under fire in recent years from regulators, customers and the media following the economic meltdown of 2008.

As a consequence, many banks and insurance companies are fighting an uphill battle to improve their image with a skeptical public.
“Most banks are trying to change negative perceptions,” says Hugh Lindsay, a Director and Global Solution Architect for the Finance Segment at Schneider-Electric.
An increasingly popular way for banks and other financial institutions to demonstrate good corporate citizenship is through energy efficiency and sustainability efforts.
“The world has slowly come around to the idea that global warming and climate change are things that need to be addressed,” Lindsay says. “And most of the corporate world, until probably the last five or 10 years, hasn’t paid much attention to it.”

“These days we’re finding that a number of energy-intensive industries – oil and gas, electric utilities, manufacturing, etc. – are accepting that not only is it good environmental practice, it’s a good business practice as well because they can save substantial amounts of money by eliminating that waste,” he says. “It’s an environmental benefit that has a real cost basis for justification.”
For a growing number of financial institutions, that’s an undeniably attractive combination. By establishing ambitious goals toward reducing energy consumption and carbon emissions, banks and insurance companies not only have legitimate environmental stories to tell in their annual reports and through traditional and social media, they improve their own bottom lines by cutting energy costs.

And they also improve their standing with a crucial constituency: Bank shareholders.
“Their investors are pushing them to do this as well,” Lindsay says. “There have been quite a few research reports that basically state that a bank, or any company, which can demonstrate it is setting aggressive energy reduction targets and meeting those targets seems to also have better overall management.”
The message is getting across. In a recent survey, every responding finance executive indicated they consider energy efficiency and sustainability either “important” or “very important” – not for public relations purposes, but for the future success of their businesses.

For finance companies, the biggest energy savings are typically found by improved monitoring, management and control of building electrical and mechanical systems across the real estate portfolio. While large office buildings and energy dense data centers are excellent targets, many banks and insurance companies generate the most energy use from their small branches and offices.
“Add together a few hundred or even a few thousand branches, and energy consumption can be 40 percent, 60 percent or sometimes 80 percent of overall energy costs,” Lindsay says.

He cites a large banking institution as having “invested a lot over the past five years in particular to reduce its overall energy consumption and get its energy management activities under control.”
This bank has more than 5,000 retail branches in the U.S. alone. In 2012, the bank announced it would commit $50 billion over 10 years to address global climate change and demands on natural resources.
Part of its strategy is to utilize “smart building” technologies to reduce overall energy consumption by 25 percent from 2004 through 2015. It also plans to reduce both paper and global water consumption by 20 percent from 2010 to 2015.

Fortunately, the tools needed for effective energy management and control at the branch and small office level are finally beginning to emerge. Management consoles, wireless sensors and energy efficient products make it much easier to achieve energy savings in bank branches and small offices, while vendors specializing in energy efficiency offer comprehensive auditing and consulting services.

See more on Schneider Electric’s story within the finance segment

For more information, visit Schneider Electrics Banking and Finance Solutions web site.

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