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Our Opportunity in ESG – The Need for Automation to Meet Owner’s ESG & Carbon Reduction Goals

* photos courtesy of Ricky Porco, via additional “BAS in the Cloud” panel featuring author Lauren Scott at AHR Expo 2023

The following is a transcript from the “Our Opportunity in ESG – The Need for Automation to Meet Owner’s ESG & Carbon Reduction Goals” panel at AHR Expo 2023 in Atlanta, GA.

Hi everyone, my name is Lauren Scott and I work for a company called Acuity Brands. For those of you in this room that are probably less familiar with this company name, I came up through way of Distech Controls, which is owned by Acuity Brands.

I currently sit in the role of Vice President of Marketing and Sustainability and have spent the past decade working in the cleantech space, including renewables and especially smart buildings.

I am really excited to see how many people showed up today, because working in sustainability right now, I often get the following two questions:

  • Is this really the right time to care about sustainability? Given that we’re on the cusp of (if not in) a recession, and that the geopolitical situation in certain geographic markets is very tense right now, should we really be shifting resources to sustainability and ESG overall?
  • Is this the right industry? Are we the ones who are going to move the needle?

And I really believe that the answer to both of these questions is “yes” for the following three reasons:

The first is our Energy Expertise.

The reality is that most of you in this room are probably more knowledgeable about energy and energy consumption than I would say 95% of people in North America.

When we’re growing up and we’re faced with a problem, we always look around the room and try and find adults to help us fix it.

I am here today to say that the problem right now is at a planetary level, and you are the adults in the room.

In other words, you really are the ones who are going to be able to provide answers right now as to how we can have a positive impact on the built space.

The second area is Emissions Exploration.

Unlike energy, when I brought up emissions with many people here at the trade show, it’s as if we’re a little bit less comfortable using this term. While we are very much in our comfort zone talking about energy, when we switch to emissions, we feel that this extended concept is just not in our wheelhouse.

But I challenge you to consider it this way:

When looking at media coverage, we see certain industries often bubbling to the top when talking about emissions solutions. For example, electric vehicles. This sector is often top of mind when it comes to the decarbonization conversation.

And yet, while transportation accounts for 23% of global emissions, this is actually 5% lower than building operations which accounts for 28% of global emissions.

While emitting more greenhouse gas is nothing to be proud of, having that space for improvement is why we have such a huge opportunity as an industry to make a difference.

Also, we know that in the US right now, only 13% of our energy usage is coming from renewables. Meaning that every time we use a building that is not connected to a “clean” grid, we are continuing to have significant emissions. So, again, this is a huge opportunity for you to go to your customers to talk about what kind of role we can play in reducing those emissions via energy efficiency.

Then the final piece, although sometimes less fun to talk about, is the Reality of Regulations.

This area can be further broken down into a) subsidies being offered by governments at all levels, pumping additional funds into our industry to make buildings more energy efficient, and b) tighter emissions and reporting regulations. Both provide a clear opportunity for you to help your customers anticipate and prepare instead of being in a  reactive mode.

To provide examples / context for this latter point, with Distech Controls having offices and customers in Europe, we are already seeing markets like the UK where strict regulations around building emissions and reporting have come into effect. We see the same thing in France with regulations and governmental programs gaining steam. And we also see (closer to home) proposed regulations coming via the SEC where certain companies would potentially have to start formally reporting on their emissions.

This is therefore a real opportunity for us to be identified as “the adults in the room”; to help guide those conversations and empower more customers with this transition.

So, I started this off with the two questions of: is this the right time and are we the right people to embrace sustainability?

And I really do hope that you leave today’s session feeling that you are, and this is in fact the moment to do so.

Watch the full video here: