The Benefits and Responsibilities of a Sustainability PartnerBy Pedro Alcalá | Wed, 03/09/2022 - 15:34
Suppliers of renewable energy are becoming aware of how much their clients need them to build a much broader spectrum of options and services that can reflect a sustainable image and agenda, according to Enel Green Power’s Head of Sustainability, Montserrat Palomar.
The rise of new roles for clean energy producers, such as Energy Advisory and Sustainability Partner, happened in response to corporate incentives that make sustainability an incrementally larger part of company identities. Some corporations are looking to completely overhaul their organizational paradigm to sincerely fulfill social responsibility goals, whereas others are simply adapting to new legal requirements or customer demands. As Palomar put it, “Consumers are increasingly considering social and environmental issues when making their purchasing choice. This leads companies to bet on Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) strategies.” In her view, it is not the role of a sustainability partner to question or interrogate these motives but to align themselves with the causes of each company. The partners should use these incentives as a springboard to insert sustainability goals into every facet of a company’s strategy. “Sustainability is no longer an added value but an integral part of business strategy," insisted Palomar.
According to Palomar, sustainability solutions are not created in isolation, particularly when it comes to energy use. Therefore, a good sustainability partner advises clients to adopt an ecosystem scheme where the impact of actions and the development of supply chains are continuously considered. Sustainability partners generate value for their clients but do not seek exclusivity in their relationships. This associate might already be the same company that supplies the client with green energy, but does not aim to be the client’s only supplier of this kind. In other words, a sustainability partner seeks to expand its range of services and advisory so that it can avoid conflicts of interest, which generate decisions that only benefit the partner.
Palomar believes that cleaning up a client’s energy consumption model can solve many sustainability issues at their root. Therefore, clean energy producers and suppliers are ideal for the role of sustainability partner. The impact generated by clean energy consumption, especially by large corporate entities, is immediate and reaches further than other possible changes. Palomar also argued that energy companies also need to point a critical lens inward and address sustainability issues in the construction of renewable energy power plants. Sustainability integrates social goals and deeply respects human rights, so the environmental impact of renewable energy construction projects is just as important as its impact on communities. Overlooking this issue can lead to unfortunate situations, exemplified by the social turmoil at some wind farms in Mexico's southeastern states. “The value of clean energy needs to be democratized,” added Palomar.
Ultimately, one of the most important functions a sustainability partner fulfills is offloading the client’s environmental and social risk. If this associate does the research and networking necessary to guarantee that all companies in a supply chain have strong commitments to sustainability, climate action and human rights, the client can lean on this information to make contracting and purchasing decisions in a risk-free space. “We can ask suppliers for specific metrics and evaluate them. Our ultimate goal is to guarantee the social and ethical performance of all companies involved so that those achievements can be added to our own and become part of our value and service offering to clients,” concludes Palomar.