The war on business energy costs
by James Constant
It isn’t a comparison you’d immediately look to draw but UK SME businesses and US operations in Afghanistan are facing similar issues.
Indeed the US Army’s mission in Afghanistan was the source of some unlikely energy efficiency advice recently with the US commander in Afghanistan having ordered his unit commanders to turn off lights and air conditioning wherever possible to reduce the mission’s fuel bill.
General David Petraeus has warned that growing fuel costs are hampering their ability to perform effectively and are forcing them into critical strategic decisions they otherwise would not have to be making.
In ordering everyone to turn off “unused equipment and avoid (unnecessary) use of heating and air conditioning” the echoes of this advice can be heard around UK businesses and coming from a man named a Top Global Thinker in 2010 you can see why his reputation for pragmatism has won him many plaudits in his distinguished career.
Whilst we should never make light of the serious and dangerous work being undertaken by armed forces around the world it is fascinating to hear that the impact of high fuel prices is felt as heavily in Kabul as Carlisle.
Happily for UK businesses our options for energy reduction and cost saving don’t involve life and death decisions but it can sometimes feel like that for our business futures.
Whilst reduced energy usage to most business owners implies lower productivity there is always an opportunity to cut out unnecessary wastage and none more so when looking to secure your next business energy contract.
Here at uSwitch for Business, with a full panel of energy suppliers for you to choose from, we can take the hassle out of the process of purchasing business gas and electricity.
And as we know behind every great man there is a great woman so over to General Petraeus’ wife who recently said “We have one basic mission - to protect consumers”. We couldn’t put it better ourselves.
Cut business costs, but don’t unplug the kettle.
By Ellen de Vries
If you run a business, you may have a well-trained eye for recognising where to cut costs without upsetting the balance too much. But our research shows that cutting costs can sometimes go too far, particularly when it comes to turning off the taps on free tea and coffee.
In the last year, many businesses have been forced to cut hours, make redundancies and scrap bonuses. The next step is to start thinking about how to cut costs even further; perhaps by turning the heating down a notch, turning monitors off at night, or looking into more economical suppliers. In fact, many business owners don’t know that one of the most economical ways to cut costs is to reassess their contracts with their energy suppliers.
Unfortunately, last year a spate of companies followed an example set by a budget airline – putting a stop to offering free tea and coffee to staff. According to our research, a surprising 25% of UK companies have cut back on free refreshments over the last year.
“If the company is mean about tea and coffee, what else are they mean about?”
Scrimping on teas and coffees may seem like a small step, but this can have a surprisingly large impact on the overall functioning of the business. One third (32%) of workers say that small perks boost company morale. To have the tea taken away also appears to be a sure way to put a downer on the office atmosphere, and start rumours about the company’s bleak financial future. So when you’re thinking of cutting costs, think twice about how much you’re actually affecting the company culture; removing even the tiniest perks can have a profound effect, and financial consequences.
James Constant, small business expert at uSwitchforbusiness.com, says: “Given the economic climate it makes sense to cut costs. However, it’s also vital that companies send out the right message to loyal staff…there may be a far greater price to be paid in staff morale.”
- The draft Energy Bill: a five-minute summary
- 60% increase in business energy costs as average turnover falls by 6%
- Business week in brief: 11th May 2012
- Ed Miliband and the Queen talk energy
- Interview with Steve Fitzsimons of new business energy supplier, Hudson Energy
- Business week in brief: 4th May 2012
- The see saw of corporate profit
- Business week in brief: 27th April 2012
- EDF Energy’s Business Customer Commitments: four key pledges
- Businesses buck the trend when it comes to smaller energy suppliers