New B2B Insights: Sustainability is table stakes, renewable energy is the new “shiny object”

by Sep 14, 2016

Sustainability is table stakes, and renewable energy is the new “shiny object” for B2B decision makers.

These are two key take-aways from our third annual B2B Pulse, which tracks shifts in the importance placed on sustainability as it relates to purchase decisions by business decision makers, their companies and their customers.

(By the way, what business decision makers want from the companies they buy from mirrors what consumers want: “use renewable energy” is one of two mandates consumers are giving companies, according to our soon-to-be-released Eco Pulse study.)

As always, the study polled many types of business decision makers, from CEOs to purchasing managers, in a wide range of industries, including business services, real estate development, healthcare, education and retail. This year we surveyed medium to large businesses (from 50 employees to over 1000 employees) to develop a well-rounded understanding of how sustainability, energy efficiency and clean energy are perceived and acted upon in the B2B environment. This year we also sampled businesses in both the U.S. and Canada.

The study shows that the importance of sustainability in decisions related to operations, capital improvement, construction and purchasing/supply chain has steadily increased over the last three years (78% in 2016 vs. 67% in 2013). Supporting this trend, we see a continued increase in the number of companies including questions on corporate environmental practices and/or social responsibility in RFPs, as well as increases in the percentage utilizing formal sustainability checklists.

However, each role (CEO, CFO, Facility Manager, etc.) has different priorities and areas of concern with regard to sustainable practices, product selection and facility features/improvements. Job titles cross-tabulated with environmental outlook and purchasing priorities revealed that the two are strongly correlated.

The decision makers who are most engaged? Builders/Architects and CIOs. This makes great sense when you think about their mindset and responsibilities. Both must have a highly forward-thinking outlook. Builders/Architects are constructing facilities that must serve the needs of their clients for many years into the future, and CIOs must be futurists as they make decisions in the most rapidly changing environment of all: emerging technologies. These decision makers could be seen as the “canaries in the coalmine” in regard to their emphasis on sustainability. If it has become a critical part of their decision sets, it will very likely be equally important to all others soon.

We dig into these decision makers and what they care about related to sustainability in our new, free B2B Pulse Special Report, available today: A Field Guide to Leveraging Your Sustainability Story with Key Business Decision Makers. Download a copy and learn what sustainability features/claims drive choices for:

  • CEOs
  • CFOs
  • CIOs
  • Facility and Property Managers
  • Purchasing/Supply Chain Managers
  • Commercial Developers, Builders and Architects

Finally, there are a number of findings in this year’s study that should give utilities pause:

  • The percentage of businesses getting at least some of their electricity from a source other than their local distribution utility is nearing 50%.
  • 72% would consider purchasing electricity from a utility alternative (non-utility provider).
  • Almost 90% either already have, or would like to consult with, an outside firm to improve their facilities’ energy efficiency.
  • 66% are likely to increase their reliance on renewable energy, and 56% said onsite renewable generation (wind, solar, etc.) was an important/very important aspect of building performance and operations.

There are an ever-increasing number of companies encroaching on the traditional utility/customer relationship, creating new energy procurement and facility improvement options for businesses. Increasing interest and engagement on these issues signal new opportunities for utilities that could improve relationships with mid-size to large business customers.

In addition to the free downloadable field guide, you can purchase your copy of the full report here. And we’re happy to talk through the findings and their implications for your business anytime.

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About the Author

Lee Ann Head

Lee Ann is a former contributor to Shelton Insights.

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