Any business serious about its environmental impact needs to conduct regular sustainability audits analyzing different areas of its operation. This practice helps businesses understand where they currently stand and identify opportunities to improve. An energy audit allows businesses to become more energy-efficient and reduce energy costs by painting a complete picture of their energy usage.
Energy audits come in all shapes and sizes, depending on your company’s goals. Preparing for such an audit can feel overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be. Here’s our guide to business energy audits, energy checklists, and why they’re important.
What Is A Business Energy Audit?
Business energy audits are systematic assessments of a business’s energy consumption and efficiency measures. By identifying energy-saving measures and revealing opportunities for the adoption of sustainable practices, energy audits help organizations save money from operational costs and enhance their environmental sustainability.
In fact, according to the U.S. Department of Energy, businesses can achieve around 10 – 20% energy savings through low-cost changes identified through a business energy audit. During the audit, experts analyze energy consumption patterns, evaluate equipment efficiency, and assess building systems to determine where they might improve so that they can pursue more sustainable business practices.
Who Needs A Business Energy Audit?
Organizations of any size and across industries can benefit from an energy audit, as it identifies areas of inefficiency that, once solved, will save money in energy expenditure. A commercial energy audit is especially worth it for sustainable ecommerce companies interested in understanding exactly where they stand concerning environmental impact, organizations that want to ensure they are on track to achieve their sustainability KPIs, and those seeking green business certifications. The energy audit will provide a roadmap for implementing energy-efficient measures and demonstrate a commitment to environmental responsibility, both of which contribute to the requirements of such certifications. Common green certifications that might require an energy audit or similar are LEED, B-Corp, BREEAM, ISO 14001, and more.
Read more: Sustainability vs CSR vs ESG
What’s In An Energy Audit For Ecommerce Businesses?
An energy audit for an ecommerce business involves a comprehensive evaluation of energy use and efficiency, often conducted by internal teams or external experts. This audit is crucial in identifying areas where an ecommerce business can optimize energy consumption, reduce costs, and enhance sustainability.
Here are the key areas typically assessed during such an audit:
- Data Centers and Server Efficiency: Assessing the energy efficiency of servers and data centers that host websites and manage online transactions. This includes evaluating cooling systems, server utilization, and energy-efficient technology.
- Office and Warehouse Operations: Examining the energy use in office spaces and warehouses, including lighting, HVAC systems, and the efficiency of electronic equipment used in managing online operations.
- Packaging and Shipping Processes: Evaluating the energy impact of packaging materials and the efficiency of shipping operations. This includes assessing the energy use of packaging machinery and the sustainability of logistics partners.
- Ecommerce Platforms and IT Infrastructure: Analyzing the energy efficiency of the ecommerce platforms, customer management systems, and other IT infrastructure critical to online business operations.
- Energy Management Systems: Reviewing existing energy control systems and practices, focusing on opportunities to optimize energy consumption and improve monitoring, especially in areas directly impacting ecommerce activities.
- Renewable Energy Integration: Identifying opportunities to incorporate renewable energy sources, such as solar or wind power, into the business operations, reducing reliance on traditional energy sources.
- Employee and Consumer Engagement: Understanding how energy is used by employees, both in-office and remotely, and exploring ways to encourage energy-saving practices. This also includes assessing how energy efficiency efforts can be communicated to consumers to enhance brand sustainability.
- Utility Bill Analysis: Conducting a thorough review of utility bills to spot trends, anomalies, and areas where energy usage can be reduced, particularly in aspects directly related to ecommerce activities.
By focusing on these areas, an energy audit for ecommerce businesses can provide actionable insights to improve energy efficiency, reduce operational costs, and support environmental sustainability goals.
Types Of Business Energy Audits
There are a few different types of business energy audits depending on the goals of the audit and your company’s audit budget. If your company is seeking green certification or requires an objective and comprehensive assessment of its energy output, it should invest in an external auditor who will analyze all levels of its operations. On the other hand, if you’re only interested in saving money on your energy bill, then you can conduct a brief internal audit.
Here are some different energy audit types and what they might achieve.
- Preliminary energy audit: This is the most basic type of audit and will typically only include a handful of considerations for assessment. These audits are ideal for companies looking for inexpensive and simple ways to reduce their energy bills and make improvements in terms of energy waste.
- Level 1 energy audit: This more detailed assessment will provide a broad view of energy usage. Like a preliminary audit, this is useful for companies looking to make minor changes to improve energy efficiency.
- Level 2 energy audit: This is a much more comprehensive examination of your company’s energy usage and provides a more accurate outlook of your energy expenditure and specific recommendations for improvement. This level is great for organizations looking to make fundamental, lasting changes in their energy usage and who have a budget for systemic change.
- Level 3 energy audit: This is a highly detailed assessment for companies looking to make significant changes. While this type will take far more resources to complete, it’s recommended for companies seeking high-level green business certifications or serious about reaching specific environmental sustainability targets.
- Remote energy audit: This type of audit is done by third-party energy auditors without site visits. They will conduct the audit purely on the data provided to them. Typically, this type of audit is only suitable for preliminary or level 1 audits, which provide a basic view of your energy usage and areas where you can improve.
- Internal energy audit: This type of audit is done by your own team. To conduct the audit, you must gather key stakeholders to plan, execute, and report the audit. While all audit types can be done with an internal audit, it’s recommended that higher-level audits be completed by a verified third party professional energy auditor to ensure that they are as comprehensive as possible.
- External energy audit: This type of audit is done by a verified third party. This type of audit is recommended for companies wanting a thorough, expert analysis of their energy use.
How To Conduct An Energy Efficiency Audit
Whether you conduct your energy audit internally or use an external auditor, the process will be similar. Before beginning, it’s good to understand the procedure so that you can start gathering relevant data and engaging key stakeholders.
Even if you hire an external energy auditor, it’s recommended that you conduct regular essential energy audits to highlight anomalies and ensure that you stay on track to achieve your goals. All audits follow a similar pattern, but comprehensive energy audits require more data.
With all that in mind, here’s the step-by-step process of an energy efficiency audit.
- Establish your objectives. To properly conduct an energy audit, you must first understand your goals. If you’re looking to reduce energy costs associated with heating, for example, your primary focus will be on building structure, HVAC systems, and occupant behavior.
- Gather your data. This will include utility bills, maintenance records, operational data, etc. If you want a comprehensive audit of your entire supply chain and business operations, then you can use sustainability management software like EcoCart.
- Prepare and conduct an on-site inspection. The inspector should examine the building structure, lighting systems, equipment, appliances, etc. Of course, this step will not be needed for remote audits.
- Analyze the data. Once you’ve gathered the necessary data, you can complete your analysis. Note any energy consumption patterns or anomalies, and compare your energy savings to other organizations within your industry.
- Identify opportunities and provide recommendations. The entire purpose of an energy audit is to make energy efficiency upgrades, so this will be a major part of your energy report. As you make recommendations, be sure to include a cost-benefit analysis to ensure that you will save money while being more sustainable.
- Provide a report. This will outline everything you learned in the audit and your improvement recommendations.
Ecommerce Business Energy Audit Checklist
Begin your energy audit by clearly defining and reviewing your objectives. This step is crucial, particularly when coordinating with a team on an internal audit, to ensure all critical aspects are examined for a comprehensive report. Utilizing external tools, such as our ecommerce sustainability scorecard, can be beneficial. These checklists, often developed by reputable organizations, help in identifying overlooked areas in energy savings, ensuring a thorough evaluation of all energy systems.
Here are some items you might find on an ecommerce business energy audit checklist.
- Is your website hosted on energy-efficient servers?
- Have you assessed the energy efficiency of your data centers?
- Have you checked the energy efficiency of lighting and HVAC systems in your offices and warehouses?
- Are energy-saving practices in place for office equipment and warehouse machinery?
- Are your packaging materials sourced from sustainable, energy-efficient suppliers?
- Have you evaluated the energy efficiency of your shipping and logistics partners?
- Have you audited the energy usage of key suppliers in your supply chain?
- Are there opportunities to collaborate with suppliers on energy-saving initiatives?
- Can parts of your operation switch to renewable energy sources, like solar or wind power?
- Have you explored energy credits or green energy options with your utility providers?
- Are there energy-saving policies and practices in place for remote or in-office employees?
- Have you communicated your energy-saving efforts to customers to enhance brand sustainability?
- Are your e-commerce platforms and software optimized for energy efficiency?
- Have you considered energy-efficient automation in your warehousing and logistics?
- Have you thoroughly reviewed and analyzed your utility bills for unusual patterns or opportunities for savings?
- How does your energy consumption compare to industry benchmarks or similar e-commerce businesses?
- Are you tracking and reporting energy usage as part of your sustainability efforts?
- Do your energy practices comply with relevant environmental regulations and standards?
- Have you established a process for regular energy audits to track progress and identify new opportunities?
- Are there clear goals and KPIs to measure the success of your energy efficiency initiatives?
The length of the business audit checklist will depend upon the type of audit being done and your overall objectives. If you’re seeking green certification or looking to make big changes, this checklist can be hundreds of items long. Conversely, a preliminary audit might only have a handful of items.
Want to know where your business stands? Get your sustainability scorecard with our quiz:
Once you’ve completed the audit, you must develop a strategy for implementation, then schedule regular audits to ensure that the changes you made result in the difference you expect and to continue to identify ways you can save energy.
How To Implement An Energy Program
Once you’ve completed your energy audit and created your report, it’s time to implement your sustainability program focused on energy-efficient practices. When developing your sustainability initiatives surrounding energy, you need to make sure that your goals are actionable, measurable, and feasible. Align your targets with stakeholder expectations and brand messaging, and focus on your greatest areas of impact first.
Here is the step-by-step process for implementing an energy program:
- Complete Your Energy Audit and Report: Finalize the energy audit and compile your findings into a detailed report.
- Develop Actionable Goals: Set clear, achievable, and measurable goals based on your audit findings, specifically targeting energy efficiency and sustainability.
- Align Goals with Stakeholder Expectations: Ensure your energy goals align with the expectations of stakeholders, including employees, customers, and investors, and incorporate their feedback.
- Integrate Goals with Brand Messaging: Reflect your energy efficiency goals in your brand’s messaging and communication to strengthen your commitment to sustainability.
- Prioritize Key Areas: Identify and prioritize areas with the highest potential for impact and improvement, focusing initial efforts on these key areas.
- Develop a Step-by-Step Action Plan: Create a detailed plan outlining the steps needed to achieve each goal, assigning responsibilities and deadlines.
- Implement Energy-Efficient Practices: Begin implementing identified energy-efficient practices and solutions, ensuring team awareness and involvement.
- Monitor Progress and Adjust as Needed: Regularly monitor the progress of your initiatives against the set goals and adjust strategies based on performance and feedback.
- Communicate Progress Internally and Externally: Keep internal stakeholders informed about the progress and successes, and share achievements and challenges with external stakeholders.
- Review and Update the Program Regularly: Periodically review the program to assess its effectiveness and relevance, updating goals and strategies as necessary.
Effective business energy audits are essential for companies, especially in the ecommerce sector, aiming to enhance sustainability and reduce costs. These audits provide critical insights into energy usage, highlight inefficiencies, and offer opportunities for improvement in areas like building infrastructure, equipment, and renewable energy integration. By adopting a structured approach to these audits and implementing targeted energy programs, businesses can not only minimize their environmental impact but also achieve operational efficiency and cost savings, aligning with the growing global emphasis on environmental responsibility.
EcoCart offers plenty of resources to help businesses like yours reach their sustainability goals. Through carbon-neutral shipping, customer resources, and more, we’ve helped numerous businesses meet their carbon goals. Want to know more? Reach out to our team for a demo today.