Smart controls, boiler upgrades, and radiator valves: home energy efficiency measures are not often top of the conversation list for an evening in the pub – unless you are meeting Jim Rushen. He is so passionate about the environment that it features heavily in both his professional and personal life. “When I catch up with friends, I often ask how well their home is insulated. I am always amazed at how interested they are, particularly with the current cost of energy, and yet many are still unsure of the answer. If everyone takes small steps to use resources efficiently, we can drive big changes and help protect the planet.”
As Group Head of Environment for Centrica, Rushen understands better than most the need for rapid and drastic change. “I’ve been working in this field for nearly 30 years and have seen the impact of human behaviour and climate change on our fragile ecosystem. We don’t have the luxury of time when it comes to decarbonisation. We must act now.” And that’s exactly what Rushen and Centrica are doing. The energy company has already cut its carbon emissions by 80% over the last decade and plans to deliver another reduction of 40% by 2034.
But this is just the beginning. From boosting its investment in renewables to electrifying its vehicle fleet, Centrica has put sustainability at the heart of its business. “We have integrated net zero into our strategic planning,” explained Rushen. “Businesses in all sectors are essential to enabling the transition to a net zero world. They will help to drive innovation and investment and become an important platform for change.”
Centrica has been supporting individuals, communities, and businesses with their energy needs for more than 200 years. And in 2021, it achieved an important milestone: supplying zero carbon electricity to all UK customers. “Our very purpose is to provide services and solutions that help people live sustainably, simply, and affordably. We want to make the greener choice the easier and cheaper choice for everyone,” said Rushen.
Digitalisation will be a key enabler for helping Centrica and its customers achieve net zero. The company showcased the role of technology and innovation in tackling the climate challenge as part of its COP26 programme in Glasgow. In the run up to the event, Centrica launched its first Climate Transition Plan, which outlines how the company intends to become a net zero business by 2045 and use its services and solutions capability to help its customers be net zero by 2050 – with a focus on ensuring a ‘just transition’ that’s fair and affordable for all.
“The energy ecosystem of the future will be far more complex,” explained Rushen. “It will be dominated by renewable sources, which can be intermittent. We’ll need more storage options and more rapid responses to fill the gaps, which will mean greater use of smart grids and optimisation tools.” This will also mean handling greater volumes of data, which can itself result in a large environmental footprint. “Climate change is the biggest challenge facing society, and we want to partner with technology companies that share our values,” said Rushen. “Salesforce supports our sustainability goals by reducing the carbon emissions associated with the services it provides to us.”
Salesforce achieved net zero residual emissions across its full value chain in September 2021 and uses 100% renewable energy for its operations. “Sustainability and commercial viability are intertwined. The most successful organisations find a way to balance their economic goals with their environmental responsibilities,” said Rushen. “We want to empower all our colleagues to become ambassadors for sustainability.”
To help more businesses and individuals join the net zero revolution, Centrica needs to optimise how it engages with millions of customers. “With Salesforce, we can streamline our touchpoints and channels. It enables us to connect with customers more effectively and predict their needs more accurately,” explained Rushen.
By optimising and enriching customer engagement, Centrica will be able to help more people take the steps they need to live sustainably, simply, and affordably. And it’s not just about enabling greater energy efficiency, it’s about reducing waste, avoiding single use plastics, and protecting our natural environment.
“There’s so much we can do as individuals that it can be difficult to know where to start. But we must start now before it’s too late. Simply by being more mindful every day about how we consume resources, we can minimise our impact on the planet and make net zero a reality for future generations,” said Rushen.