Inefficient energy management policies and management systems are leaving companies and public-sector organisations “wide open” to major financial risk, international certification body BM TRADA said.

Spiralling energy costs, growing concern over energy security and increasing regulatory pressure to reduce carbon emissions are making the need for greater energy efficiency a “necessity, not nicety” for all organisations, it says. Heavy-energy industry sectors including transport, food producers and manufacturers, public sector organisations such as hospitals, schools and local authority buildings, energy companies and construction firms have the “most to gain” from overhauling their energy management procedures. Failing to act could expose businesses to “significant” financial pressures and market uncertainties, as well as reputational risks, in the long term.

A spokesman for the international testing, inspection and certification body said curbing inefficient usage could save the UK industry sector billions of pounds in wasted energy. It also has the “very real potential” of reducing industry’s global carbon footprint, which last year amounted to 75million tonnes in the UK alone.

Tom Johnston, BM TRADA’s Chief Operating Officer of Central Certification Services, said companies need to continue “rising to the challenge” of energy management. Speaking at the launch of BM TRADA’s expansion into UKAS-accredited ISO 50001:2011 Energy Management Certification, following a successful pilot scheme, Johnston said: “The cost of energy is rising rapidly, fuelled in part by growing concern over energy security, and it is the business and public sectors that are feeling the financial impact the most. At the same time, energy efficiency is now firmly on government agendas in a bid to tackle carbon emissions and wastage in the industrial sector is being met with increasingly heavy penalties. Outdated and inefficient energy management systems are not only costing companies more than they realise, running into millions of pounds, but are also leaving businesses and organisations wide open to financial and reputational risks which they can ill afford to deal with.”

The comments come just months after Sam Laidlaw, the chief executive of British multinational utility company Centrica, warned that the UK would be reliant on natural gas imports of 70 per cent by 2020.

Governments and NGOs around the world are putting increasing pressure on the private and public sector to improve their energy efficiency and reduce their carbon footprint.

In 2013, the UK produced an estimated 463million tonnes of carbon dioxide — the primary greenhouse gas and a major contributor to global warming — of which 16% was generated by the business sector.

Under the Kyoto Protocol, the UK Government has a legally-binding target to reduce emissions and since 2001 has operated a climate change levy (CCL) to provide industry with an incentive to increase energy efficiency and reduce carbon emissions. It has also introduced mandatory carbon footprint reporting for UK listed companies, with the potential for the scheme to be extended to cover all large corporations from 2016.

UK carbon dioxide emissions have decreased by around 21% from 1990 figures, but a study by the Carbon Trust has revealed that large UK businesses are still spending over £1.6bn on wasted energy each year. And without greater corporate commitment to energy management, Britain risks missing legally-binding targets to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 80 per cent by 2050.

Johnston says that carbon taxes, wastage and increasing energy costs — expected to rise by up to 25% for industrial users by 2020 according to government adviser the Climate Change Committee (CCC) — make the case for ISO 50001 Energy Management Certification “clear cut”. He added: “When you factor in carbon levies, rising energy costs and wastage, which the Confederation of British Industry estimates can account for between 10% and 20% of energy costs, the potential savings to be gained from developing a comprehensive energy management strategy are huge. In addition to bringing significant reductions in operational costs and protecting against energy price spikes, becoming certified to the ISO 50001 Standard also ensures that a business is meeting the latest regulatory requirements, which sends out all the right messages to clients and the public about their commitment to energy reduction, best practice and sustainability. The new standard is easy to implement, is designed to cause minimal disruption and will help businesses to implement the processes they need to understand their baseline energy usage and establish a best-practice energy policy throughout the business, including plans, targets and KPIs for reducing energy consumption.”

ISO 50001:2011 is the international standard for energy management, providing an effective framework for improving energy performance, efficiency and consumption, and integrating this into management practices.

The standard integrates with, and complements, existing management systems such as ISO 9001 Quality Management & ISO 14001 Environmental Management.