4 min read
Colin Farrell - ChangeMaker: A Sustainability Success Story
True Powered by Open Energy Market : Sep 22, 2023 9:31:40 AM
‘When I first looked at the energy situation for Trelleborg UK, it was daunting. There were so many different contracts, so many things that weren't right. But I did it in stages, I broke it down and made sure that they were all under one umbrella, then we pushed for renewable energy. Today, all our sites in the UK purchase renewable electricity.’
Colin Farrell is the Global Sourcing Specialist for Trelleborg Group, an international organisation that manufacturers polymers and, as part of the ChangeMakers initiative from True, has shared vital insights and learnings taken from his overhaul of the company’s energy management in the UK.
The results of which were achieving a 28% reduction in energy consumption and the 100% migration to renewable energy.
“If we are to have any hope of achieving a net zero future, large-scale businesses must take responsibility for operating in the most sustainable and efficient manner possible. It’s incredible to see the progress that Colin, and the rest of the team at Trelleborg, has made on this front. They are true ChangeMakers.”
Chris Maclean, CEO, True
Big Trouble in Little Transparency
“When I started in energy procurement, it was clear that most people and businesses working within the space had little understanding of how it actually worked. They seemed completely baffled and even afraid of making changes.” Said Colin.
It’s a relatable sentiment for others working in the UK energy sector and for those responsible for procuring energy for their businesses.
Managing energy contract for a business is a major headache for most and the lack of transparency, combined with the bad practices of some energy brokers, means that few have the knowledge and experience to get the best deal that is both sustainable and cost-effective.
So, how did Colin and his team reduce the energy consumption of 19 Trelleborg sites by 28% and transition to 100% renewable power?
“While working for different businesses, I saw the same things happen again and again. People didn’t know how to navigate all of the legislation or read the data that was needed to make real change. The waters were muddy and it was difficult to get clarity on anything."
"But there is so much support out there and I was encouraged to drive energy improvements and progress the businesses that I worked for, as well as myself. That helped me in the procurement positions I was in because I became more involved in energy management, energy initiatives and other strategies.”
“One of my life mottos is: ‘If you don't understand it. Learn about it!’ There is a lot of information out there which helps me gain understanding and knowledge, which then enables me to make decisions on what is the best strategy going forward in reducing a company’s energy emissions, reducing costs, and putting in management systems that will help businesses growth.”
“For anybody that wants to make real change, find energy experts and listen to their advice, join webinars, workshops, courses and learn how the leaders have done it. There are lots of available resources out there and I encourage everyone to take advantage of them.”
A Practical Guide to Making Change
Having built a strong grounding in the energy sector, Colin joined Trelleborg in 2016 and was tasked with a major overhaul of the company's manufacturing and business sites.
“We had a range of energy suppliers for 19 sites across the UK and it took a while just to get to grips with our position regarding energy. I started at a base level and worked through to get all the sites under one umbrella. Instead of having various contracts for one, three, five years or no contracts, I set about arranging a fixed contract for the first 12 months.”
“This gave me time to look and assess the energy costs for the whole of Trelleborg UK. Once I had achieved this, I set up an energy strategy that would support our UK sites and enable sites to act decisively on market fluctuations, as well as share across all site’s best practices.”
“From this I was able to see exactly where we could make large reductions in our CO2 emissions as well as our costs. I started making small changes, to ensure we had full transparency, with all major sites having an energy portal, called True, at their fingertips.”
"This helped with energy savings and really made people aware of the work and wholesale changes in energy strategy and management that I had implemented. This allowed me to start talking to sites and introducing more cost saving initiatives but also carbon reductions for the future of the environment.”
"Since 2018, I have been actively involved in the company’s energy efficiency and carbon reduction activities. My role has a global perspective; I support all our sites in the UK on best practice in the fields of sustainability, energy and carbon saving techniques as well as government legislation."
Aim for the stars
Like most working to make the world a more sustainable place, Colin cites his curiosity to solve problems as the key factor in driving change, something that similarly fuels his interests and personal passions.
“My approach to my work is like my approach to astrophotography, which I started a couple of years ago. I wanted to take a picture of something that was 5,200 light years away, (1 light year equals 5.8 trillion miles). I didn't know how to do it, but I taught myself, some people might see it as a frustration, but I see it as an opportunity for me to learn and to understand.”
“If I see something which can be improved or people have an issue, I don’t initially always know how, but I have an ability for finding the best way or the best solution to get it resolved - the simplest way is normally the best way.”
“Seeing the energy initiatives that were supported, being fulfilled, and the achieved reduction in emissions and consumption is probably the most exciting part of my job. I drive, I push, I plant that little seed to say: ‘Look, this is what you should be looking at.’ My aim is to create a lasting cultural change with high stakeholder engagement at each level and whilst it’s a work in progress, I am happy with the engagement so far from all our Trelleborg sites.”
For others working in similar positions, Colin highlights a step-by-step approach for tacking the biggest problems and becoming a True ChangeMaker.
“Sometimes the best approach is to take a big problem, break it down into manageable chunks and tackle them separately. Of course, I have moments when I think to myself: “Why did I take this on?” But, in the long run, I believe in the benefits for our sites, our company and the planet. That is the biggest motivator.”
“You have to be open minded, you have to be a good listener, be supportive and motivate people. If someone comes up with an idea, even though it may not be the best idea, it helps to encourage them and support them to develop it into something that is right for the business. People will take confidence from this and it may encourage them to look even further for other projects as well.”
Are you a sustainability expert working to drive change across your organisation?
If so, we would like to feature your story and the work you are doing for your business as part of the ChangeMaker initiative.
To be featured as a ChangeMaker, get in touch with our team, here.