On May 22nd 2018, Paul Rak (President and founder of Cambridge-based VeriForm Inc.) made the business case for implementing low-technology sustainability initiatives into everyday business operations. The event took place at Waterloo North Hydro and was attended by an assortment of professionals looking to learn how to optimize sustainability, efficiency, and cost-savings in their operations. Rak began by giving an overview of the company, when they started their journey towards sustainability, and the results the company has achieved since. VeriForm is a metal fabricating company which specializes in cut, formed, and welded parts for mining, forestry, and machinery building industries. Since 2007, VeriForm has re-engineered their energy profile by conducting research and implementing effective low-technology energy solutions (i.e., not utilizing high-technology solutions like solar and geothermal). The impact on the overall costs to operate are incredibly impressive. Between 2006 and 2017, VeriForm has:
  • Increased the size of their fabricating plant by 145%, growing from 11,400 square-feet to 26,000 square-feet
  • Reduced their greenhouse gas emissions by 77.1%, diverting a total of 202 tonnes of GHGs from the atmosphere
  • Reduced their total electricity usage by 72%
  • Achieved ISO 50001 Energy Management Systems standard certification in spring of 2013
  • Saved $9900 per tonne, with overall savings totaling over $2 million
Once he had the audience hooked with VeriForm’s remarkable energy and cost savings, Rak then discussed ways that other organizations can begin to implement low-technology sustainability initiatives into their own operations. First and foremost, being able to effectively measure energy costs and usage is vital for improving efficiency. Rak suggests that businesses begin by reviewing their utility bills, income statements, and installing energy monitoring equipment.  In particular, energy monitoring is useful because it allows businesses to see exactly when, where and how the energy has been used, which can then be used to inform which areas require improvement. Rak said, “if you were to do one thing [after this event], it should be to install an energy monitor in your main area.” Rak also offered some insight for employees that are looking to implement sustainability initiatives into their business operations but are not sure of the best way to communicate the value to upper management.
  • Asset Management. Terminology is important. Sometimes, using “green” or “eco” language can alienate top executives at companies because they may view these terms are requiring costly or unnecessary investments. Rak says it’s important to consider your audience, and then present your ideas to them using their own language.
  • Visual and Clear Data. Related to how you present your ideas, Rak also says it’s important to communicate value using descriptive imagery. This includes easy-to-read graphs, charts, and other visuals that clearly highlight your key deciding factors.
  • Use current dollars per kilowatt hour. Outdated numbers and figures presented after adding tax are not informative to the stakeholder and do not give a clear representation of the impact of the sustainability initiatives.
In conclusion, Rak offered what he called the “Golden Nugget” of advice. Sustainability is not only about finding ways to save energy; it is equally as important to consider areas of operations that are wasting or inefficient with energy. This requires a critical look at all maintenance and avoided costs to determine ways to optimize efficiency in energy usage. Overall, the presentation given by Paul Rak was incredibly impressive and informative. The audience left feeling inspired to explore ways that they can measure and monitor their own energy usage in order to optimize both sustainability and cost-savings.