Q:What are some best practices for working with business customers that have joined the RE100 and committed to using 100% renewable energy?
A:To date, 189 companies—some in the Fortune 500—have joined the RE100 and publicly committed to using 100% renewable energy. These organizations present an exciting challenge for utilities and their key account representatives. It’s likely that these customers are national accounts, and you’ll need to understand how their location in your territory plays a part in their corporate energy and sustainability goals.
Your approach to serving RE100 customers should be similar to the approach you use with existing key accounts, with a few important differences and areas to focus on. The key is understanding the details of your customer’s business, industry, and corporate energy goals and commitments. To successfully engage with RE100 customers, account managers should be able to answer several questions.
Who are the right contacts?
Tailor your contact to the customer’s size and number of locations. These larger, national customers have either a local or regional contact who is responsible for the company’s energy initiatives. In some cases, you might have to work at both a local/regional and national level depending on the scope of the project and the geographical territory. In other cases, you might work with a chief sustainability officer (Chief Sustainability Officers: Who Are They and What Do They Do? describes this role in detail).
How should I communicate with these customers?
Once you’ve identified your key decision-makers at a local level as well as nationally or globally, if applicable, the next step is to understand the customer’s communication preferences. The E Source Business Customer Insights Center delves into channel preferences by industry and company size for specific topics as well as interest in products and services.
What are the corporate goals, and how are they applied at various levels within the organization?
Nearly all RE100 companies are guided by a corporate sustainability plan, corporate energy goals, or a similar written commitment or outline for achieving the renewable target. Key account reps need to be familiar with these documents as well as how the details apply to locations within their territory.
How do corporate initiatives affect your local customers?
By understanding how drivers or goals vary at different levels (local, national, or global) within the organization, you’ll have a clearer idea of how to help your local customers adhere to the corporate plan.
How does my customer define renewables?
It’s critical to understand what “renewable” means to each customer. Not every company within the RE100 defines it the same way in their corporate energy plan or sustainability goals. Some customers are shifting toward strict requirements for “new” renewables to include initiatives focused on wind, solar, and so forth, but rule out hydro power, which is considered an old renewable.
At the Fall 2018 E Source Account Management Leadership Council, Kenneth Black, former chairman of the board at E Source, explained how utilities could offer resiliency services to their largest customers. For more on this, download his presentation Business Customer Resiliency: A New Chapter in Sustainability (PDF).
How does my customer’s renewable energy goal fit into the key account plan?
We recommend reviewing key account plans with your customers to ensure that you’ve considered all details, to secure buy-in from your account contact, and to build trust. The E Source Key Account Plan describe how to create a plan and features a template you can use. Incorporate the answers to the previous questions into the template and transform a typical key account plan into a customized corporate renewable energy execution plan for your RE100 customers.
How do I get started?
Once you’ve worked with your contacts to craft a thoughtful, actionable key account plan that reflects their corporate goals, it’s time to help your customers implement the plan.
RE100 customers present opportunities for creative, innovative pilots that can be customized to help them achieve their goals, but utilities are often unsure of how to respond to third-party energy management, procurement, and information solutions. If you’re struggling to understand the energy strategies and needs of your RE100 customers, E Source can help.
What other resources do you recommend?
- The Corporate Renewable Energy Buyers’ Principles, a joint project of the World Resources Institute and the World Wildlife Fund, outline what regulators value, what customers need, and how utilities can meet those needs.
- The American Sustainable Business Council is an association committed to building a community of sustainability-minded businesses. It focuses on changing policies related to its belief that a “sustainable business is good business, and a sustainable economy is a prosperous and resilient one.”