By: Lloyd Macfarlane
Avis Rent a Car is enjoying the benefits of having started a green journey in 2007. The company has been able to compete advantageously in its sector as a result of some of the environmental interventions that have been implemented and the returns on investment and objective are now not only tangible but also quite measurable.
In 2007 the company conducted a review of its stance towards sustainability and its impact on the environment. A decision was made to embark on a green journey that would significantly reduce the company’s impact on the environment, unlock efficiencies and create competitive advantage.
Simple analysis revealed that the primary areas of impact for Avis were emissions and water consumption, and so the management team, led by CE Wayne Duvenage endorsed and activated an environmental plan that tackled these “big ticket items”.
The vehicle rental industry contributes significantly to Greenhouse Gas emissions and this is due to rental fleet emissions and high indirect energy consumption at offices and depots. Avis measured a baseline emission contribution of 9974 tons of carbon per annum (Scope 1 and 2) and following a number of isolated, pilot energy efficiency interventions decided in July 2009 to pursue a goal of becoming carbon neutral (from own emissions).
Following a full energy audit, the company targeted first base and installed energy meters in high use areas at its HQ precinct. A process of education and training followed which saw immediate savings of over 600 KWh/day being realised from simply switching car dryers off at Isando. This learning was quickly rolled out to Avis’ other main depots in Cape Town and Durban, taking the savings up to 2000 kWh during the busy mid-week periods. In addition to the dryers, lighting retrofits assessments were introduced while unnecessary power use was identified and addressed.
Following the energy use reduction process, Avis went ahead with its decision to purchase carbon credits to offset the almost 10,000 tons of its emissions per annum to net zero (in accordance with UN protocol), at a cost of approximately R1 million per annum, since 2009 and became South Africa’s first accredited carbon neutral business.
In 2008, vehicle rental industry water use volumes were estimated to be between 500 to 600 million litres of water per annum. In the same year, as part of the Avis “Journey of Sustainability” the company assessed the extent of its water use in vehicle preparation and cleaning processes. Having discovered the surprising amount of water used per wash to be up to 250 litres, Avis management decided to introduce intensive water recycling plants at its main depots and managed to save 41 million litres of water in 2009. By September 2010 the company was showing approximate savings of 87 million litres for the year and projected savings for 2011 of just less than 100 million litres of water. Water efficiency tactics extended to checking and repairing of all pipes for leaks and the installation of water flow regulators on all taps and the disconnection of all unnecessary geysers at Avis Headquarters.
During the facility upgrades being conducted between 2008 and 2010, a decision was made to target water neutrality as soon as possible and the company began with the process of installing rainwater harvesting systems by introducing large underground water reservoirs to catch run off from roof areas of its buildings. Investment of R2,5 million was calculated to return in just over three years and the approximate annual cost saving was in the region of R800,000.
Avis has been able to leverage its achievements internally and externally. CE Wayne Duvenage is invited to speak about the company’s green journey at various events and functions and employee participation in this journey has cemented the culture of the organisation in a very positive way. Duvenage attributes the company’s successes to the fact that the journey began from a moral position that was embraced by management and staff. He advises other businesses not to overcomplicate the green journey. “Address the big-ticket items,” he says, “and drive the change through your people and embrace it from the top.”