Energy transition | Supporting companies to do more by consuming less and better
Installing new equipment, switching to cleaner energy, reducing waste, integrating recycled materials, adopting the circular model: energy transition projects come in different types and sizes. How can we support local businesses in their green efforts? Two of the Fonds' experts weigh in.
"We work with companies every day to help them use energy wisely and take action where they can in their business circle," says Sophie Robillard, vice-president of Groupe Asthuce at the Fonds de solidarité FTQ.
In the long run, such projects generate positive, measurable spinoffs for businesses. Jean-François Laplante, investment director of the Fonds' Aerospace, Infrastructure and Transport team, cites Groupe Robert as an example: "This partner has been a pioneer for a while now in the transportation and logistics industry, having replaced 160 of its trucks with liquefied natural gas models. This switch from diesel to a cleaner energy source has resulted in a 25-30% reduction in its greenhouse gas emissions."
The benefits of becoming more energy efficient
In addition to boosting the bottom line and optimizing resource use, shifting to green energy showcases corporate social responsibility in action. "Sustainable development helps companies set themselves apart from their competitors and improves their brand image with employees and customers, which is a big plus during this labour shortage," explains Sophie Robillard. Such projects also create a culture of innovation and a desire for continuous improvement.
This is what Groupe Robert is doing, as shown by its recent project for an automated refrigerated distribution centre in Varennes. This state-of-the-art building meets sustainable development standards and incorporates processes that contribute to its energy efficiency.
Seeing beyond the obstacles
Some entrepreneurs approach energy efficiency projects with reservation. Since calculating the savings and benefits is less linear than for a project that will boost sales, it may be necessary to consult with experts. The anticipated benefits may also fluctuate depending on the volatility of certain energy prices. But sometimes the opportunity cost of not carrying out the project turns out to be much greater.
"By doing nothing, the business model could be threatened by a change in regulations or consumer habits or by a competitor who takes the lead," cautions Jean-François Laplante."That's one reason Groupe Robert built its automated warehouse, making it the first provider of third-party logistics of its kind in Québec."
The support of a patient business partner
With more than $17 billion in assets* under management, the Fonds is present in all sectors of the Québec economy.
"Our sector approach allows us to provide customized, turnkey financing based on each company's reality," adds Jean-François Laplante.
The Fonds is much more than a source of financing: it is a patient investor that generously shares its expertise with partner companies through its internal team, Groupe Asthuce.
"One of the ways we support our companies in their energy transition is by conducting an audit," explains Sophie Robillard. "Based on the results, we help implement actions, for example, forming an in-house energy committee, which will be responsible for measuring performance indicators over time, and offering employee training or workshops on the best solutions for the company."
This support is part of the Fonds' commitment since 2018 to participate in a just energy transition. "There are essential changes that we have to make right away while remaining mindful of the human and socio-economic consequences," concludes Sophie Robillard. "We can generate a reasonable return for our investors and at the same time contribute to people's well-being and speed up the transition to a low-carbon economy."
* As at May 31 2021
Groupe Robert: energy efficiency is everyone's business (video)
In the transportation industry, Groupe Robert stands out for its avant-gardism and its strategic spirit. This explains in part why the Fonds has been a partner of the company since 1993, one of the longest collaborations in its history. Michel Robert, the company's president, talks about his relationship with the Fonds and the benefits of their energy efficiency initiatives.