Switching business on to the benefits and advantages of tackling emissions.

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Nick Palousis, Net Zero Business Advisor

To say Nick Palousis is enthusiastic about energy efficiency would be an understatement. He’s a true believer, an absolute font of knowledge, and chatting with him, his enthusiasm is infectious.


“The cheapest form of energy is the one you don’t use,” Nick explains. “That’s really the principle of energy efficiency. If we can find more intelligent ways of using energy, not just generating energy, then we’re reducing our costs, and reducing our greenhouse gas emissions.”


But business decarbonisation is about much more than energy efficiency. Nick and his team support businesses to efficiently electrify, generate and purchase renewables, apply circular economy principles, and last, but not least, invest in carbon removals for whatever businesses can’t yet decarbonise.


Nick is a net zero business advisor, and over the past decade has seen more and more businesses switch on to the benefits and competitive advantages of tackling their emissions.


In that time, Nick’s taken what started as a two-man Adelaide consultancy and turned it into a fast-growing company with 15 staff, advising organisations across industries on how to do business, for better.


This involves taking a holistic look at operations across an entire business.


“Getting right back to the basics, if we look at how nature operates; the more we can emulate the natural efficiency we see, the more we can grow and thrive,” Nick explains. “That means thinking about thermodynamic principles and using the laws of physics to help businesses be better.”


It sounds fascinating (and it is). But while Nick has used his own engineering background to develop a particular skillset for the work he does, he’s keen to point out that net zero business advisors can come from many different backgrounds.


“To be a net zero business advisor, you need a bunch of different skills,” he says. “You need analytical skills and you’ve got to be comfortable using data., You do need a technical skillset – but you also need imagination, and a willingness to work closely with people.”


“Step one is to collect data and convert that into a greenhouse gas emissions inventory of what they call scope one, scope two and scope three greenhouse gas emissions.”


These ‘scopes’ are part of the most widely recognised standards for greenhouse gas emissions. Scope one covers emissions created directly by a business, scope two covers “indirect” emissions created by the businesses’ electricity use, and scope three covers all other emissions in a business’ supply chain, both up and downstream.


“So, the first core skill set is an analytical one,” Nick says.


“Step two comes in once you know where the biggest emission sources are in the business. You can narrow in your focus, and often that’s around energy use.


“Then it’s working out what’s possible, what can you do to reduce emissions in a practical, commercially attractive, and also technically possible way.


Can a business improve energy efficiency through things like adoption of energy efficient lighting or air conditioning? Can they generate renewable energy on site? Can they reduce their production of waste and reduce supply chain emissions which come through into the business?


“You don’t need to have a PhD in engineering, but you’ve got to know enough about what’s possible and practically appropriate for the business to pursue.


“Step 3 then, is developing pathways to pursue net zero. This requires a certain level of commercial, and management skills, because now you’re talking about the future for the business,” Nick says.


“You know – what does the future look like for the business in the world where you’re setting a target of, say, 50 per cent reduction in emissions by 2030, or net zero by 2040? This requires a certain level of skill around management strategy and commercial nous.”


The fourth step is the development of an actual transition plan to net zero. And then of course, it’s making it all happen.


“You’ve got this strategy in place, you’ve gone through this whole process of collecting data, identifying opportunities, developing targets and pathways. Now you’ve got to actually execute the strategy,” Nick says.


“For the business you’re working with, all the previous work is the ‘end of the beginning’ for them, so you also need the skill set of stakeholder engagement – engaging your peers, your staff, your executive, your shareholders, your suppliers.”


Nick says this final stakeholder engagement skill is critical to the whole journey. And for anyone interested in getting into this space, it’s important not to be intimidated: you don’t need all these skill sets from the get-go. Importantly, there is specific training available, such as the Energy Efficiency Council’s Certified EnMS Advisor certification.


“People in net zero business advisory will typically come armed with one or two of those skill sets,” Nick says. “They may have one particular strength – they might be a gun at spreadsheets, or they might be terrible at spreadsheets but they’re really good at building the commercial or business case, and working on a pitch. I need to round my own skillset out with people who have all these other skillsets to make sure what I’m doing is going to be successful.”


And as for why Nick got into this space, it was simply that it seemed the most exciting way to use his skills.


“I’m an engineer and mathematical scientist by background, and for me it was like the ultimate problem to solve,” he says. “How do you grow and thrive as an economy, as a business, while eliminating your environmental impact?


“The most exciting businesses out there are the ones pursuing net zero to their competitive advantage. I want to show the market how to win out of this. That’s what I’m most passionate about. But what transpired for me as an engineer was that you can have the best technical idea in the world, but if you can’t get a business to buy into it, then it goes nowhere,” he explains.


“Like, when you walk into a boardroom filled with executives, it’s not good enough just to talk about the laws of physics. You’ve got to talk about the laws of business and the laws of human nature too.


“I didn’t anticipate in my early parts of my career that I’d be become a business strategist with an engineering background, and how powerful a combination that can be.”


It’s a combination that more and more people are switching on to.


Nick Palousis is the Managing Director of 2XE and Co-Founder of Accelerate Zero.


He holds degrees in Mechatronic Engineering and Computer Science, and several industry certifications. He is a member of the EEC Professional Certifications Certified EnMS Advisor Assessment Panel.