Making 50001 work

7th April 2016

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  • Management/saving ,
  • Built environment ,
  • Property



Niall Enright worked with property company Peel on certification to the energy management standard and compliance with ESOS. Here, he gives some insights

Until recently few UK organisations contemplated achieving the international energy management standard. That changed in 2014 when the government included ISO 50001 as one of two main routes to complying with the mandatory energy savings opportunity scheme (ESOS).

Reaching 50001 is a demanding process and, to date, only 217 out of 5,938 organisations, or 3.6%, have taken this route to achieve ESOS compliance.

One organisation that has is Peel Land and Property (PL&P), which owns and manages 1.2 million m² of property and 15,000 hectares of land and water worth £2.3bn. Properties include the MediaCityUK development in Salford, the nearby EventCity exhibition complex and two outlet malls, Salford’s Lowry and Gloucester Quays. PL&P is part of The Peel Group, one of the UK’s largest investors in real estate, infrastructure and transport, with assets of more than £5bn.

Going for the standard

The Peel Group has had an overarching energy and carbon policy since 2009. It includes an emissions reduction target of 3% year on year, adjusted for activity. It is a goal that Peel has achieved every year.

Achieving 50001 was first considered in 2012 when the company was updating the policy, but it took a further year before it decided to go for the standard. A key attraction was the independent assessment of performance. However, there were misgivings among the management team about implementing 50001 in an organisation where people were accustomed to working with a high degree of trust, autonomy and professional freedom.

David Glover, the operations director and the board member driving Peel’s sustainability agenda, says: ‘One of my biggest concerns about the process was the impact that this would have on the enthusiasm and motivation of our “energy champions”, who were doing such an outstanding job.’

When the company decided to go for 50001 there was already a strong record on energy management in place. Between 2009 and 2013 it was certified to the Carbon Trust Standard. Every major asset in its portfolio had an energy champion and was subject to a full audit to the CIBSE TM22 assessment and reporting standard.

At the same time, sophisticated performance targets were established to account for measures such as weather and occupancy. Performance was monitored using Carbon Desktop from Verco, while an opportunities database was created to drive improvement. Between 2010 and 2013 more than £500,000 savings were achieved each year against costs of around £4m – a reduction of more than 12.5%. The Carbon Trust certification ranked Peel top of 29 UK property companies benchmarked.

So there was a concern that 50001 would undermine a process that was delivering good results for the company and its tenants. Glover says: ‘What decided it for us was the realisation that the standard route to ESOS compliance through audits offered little value as we had already audited all our major assets and quantified our use as a result of the CRC [carbon reduction commitment]. So we decided to proceed with 50001, but in a way that would put the energy champions front and centre.’

Working with the champions

With this direction, getting started was easy. As ‘management representative’, I worked with the energy champions to examine their processes and devise a model for best practice that involved improvement opportunities and target-setting. These became the core 50001 activities, with some changes in terminology to make it easier for auditors to relate them to the ISO standard. The champions were clear about which aspects of 50001 they believed added value and those they considered burdensome. We emphasised the former and reduced the latter to a minimum.

Formulating the 50001 process in terms that reflect an organisation’s activities is critical. Although it may appear easier to copy and paste from the standard, there is a risk of failing to document what the organisation does, a shortcoming that would be uncovered during the audit.

As well as tailoring the ISO process to the organisation, it is also important to keep it simple. Peel’s 50001 process applied to a range of facilities: offices, exhibition centres, studios, car parks, three regional airports, outlet malls, environmental assets, energy generation and retail and industrial parks. The description of the entire Peel ISO 50001 process, including all the forms, schedules of businesses and people, and the audit calendar, fits on just 24 pages of A4. A concise process is easier for staff to follow and is simpler to maintain.

However, brevity should not lead to ambiguity. It is important not only to spell out what the process is, but who will do it, by when, and how it will be verified and recorded. If this is clear, it will be easy for the certification body to validate a system.

After three months working on the document, Peel’s system went live in April 2014. Since so much of the process was based on the existing approach to energy efficiency, the energy champions took it all in their stride.

Learning points

One early learning point from PL&P was the importance of the internal audits. About six months after the launch of 50001, these took centre stage. First, the audits provided confirmation that everyone understood the processes. Critically the internal audits enabled those working on certification to flag up where work was still needed. For example, one relatively minor aspect of the standard involves checking the calibration records for all meters in the system. However, in some older properties it was difficult to find these. An action request as part of the audit/non-conformity process signalled to the certifiers that PL&P had a programme of work in place to fix it so they could not fail the company on this.

Another tip for anyone looking to have a 50001 system externally certified (a requirement for ESOS) is that some auditors adopt a different approach. I would strongly urge anyone seeking certification to interview auditors they are considering appointing. Although the certification bodies are UKAS-accredited and notionally work to the same standard, individual auditors can fall into several camps. We found some took a ‘literalist’ approach to the standard, nitpicking yet lacking in knowledge about energy management. One certifier even suggested that we ‘dumb down’ the targets to a simpler kWh/m2 because they found correlation with heating and cooling degree days too complicated. Others, usually more experienced, took a ‘key principles’ approach and would test the system against the broad intentions of the standard, such as continuous improvement, measurement, accountability, verification and so forth.

The chosen certifier, Tim Watts from Lucideon, showed lots of experience in auditing a complex organisation such as Peel. He also had first-hand knowledge of energy systems and construction.

The process, between April and July 2015, was thorough. An initial one-day document review was followed by an intense three-day audit at the Peel offices, with every document, action plan, the organisational structure, energy performance indicators and internal audit records scrutinised. Watts met most of the energy champions and several business managers. He also inspected actual energy efficiency measures ‘in situ’. Every single aspect of the standard, no matter how small, was checked. At the end of the process, Watts identified one minor non-conformity: the teams did not respond as vigorously to green exceptions (when PL&P was performing better that expected) than to red exceptions (when it was performing worse).

‘In the course of the three-day onsite certification audit, it became clear to me that the energy management system at Peel was a long-established process, which has widespread support from the boardroom to the facilities teams,’ says Watts. ‘This was reflected in the very considerable number of completed energy-efficient projects, which I was able to observe during my visit, and the professionalism and dedication of the staff involved.’

Going forward

So how do staff at PL&P involved in the 50001 process feel now the company has its certification? It was certainly hard work to launch the system, and the certification process itself was stressful. But it has improved the company’s energy management in two ways: first, the action plans formalised input from business managers into the energy management process; second, the energy management system has enabled the firm to take action in parts of the business that were yet to adopt best practice.

In terms of a statement of quality, the fact that 50001 is difficult to achieve added to the rigour of the certification process and makes this a benchmark the company values. It is one badge that Peel wears with pride and is happy to communicate to its customers, tenants and partners. ‘This recognises the commitments we have made over a number of years in terms of our energy use and carbon emissions,’ says Glover.

How have the energy champions reacted? They are going from strength to strength. Today the savings exceed £1.3m a year, reducing energy by almost 30%.

Peel is not resting on its laurels, however. ‘We are determined to continue to lead the way in the design of new low-carbon facilities as well as review how we operate our existing properties,’ says Glover.

Niall Enright is director of the consultancy SustainSuccess and has more than 25 years’ experience running energy and resource efficiency programmes for large organisations. He was the management representative for the implementation of ISO 50001 at Peel Land and Property Group.

10 Top tips for 50001 succes

People and culture

  • Be clear about why you are doing 50001
  • Senior management commitment is critical to success
  • Beware the demotivating potential of imposed systems


  • Ideally, put great energy management in place first, then do 50001
  • Describe your process, don’t just repeat the standard
  • Make the document as concise as possible
  • Remember to document what, who, when and how verified


  • Meet the prospective certifier before appointing them
  • Run the system for a year (minimum) before certification
  • Make sure your internal audits are complete before certification


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