Collective purchasing with national buying group 2Buy2 makes cost saving on energy a possibility for churches from a range of different denominations
Price comparison websites don’t always cut the mustard, especially if you are a church looking for better energy costs, as Andrew Lennox from St Bees Methodist Church in Cumbria discovered. “We hit an obstacle with price comparison sites because ‘church’ isn’t a category,” he says.
But with energy a key spend for many churches (alongside insurance, and after staffing) his church was not alone in seeking reduced energy bills.
The solution was to buy collectively: Lennox’s church now buys its gas and electricity through the Methodist Energy Basket. “The savings have been essential to us as it’s helped us meet other outgoings, particularly as we are a small church with a falling income,” says Lennox.
St Bees became part of the first Methodist Energy Basket, set up by 2Buy2, which specialises in collective buying for churches and schools. “Some of the churches were looking at green energy and wanted to be more environmentally friendly,” says 2Buy2 CEO Rob Kissick, but added that others are unable to pay any kind of premium to buy green “if they are struggling to afford to put the lights on”.
“We looked at bringing them together to reduce costs and eventually bring in green energy,” he explains.
The company was set up specifically to buy for churches. “I saw when working in my local church that it didn’t get many deals,” says Kissick, who was previously procurement officer at the Department for International Development (DFID). “For a church, energy can be as much as 25% of non-staff spend.” As energy is not sold regionally, collective purchasing can reach across the UK, he adds.
To set up the Methodist Energy Basket, details were shared across the churches through notifications in the Methodist Recorder and monthly newsletters about 18 months ahead of its start. As churches signed up, 2Buy2 prepared interim contracts to bring them to the same start point, then went out to tender for the collective.
A major consideration in the tender was ethical procurement, explains Kissick. “They had some suppliers they didn’t want to use for ethical reasons. We pulled that together and identified the best for price, customer service and such, and then appointed the best supplier.”
The first Methodist Energy Basket ran from 2016 for two years, involving around 100 churches, using British Gas for gas and SSE for electricity. The collective saved £57,000 per year for the two years.
For the second contract, the buying group has grown to 139 churches across the UK, and some church halls, and is set for an even higher saving.
Today, 2Buy2 represents about 8,000 churches and 20 cathedrals, and directly manages spend in the region of £25-30m across its clients. It runs a multi-denomination green energy buying group, which also includes Baptist, Church of England, Church in Wales and Church of Scotland.
“Some Methodist churches are already moving over to the multi-denomination renewable energy basket,” says Kissick, a trend that he expects to grow.
The big church switch
“As Christians we are stewards of our resources, which come from God,” explains Robert Kissick of 2Buy2. “They are financial, human and environmental.”
That makes renewable energy of interest to a growing number of Christian churches, and the thinking behind a collective green energy programme set up in 2016.
Christian Aid and Tearfund charities with The Church of England were looking for ways to help churches reduce their carbon footprint. 2Buy2, which was already operating a green electricity-buying group for one denomination, worked with them to launch The Big Church Switch in 2016. Now over 300 Christian churches of varying denominations are signed up, and keep their lights on with electricity generated from 100% renewable sources, with none from nuclear.