The Importance of Behaviour in Corporate Energy Efficiency

Improving energy efficiency through engineering and technological interventions is known as being an important factor in reducing operational cost, controlling maintenance requirements, and mitigating risks posed by an increasingly onerous legislative landscape.

However, whilst adopting formal and comprehensive energy management practices (for example through accreditation to standards such as ISO50001) will undoubtedly reap rewards, their full potential will only be realised if the workforce itself is fully engaged and knowledgeable of how their actions and behaviour can impact overall efficiency.

This fact is increasingly being understood by major blue-chip organisations, including RBS and Tesco, who have recently reported that they have embarked on widespread employee engagement and training programmes.

RBS have rolled out their ‘JUMP’ project which encourages employees to engage in energy saving, sustainable travel, and waste reduction activities. Organised into departmental teams and incentivised with monthly retail vouchers, the teams compete against their colleagues to drive improvement across the business. Whilst the company initially experienced some difficulties in monitoring and measuring success, this pilot programme was gauged on the financial and carbon benefits from energy saving, alongside feedback from those employees involved.

Similarly, Tesco rolled out their ‘Energy Matters’ initiative which included training over 4,000 colleagues across 165 stores in energy-saving practices. The biggest impact was felt in the Bakery and Hot Counter areas of the stores, with significant savings of approximately 320,000kWh and 140tCO2e being recorded in the bakeries alone.

So, with these large companies taking action and leading the way, the question remains as to why more businesses are not engaging with their teams and running behavioural and cultural change programmes?

The main reasons appear to be that organisations believe these programmes are expensive to administer and that they can be difficult to monitor and evaluate.

In the cases of RBS and Tesco, success was measured in different ways, influenced by their specific business dynamics and sectors, and the ways in which their colleagues could positively affect energy consumption – one size did not fit all for these organisations, and this demonstrates that companies should tailor their own programmes and measure success in ways that make sense to their businesses.

In terms of mitigating the cost of implementing these programmes, a simple hierarchy should be followed to ensure that any campaign is targeted and effective:

  • Identify the opportunity: which energy and/or environmental metrics will be targeted for improvement?
  • Develop a thorough brief: how will the programme be rolled out, incentivised and tracked? Will an initial pilot programme be put into action to understand any issues before a company-wide programme is attempted?
  • Determine how success will be measured: will specific targets be developed for the environmental metrics that have been identified? Should other ancillary considerations be included – for example, staff satisfaction, productivity?
  • Review and report success in a manner that resonates with the business: develop ways to report progress to the business that is engaging, motivating, and in line with the wider company strategy.

Having an engaged and motivated workforce will certainly increase savings potential, whilst also building collaboration across the business. With a well-tailored and considered programme, the benefits that could be realised will extend beyond the efficiency and environmental agenda initially targeted and add real value across the organisation.

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