Making energy efficiency a part of your culture requires staff engagement. Energy managers might be the determining factor in enlisting the entire team’s help.
Even the most accomplished and bright energy executives will admit that they cannot wholly restructure a firm independently. “Every organization’s culture is different. There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to engaging employees around energy efficiency,” says Kady Cowan, an energy management expert at the Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO) with more than a decade of experience assisting large companies with sustainability initiatives. On the other hand, proper energy management begins with a knowledge that it is about more than just technical tasks. It’s about integrating energy efficiency into the organization’s essential culture, which will take a collaborative effort.
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“If you want to mobilize people, doing something behind closed doors that is personally fulfilling may not be the ideal way to start,” Cowan adds. “Getting the CEO’s or other senior management’s support can go a long way toward turning the rest of your company’s employees become energy-saving champions,” she says. KI Canada, a Pembroke-based manufacturer, was one of the companies that united its employees, thanks in part to the leadership of its general manager, Dan Mellen. To prevent air leaks, he planned to gather managers from all departments one afternoon and begin sealing cracks around the building with foam.
People started asking questions and getting interested just by doing that. Greg Wallace, the facility’s engineering manager, adds, “It started a discourse on energy and what we were attempting to do.” Within a year of launching its efforts to become more energy-efficient, KI saved 30% of its energy costs.
Carefully Select your Team
Cowan adds that assembling a team of energy efficiency champions necessitates enlisting the help of people from various parts of the company. “Attractive energy managers pick and choose people they want on their team.” “You’ll already know who to bring to your team if your organization has hidden challenges that are already top-of-mind and that you know energy efficiency can help solve,” Cowan adds. Consider defining your team’s priorities around how energy efficiency may reduce the risk of business continuity. Perhaps physical safety is a priority. In that situation, lighting sensors to inform guards of movement could make more sense than leaving the lights on all of the time while also addressing the security issue.
Regardless of the circumstances, it is the responsibility of energy managers to pay attention and ask questions about the priorities of various departments. According to Stephen Dixon, an independent consultant who has been helping businesses implement energy efficiency for more than 30 years, your strongest energy advocates don’t have to be people with technical expertise. Most energy managers already have that, but they’ll also require teams from other departments who aren’t directly involved in energy initiatives to provide insight into the organization’s overall motivations. “It truly boils down to the organization’s culture and what drives it,” he says.
“Senior leaders can also offer guidance on what has worked in the past, or where related projects are already underway that may offer a chance for energy efficiency to integrate into,” Cowan says. For example, a corporate employee initiative would be a good fit for discussing HVAC upgrades and their impact on air quality.
Changing a Culture
“It takes a collective commitment to make energy efficiency work for an organization. Start with education to get your employees interested in energy efficiency, “Dixon agrees. “There has to be an organizational learning component,” he explains. “I’ve seen corporations allocate energy responsibilities to individuals, but regrettably, most people don’t understand energy well enough to handle it. The educational component is crucial.” Consider the case of Home Depot. In 2017, the retail behemoth began The Power Project, an ongoing program that assigns scorecards to its stores based on their energy efficiency. The initiative promotes healthy rivalry among stores, and the best-performing locations are awarded “fun monies” that can be used for associate lunches or dinners.
However, it also provides staff with transparent data on their energy usage. Employees began asking questions about how they could improve and get more involved in energy conservation simply by introducing scorecards.
Cowan points out that not every firm needs a formal commitment or regular “green team” meetings to keep staff interested. Instead, concentrate on individual successes and projects, such as a finance proposal for a specific renovation. She says people tend to fall back into their daily behaviors if they don’t have something particular to work for. Because lighting is so apparent and may engage employees around their workstation design, it’s frequently a favorite. Energy management can often enhance morale as well. “Energy management can be a leveler for many businesses,” Cowan adds.
“Pretend you’re in a laboratory,” she says. “There are a lot of egos there, all striving to conduct the best work they can with limited funds and lab space. There’s a fight between these two lead scientists, and it’s causing friction.” Then an energy manager enters the lab to discuss energy conservation. “This is something that the entire lab gets together to do, and it has nothing to do with their science. Scientists are having lunch together and sharing notes the next thing you know.” That is the power of energy efficiency, she claims. “You can change a society.”