This article offers a step-by-step guide to help reduce energy & resources use at work by making connections for 'Win Win' solutions and focusing on some smart attitudes and behaviors.

It's been put together to help Smart Savers, Lead Champions and Key Connectors to develop their own Big Green Solution through people at work.

We hope it creates some ideas for you.

The Challenge

Are you interested in developing your own big green solution for your workplace? 

This makes total sense:

Involving colleagues at work is one of the quickest and cheapest ways of reducing carbon emissions and cutting utility costs for your organization at scale. 

Most organizations typically waste 20-30% of the energy they buy (#CarbonTrust). 

Governments are asking businesses to improve their energy efficiency at least by 20% to help meet our Zero Carbon climate change goals (#CleanGrowthStrategy).

Others say we all need to improve our energy productivity by at least 3% every year (#ThreePercentClub).

Our 1st Big Green event was for an airport terminal building (2008), which brought together a core team who went onto reduce their energy consumption by 22% in 3 years by engaging,  involving & working with teams of local everyday champions.

We know many organizations struggle with their programs and become disillusioned as energy savings don’t result or because they quickly fall away over time. 

How do you create the green spark and engage colleagues to deliver quick wins, i.e., develop your own big green solution? 

Once you do, how do you generate the momentum and benefits longer-term? 

There aren’t many step by step guides available that help take the mystery out of behavior change.

It’s not as hard as you think!

When we first started with people solutions, we massively surprised ourselves on what we achieved. So we thought we’d share some of our ideas & approaches within courses – hopefully to give you ideas & help you avoid the usual pitfalls & discover benefits for yourself.

A big green solution need to blend technical, strategic & behavior change measures

TECHNOLOGY alone will not solve it all 

Many of us focus 99% of our effort on the technical solutions, but this often requires large investment & only delivers half of the savings.

Best practice STRATEGY tells us: 

  1. First focus on lean conservation measures to minimize costs & right-size investments.
  2. Then, think about more efficient & clean energy technologies you can invest in.
  3. Finally, use green energy supply options to lower the carbon impact of your energy use (#EnergyHiearachy). 

Put PEOPLE first at the heart of success 

Save 5-20%+ energy consumption by involving and engaging people (#EnvironmentAgency).

People approaches yield high ROI (#CDP reports say > 124 kgCO2/$ spent & IRR >72% for behavior change measures).

The ‘Big 3’ Ideas to help you deliver success:

  • Clear Business Sense                                                                          Whatever it is we do, it needs to perform. Target improvements in sustainability and link them to measurable business benefits.
  • Make it Easy                                                                                           We are all busy people; for best results, our actions need to be quick & intuitive; eventually the driving of continual improvement needs to become friction free.
  • Create the 'Win Win'                                                                                People love emotive connections. Tap into these to drive continual improvement, to make sure improvements stick and to create a 'Win Win' for those involved.

What’s going to drive this for you? What’s going to make it rewarding & fun?

How are we going to deliver continual & sustainable improvements longer-term?

This university Big Green event generated 300+ energy saving ideas & actions to help kick off an energy savings through people campaign; the resulting action plan was local, unique & effective, and importantly owned by the people involved.

Step 1: Engagement

Center on engagement to get commitment and setup a vision to kick off with

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has.

Margaret Mead

US Culture Specialist

What’s your current utilities bill?

For your organization and metered zones:

  • What areas are you targeting? Schedule your local sites, buildings and areas being targeted
  • What was your consumption for last year? This is for each utility source and area
  • Are there any expected changes that will impact on energy and water use?

What are the needs & expectations?

Talk to local top managers and other stakeholders:

  • Are there any energy and environmental policies in place?
  • Are there existing plans and budgets for improvement programs?
  • Does the organization use management standards? E.g. ISO 50001 for energy
  • What are the legal and other stakeholder requirements that apply?

It is essential key top managers are on board:

  • To understand opportunities, challenges & priorities
  • To ensure plans and roles are joined-up, approved and resources made available
  • To communicate the importance of better performance and savings made
  • To ensure buy in for performance measures and interest in the results
  • To celebrate success and say thank you to the everyday champions involved

We find many organizations still typically rely too much on awareness-raising campaigns and top-down standards & assurance processes, so miss out on potential results.

A starting vision:  Local Ownership

  • Personal Leadership taken on by local people throughout the organization i.e. not just the CEO and top managers. 
  • Empowered colleagues become committed everyday champions, using their local knowledge and creativity.
  • Local top managers and practitioners are the change-makers, setting up the local structures and support for change.
  • Colleagues and teams collaborate locally and learn from each other, turning themselves into Smart Savers and leaders.

Step 2: Accommodate inspiration

Target the Win for the colleagues and the community through accommodating inspiration 

It often starts with speaking to colleagues and finding out what they think and need.

How good is energy & environmental performance in practice?

  • Use the community of practice to start a conversation about highlighting reality.
  • Ask people about their attitudes, challenges and any ideas they may have to save energy and for being better.
  • Speak to suppliers and specialists about levels of performance, relevant factors that impact on energy use and the opportunities for improvement.
  • Consider using surveys to ask users about energy services, particularly about their working environment.
  • Raise awareness of related policies, benefits, roles and responsibilities and the impact of activities and behaviors.
  • Target the co-benefits and risks that will motivate colleagues to do more.

Anyone can be an everyday champion by typically spending 20 minutes a day thinking about & working on how to do things better.

Set-up regular Energy Time

  • Collaborate with significant users (with hands-on control of energy use), practitioners (specialists), ambassadors (who influence top management) and key connectors (who influence everyone else).
  • Assign local responsibilities, engage and create green sparks for colleagues to become champions for better performance.
  • Agree baselines to measure savings against – e.g. last year’s consumption.
  • Report monthly consumptions – add commentary for any relevant factors.
  • Communicate with colleagues through team talks, events, workshops, etc.
  • Track energy ideas and actions that save energy, water and other resource use.

Step 3: Coordination for better service

Coordinate your approach on continuing improving service and the Win for Customers

Target avoidable waste that adds no value

  • Recognize that most services consume more energy than needed, which then adds no more value to customers. This is what we call ‘avoidable waste’.
  • Coordinate local Energy Reviews to identify your overall areas of significant energy use based on customer value.
  • Involve staff who best understand the (changing) needs of customers.
  • Explore ideas and actions that significantly reduce consumption but also increase value for customers. Particularly target actions that also support colleagues' hearts and minds - the 'Win Win Win'.

Plotting energy demand and number of customers over 24 hours helped this business highlight that equipment is left on with no value generated to their customers. This understanding allowed them to target potential biggest impact savings to reduce consumption by over 50%; in the first year they saved 20%+ with more to follow.

Use streamlined ISO 50001 for coordinated continual improvement

  • Understand which actions add the most value to customers.
  • Focus tools to make difficult actions easier and procedures to cover only key gaps.
  • Get people to rethink services so energy is used more efficiently for customer requirements – ‘Do the right thing’.
  • Build a strong team with a good mix of expertise, local staff and managers.
  • Co-create the objectives, targets and plans that will lead to better service and overall energy performance.
  • Get colleagues excited by tapping into emotive connections and motivators.

Challenge why Energy is Consumed

Heating, ventilating & air-conditioning systems are typically the largest energy consumers in most buildings; many systems run for longer than needed.  A hospital reviewed the operating times of their HVAC systems & found that most could be switched off for 2 to 3 hours a day without affecting comfort, saving 10% in fan running costs >> These quick wins saved $107,000 a year & set up their catalyst for change.

Step 4: Coordination for better returns

Coordinate your approach to also deliver the Win for the business partners involved 

Focus coordination with Pareto 80/20

  • 80% of the results typically come from 20% of the ideas (#Pareto)
  • Focus performance indicators on a few targeted key objectives and targets which deliver clear business benefits.
  • Measure and verify impacts on metered consumption at high level – for sites, buildings and metered zones.
  • Monitor actions taken and ask for feedback from users to analyze energy performance, motivations and progress.
  • Use dashboards / trackers / apps to feedback and help people make quicker and better decisions, to reinforce actions and allow them to respond to significant deviations in energy performance.

Energy performance feedback for this restaurant demonstrates that energy consumption now correlates reasonably well with number of meals being cooked. Energy consumption has been halved compared to the energy baselines set

Coordinate communications to colleagues

  • Everything communicates during change; even doing nothing shows people what you expect them to do!
  • Use every day and consistent language and positioning across all the channels; be mindful of being too technical
  • Nudge, prod and persuade by making it respectful, positive, free-choice (if possible) and about self-discovery
  • Create stories out of the actions being taken and their related successes

Coordination for continually better value 

Too much equipment still runs 24/7. For escalators, the simple thing to do is to turn them off overnight, when not in use, & maximize this “off” time — this generates interest & quick win savings. Only then is it worth investing in run-on-demand controls to slow escalators down during lull periods. A local everyday champion can optimize the controls; savings of $1,000–$2,000 a year per escalator is often possible. Further savings can then be made by making the stairs more attractive to use than the escalator!

Step 5: Collaboration

Connect together teams to generate the Win Win and energize change 

big green ball

To help generate a local buzz here, a giant green ball randomly appears in different places, representing the Big Green challenge and literally putting the ball into their court.

Collaborate using local events

  • Local events can create drop-in interactive spaces within the heart of the operation.
  • Focus on action-oriented campaigns e.g. using opportunity sweeps or treasure hunts to facilitate teams to explore areas they know well.
  • The challenge is to come up with ideas and actions together (while injecting some fun into the process).
  • Key-connectors help bring teams together and make connections.

Develop Hearts and Minds that stick

  • Target co-benefits by tapping into motivation theories of Maslow or others.
  • Training for better skills and performance is often a key motivator for those involved.
  • Significant energy users also need to be competent in their knowledge and proficiency.
  • Use quick actions processes for campaigns.
  • Coaching helps colleagues to focus their efforts by understanding the challenges and developing their own solutions.
  • Gamification helps hone skills through iterative experience and instant feedback.

'Win Win' is a Good Thing

Lighting in buildings can still account for 20% of total energy costs. Staff working in a shopping facility targeted poor lighting that was receiving customer complaints. Upgrading the light fittings not only reduced energy consumption by 60%, saving $19,000 a year with a 2½-year payback, but also significantly improved the lighting ambience in that area; a classic “win–win” for those involved.

Step 6: Momentum

Put in place ways to develop momentum for continual improvement

  • Prioritize management practices which center on momentum. 
  • Regularly assess progress, your plans and activities – challenge current perceptions and push boundaries. Assess, adjust and try again.
  • Use regular forum meetings to share experiences, co-ordinate efforts and reinforce team work.  Learn from each other.
  • Try out new ways of doing business – use action-based continual learning, innovation and personal leadership.
  • Make recommendations for any updates to policies, objectives and allocation of resources, etc.
  • Create and share case-studies to show what people can do.
  • Remember it takes time to create lasting change.

Principles for a Community of practice that sticks

For critical mass, we need at least 2-5% of colleagues to be everyday champions to lock it all in.

  • Make it local - develop a strong local team, give everyone a compelling reason to get involved, and help them understand their local energy performance.
  • Make it focused - focus and coordinate efforts for the 'Win Win' while also giving it a sense of urgency.
  • Make it continual - reinforce and adapt for change, communicate and communicate again, and always ask what’s next?
  • Make it desirable - celebrate the ‘Win for All of us’ through benefits for energy and sustainability, the organization and for the people involved.
  • Make it theirs – develop and refine the solution so it belongs to everyone involved – follow your instincts; ultimately, you will know what works best for your organization…

Best of luck and enjoy the process!

The “Big Green” concept was born out of success of working with teams at an airport (2007-2010). We surprised ourselves delivering an average of 15% savings across the airport in less than three years; the best areas saving 30%+. Regular workshops and events helped turn discovery into success. Directors reinforced key priorities, celebrated industry awards and were confident in letting everyday champions lead it all up locally for themselves.

Written by James Brittain


Smart Saver

Over to you - How can BigGreenAcademy best support you achieving your goals?

For this topic:

  • What do you see as being the biggest drivers and opportunities?
  • What are the challenges that are hindering you delivering on these?
  • How can BigGreenAcademy can best support you achieving your goals?

Please comment below...

You may also like

{"email":"Email address invalid","url":"Website address invalid","required":"Required field missing"}

Take one of our courses to increase your level of energy & sustainability proficiency