CREATING A GREENER CULTURE AT THE OFFICE
By Wes Andrud and Joe Froelich
The effects of rising energy costs are changing the way many senior level managers consider their company’s energy consumption. Rising energy costs have given corporate leaders a wake-up call to devise ways to conserve energy. Energy efficiency is evolving from a corporate concept to a priority item on the CEO’s agenda.
Over the past five years, an average company’s energy costs have escalated from 10-30 percent. Some CEOs have already adapted to current conditions and implemented strategies to create energy-efficient facilities. Company leadership must now treat energy as an operational necessity that must be managed diligently, much like the purchase and utilization of raw materials. In some cases, a company’s survival will depend on how quickly its management team can adopt energy conservation strategies.
While energy is a vital operating component, energy reduction does not need to be a cumbersome undertaking. With rising energy costs in the news, energy conservation should be seen as an opportunity, treated and managed as a company-wide initiative that will provide long-term benefits. As one corporate executive recently stated, “We know we have a lot of low hanging fruit (energy waste) in our plant. Our problem is that it is still on the tree.”
Effectively managing energy consumption requires a commitment to educating your workers. This involves energy awareness, empathy, best practices, coaching and action. Company leadership needs to modify employee behaviors in order to effect a cultural change throughout the company. It must start with the CEO and executive management regularly articulating their commitment to energy reduction and its importance. This is true of any company, from a developer’s office to a mortgage company.
Company leadership must also lead by example. Upper-level management should be the first to incorporate these cost-cutting measures in their own offices and departments. This demonstrates their commitment to energy reduction to the rest of the company, and that these initiatives are not simply window dressing.
According to one CEO, “The real secret to reducing energy costs is not in the technical aspects of the process; it is in the management attitude. A desire to reduce costs through good energy management and an effective implementation and monitoring program will always produce the results and the commercial benefits.”
Those responsible for implementing an efficiency program must focus on what is likely a new and unfamiliar set of metrics without historical data for benchmarking. The goals they set need to be communicated clearly to achieve sustainability. However, words alone won’t do the trick. They must be supported by actions designed to remind people of the objective and their individual roles in achieving it.
The key to success will be to what degree workers can adjust their mindset. It is important that they execute their tasks as conscientious individuals determined to avoid energy waste. With an appropriate strategy, the desired behavioral changes will occur. An easy way to implement this strategy is to point out the strong parallel to the efforts employees make to keep heating, electricity, water and other variable household costs under control.
With this in mind, many executives should ask workers to treat their offices and workspaces like their homes. Such simple tasks as turning the lights and computer off when leaving the office and programming the thermostat to shut down during non-business hours can have a significant impact on a company’s energy consumption. Even during office hours, every one degree a thermostat is lowered during the winter or raised during the summer will save 2-3 percent on energy costs by itself. Utilizing “sleep” features on company electronics will also contribute to energy savings.
Graphics can be prominently displayed in high visibility areas illustrating how much energy has been conserved since the implementation of an energy reduction program, as well as how this energy savings is making a difference on a large scale; giving the savings a “wow factor.” For example, post a sign that says: “We saved enough energy to power the city of Atlanta for three hours last year.” This action enforces a “feel good by doing good” sentiment.
Some waste reduction is easy to achieve. For example, limiting the “on” time of lighting, conveyors, compressor stations, chiller plants and electrical motors to when they are needed for production. These objectives can be implemented by placing certain non-essential systems on a timer.
Less obvious sources of energy waste will require technical expertise of a third party firm to identify, evaluate and determine solutions. These issues may include compressed air usage, ventilation systems, cooler fans, water treatment, temperature controls, furnaces, door seals, machine calibrations and a myriad of other issues depending on a facility’s specific requirements.
The CEO commitment to cutting energy costs is critical. Once implemented, people can be held accountable for results. The establishment of goals, planning, data gathering and implementation will combine to create a sustainable cultural shift that places energy conservation in the forefront without major capital investment.
Wes Andrud is the director of energy efficiency and Joe Froelich is a marketing researcher for Proudfoot Consulting. For more than 60 years, Proudfoot Consulting, an operational consulting firm, has specialized in implementing change to achieve measurable and sustainable performance improvement in client companies. For more information, contact Joe Froelich at 404.260.0557 or visit proudfootconsulting.com.
Copyright 2009 Agent Publishing LLC