How to conduct a successful energy saving campaign at work

Submitted by: Jonathan Ramayia, Monday, April 2, 2012

Successful energy efficient interventions at the workplace often rely on the implementation of automated technology that does not require human effort to achieve savings. Often these technologies are expensive and a simple and effective staff energy campaign can be the most cost-effective intervention for saving electricity. The list presented in this post is a recommended approach to conducting a successful energy saving campaign and is adapted from US Department of Energy guideline on creating an energy awareness programme.


Ten considerations for a successful energy saving campaign

1.       Conduct an energy baseline

The first thing you would need to do is conduct an energy baseline assessment to determine how much electricity is being used. This would allow you to compare how much energy has been saved after you have implemented your staff campaign.

2.       Conduct a survey

Before you do anything, you should conduct an employee survey. The main purpose of the survey would be to find out how energy is being used by employees. This important step will allow you to understand where energy is being used wastefully, or efficiently. A survey is a good way of confirming what you may have already known about how energy is being used by your staff. You should aim to survey 5% of your staff. Surveys should be designed to elicit an honest response and it should be clear that these responses would not count against your staff.

3.       Gather input from employees

No one knows their work environment better than the staff members themselves, which means they are best placed to give you good ideas on how to save energy. In addition to this, you might find that some of your staff have already implemented their own measures to save energy. Some of this information would have come out in the survey but it helps providing staff with an opportunity to give suggestions that could be used in your plan.

4.      Explain and educate

Devise your staff interventions based on the information you have collected in the survey. Surf the web for interesting ideas that would be appropriate to your business. For offices, ideas range from turning off lights and monitors when not in use to turning off air-conditioning and opening windows instead. For industrial businesses there are a much wider range of opportunities for savings such as identifying and fixing leaks in compressed air systems and training your staff to report when there are in leaks in these systems. Whatever intervention you choose, make sure you explain them properly to your staff, and try to make them understand why you’re doing it. Let them know whether it is cost or the environment or a national/local imperative that is driving energy reduction in the organisation.

5.       Use colours and graphics, make use of communication channels

Your campaign should be built around a solid body of knowledge that is simplified for your staff to understand. Any successful campaign will have to be built around a good communication system. Find out what communication channels are available to you and exploit these channels. Make colourful posters, stick them up in the office and have user engagement workshops to explain your ideas. The Carbon Trust has some great resources on how to use posters to engage your staff.

Example of an energy saving poster for lighting. Source: Carbon Trust


6.       Empower or enforce

Identify champions. A logical way to do this is to identify one per department, which might be easy if you’ve done the survey. A more aggressive way of ensuring that staff adhere to energy saving interventions is to make sure that energy saving is on someone’s key performance indicators.

7.       Be bold in your ideas

Don’t be afraid to suggest bizarre energy saving ideas. A recent example of this is the suggestion the Japanese government’s ‘Super Cool Biz’ energy campaign. After the Fukushima nuclear plant disaster, the Japanese government sought various ways to reduce energy consumption, and the super cool biz campaign encourages workers to dress in clothes more appropriate for summer, which in turn decreases the need for air-conditioning at the office.

8.       Take a holistic approach

Ensure that you explain each suggestion to your staff and exploit each intervention for all the benefits they bring. E.g. if you tell them to use the stairs instead of the lift you should also mention that this brings health benefits too. This would appeal to both the health enthusiasts and the environmentalists in the office.

9.       Review

Review the success of your campaigns. Have your energy bills gone down? If you have installed a building energy monitoring system you should review the data to see if there has been a significant impact in specific areas of the building if possible.

10.   Reward

It is important to reward your staff once you have seen a successful drop in electricity. You could reward all your staff or depending on what configuration of energy monitoring you have, you might be able to tell which departments or floors are performing better.

Jonathan Ramayia