Build your energy-efficiency team, step-by-step

So, you want to lead the charge on energy efficiency at work. What's next?

Successful energy efficiency requires a group effort. Building a dream team of energy-efficiency enthusiasts might seem overwhelming at first, but by going step-by-step, you'll make big strides, and fast. Here's how.

 

Step 1

Building the team

Put out a call and find out who also shares a passion for energy efficiency. Your organization may already have a green team or corporate social responsibility staff in place. They might be the right people with whom to start the conversation.
 
You'll need a variety of expertise to craft energy-efficiency policies, promote them, and manage potential budgets. Be sure to recruit a well-rounded team of staff from different areas of the business, with different seniority levels and with different legacies at the organization. A new employee with fresh eyes can have as much valuable input as someone with 10 years under their belt.

Getting your facilities and property management team involved is key. They know your organization's physical workspace better than anyone and as a team, you can help research incentive programs to help curb the costs of making upgrades, such as retrofitting aging HVAC systems.
 
Finally, keep the team open to others – and don’t keep anyone in the dark. Set up a clear and easy way for staff to communicate with the energy-efficiency team so they can share ideas and feel empowered to join.

Step 2

Get the lay of the land

Before you figure out where you want to go, you'll need to know where you've been. Do some research on what your organization's historic approach to energy management has been, and why certain initiatives were or weren't successful.

Get frontline employees' take, too. Send out a questionnaire – keep it short – about how staff rank energy efficiency as a priority and how they think the company could be more efficient. Ask your team members to also start conversations within their own departments to get people's input on where there's room for improvement.
 
Take a look at what other organizations in your industry are doing, too. Knowing about trends in energy savings can spark discussion and help arm you with ideas to bring to management later.

Step 3

Set your goals

Part of building your energy-efficiency team starts with knowing why you need one in the first place. By coming in to work every day, you already know the ins and outs of your organization, so you probably already have a good idea of how energy efficiency can benefit your organization.
 
For example, do you suspect aging IT equipment is a drain on energy? Are people around the office constantly too hot or cold, or staying home all together? Ask yourself these kinds of questions to figure out what energy-related projects or policies may help.
 
Understanding your goals will help you sort out how often you need to meet and help you identify a clear agenda for each meeting, so everyone can feel like they're contributing in a meaningful way.

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Step 4

Identify an early win

Wanting to do everything can often lead to doing nothing, so you need to build momentum quickly. Start with simple, occupant-focused projects that will win you support and recognition quickly.
 
Take a walkthrough of your operations with your green team to spot opportunities for improvement. If your organization and space are large, consider assigning different members of the group different spaces to assess.
 
Then, think of short-term, achievable projects that you can get off the ground within a couple of months before tackling larger-scale initiatives that may require bigger budget approvals from management or buy-in from facilities managers. Changing out all the lighting to energy-efficient LEDs, for example, is a highly visible change that everyone will notice.

Step 5

Find your (executive) champions

Enthusiasm will be vital to your team's success. The same is true for executive support. Involve senior management early and often. They can help ensure your efforts become high profile at the company. Clear support from leadership lets your team avoid being rogue agents and instead be part of the organization's overall strategy.
 
Review your organization's strategic goals and see how energy efficiency can play a role in achieving them. Everything from customer service to productivity can improve when energy efficiency does. Think about your goals as a team and who can help you achieve them. If you're trying to improve absenteeism, for example, try talking to HR leadership. Or, if you think there are opportunities to make working from home easier (to help curb energy use at the office), talk to your CIO about IT solutions that could help.

Step 6

Measure, measure, measure

Once you know what success looks like, you'll know what to track. Pick the metrics that work for you and are achievable to measure. It could be as simple as centralizing complaints about heating and cooling from staff and monitoring them over time. Or, it could relate to maintenance, by tracking jobs like light bulb trade outs. Tracking can be as simple as setting up a shared spreadsheet that the team can all update.
 
Depending on your operations, you may even be able to track your kilowatt-hour usage through your local hydro company. If someone in your facilities already has this data at their fingertips, find out if you can get access to it to measure your impact over time.

Step 7

Communicate with context

Visible or not, your team's energy-efficiency projects deserve to be talked about. Use either existing, well-used channels to communicate your initiatives, or consider setting up your own specific newsletter. You should also think about who the audience is for this information. For many teams, sharing wins might be specific to employees only, but others may want to share their news with clients and customers, or even the general public.
 
Think about context, too. Many people may not understand off-hand what a kilowatt-hour is, so they'll need you to put your wins into perspective. Translate your energy savings into language that's relevant to your business. For example, your quarterly energy savings might be the same dollar amount as selling 2,000 new products. That's what will get people excited.

Step 8

Celebrate success

Energy efficiency has the power to make people feel good, because they know they're doing something meaningful. Celebrating success, then, is important.
 
Short-term incentives, like free lunch to the team that remembers to unplug their computers for a week, can work to gain attention quickly.
 
But in the long term, try to appeal to the things that people truly value, like personal kudos at company meetings or in emails to managers. Show how your organization stacks up to the competition in terms of efficiency, too. Depending on your industry, you may want to find out if there are third-party organizations with recognition programs that reward energy efficiency and sustainability progress.

Step 9

Keep it fun

You already have enough work to do, so saving energy shouldn't feel like a chore. Keep things lighthearted. Brainstorm campaign ideas for saving energy or ideas for internal competitions to get people excited about saving energy. Or, try a scavenger hunt to see where the business may be losing energy.
 
Remember, you're not just planning for energy-saving projects. You're creating an energy-saving culture. When you think of it that way, the possibilities are endless.