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Transforming energy villains into green heroes

 
Behaviour

You can create the conditions that bring out your employees’ best side. Photograph: Lisa Zador/Getty

 

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “Transforming energy villains into green heroes” was written by Matthew Jenkin, for theguardian.com on Friday 31st January 2014 12.31 UTC

Every office has one. The sun worshipper who isn’t comfortable unless the heating is cranked up to tropical levels, the phantom window opener who believes an Arctic chill brings clarity of mind, or the careless colleague who leaves a trail of lights switched on in his wake. While no doubt hard-working, these energy wasters can burn a sizeable hole in an SME’s limited budget.

Conversely, the office is also the home of heroic energy savers whose selfless actions mean entrepreneurs can sleep safe in the knowledge that their office isn’t burning the midnight oil, even if they are.

With energy costs eating into the profits of small businesses, how do you convince staff to take more responsibility for the company’s energy usage? Here is our guide to turning the biggest energy wasting villains into green heroes.

Am I bovvered?

The catchphrase of Catherine Tate’s career defining character encapsulates the attitude to energy saving of many employees across the country: “Why should I care about a bill I will never see or pay?” According to Jae Mather, director of sustainability at chartered accountants HW Fisher, this mindset is common among SME staff.

He says: “The classic one is the member of staff who says, ‘I don’t have time for this. This isn’t in my job description and it’s not a priority for me.’ That’s the common one which I deal a lot with. Professional, well educated, intelligent people who do not see it as being of any relevance to their lives whatsoever.”

Mather suggests a top-down approach to encouraging staff to be more energy conscious: “You need visionary leaders to stand up and say, ‘This is what we’re doing and you will follow on.’ There are lots of professionals who feel it just doesn’t matter and it’s not important to them.”

Forget me not

It doesn’t matter how many times you remind staff to turn equipment and lights off, there’s always someone whose fingers fail to find the switch. At the end of the day, people walk away from their desk and leave everything on – their computer, their screen, the printer – all evening and weekend.

Siân Evans from E.ON says a collaborative approach is needed if all staff are to ‘buy in’ to the concept of saving energy, and greater knowledge of energy consumption is key to provide proof of success and relevance to staff. “The onus to reduce wastage in the office is not just on the business owner – energy saving needs to be a team effort,” she says. “Sometimes you struggle to motivate people because they can’t quite grasp the consequences or because they can’t see the full impact.”

“Some businesses might want to reward their energy heroes, but whatever approach you take you’ll have to be able to back up those decisions with actual data to prove the activities are having some impact.”

For David Barker, founder of 4D Data Centres, the kettle is a particular bone of contention. People walk up to it, boil it and then someone else will come along seconds later and put it on again. It sounds trivial, but it’s little things like that which add up.

“It’s something people do absent-mindedly,” Barker admits. “They are not thinking of the most energy efficient way of doing something. Their mind is probably on a customer or work, so they will leave the office and leave the lights on, or go and just boil the kettle again even though it’s still steaming.”

As well as installing infrared sensors to ensure lights switch off automatically when the room is not in use, Barker has run awareness training for staff on making sure computers are properly shut down at the end of the day, the air conditioning isn’t used in winter, and the heating is not being switched on in the summer.

He adds: “These savings do add up. If you can get some quick easy wins in now which don’t actually involve an upfront cost, then it’s a good thing for any business to do.”

 

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