1.2. Communication strategy

Staff awareness is an important part of a carbon saving action plan, because of the massive potential savings without the need for significant investment. It is generally accepted that a minimum of 10% and up to 40% of an organisation’s energy use is wasted often due to staff behaviour17.

This is not energy use that could be made more efficient through new boilers or lighting, this is simply energy that was never needed to be used at all, such as lights and computers left on when the business is closed. Most of this waste can be avoided through getting people to change their behaviour rather than more traditional investments to improve energy efficiency.

Changing behaviour to get people to start or stop doing something, or just do something differently, doesn’t have to cost much. Often, the costs are simply staff time and some promotional materials, but given the potential energy use and cost savings, the payback period on behaviour change campaigns can be almost immediate. As a result, T2K partners recommend to build a communication strategy.

Effective planning

The delivery of awareness campaigns may drive behavioural change in staff and enable measurable results to be achieved over a short period. A communication strategy on energy use and carbon emissions should be built in successive steps:

  • The first step is to develop a communication and awareness plan for the carbon strategy. This requires having a clear understanding of the staff resources and defining important milestones. (For example, you may choose to align your activities with a national or international promotion such as climate week, to maximise the benefits.). It is recommended you identify the objectives, how they will be measured and the resources you have available, including staff resources, promotional budgets, etc.
  • Next, identify activities that will enable you to deliver your objectives. It is necessary to prioritise actions according to available resources. (For example, if you want to reduce the energy wasted due to lights and computers being left on, focus your actions on these areas.). Work with communication officers to identify appropriate actions and messages to be used to deliver the campaign. It has been shown that tailoring messages will deliver better results and that the language used to engage people has a massive impact on the effectiveness of their engagement. (For example, talking about carbon saved does not mean much to many people. However, you can get their attention with a message like this: “If everyone turned off their computer at night, the company would save enough money to pay for two bus supervisors…”)
  • Then measure the results (ideally of individual actions) to assess their effectiveness and see what you might want to change, do again, stop doing, etc.
  • Finally, communicate the results and maintain momentum. Too often, organisations do communication cam- paigns and then stop: this is ineffective. The best way is to get people to adopt new habits so that they keep on doing them naturally.

It is very helpful to understand why people are behaving in a certain way to identify how their behaviour can be changed most effectively. Staff surveys can be helpful in this regard, but equally useful can be site visits including chatting to site staff about any issues which might be impacting on their behaviour. For example, if staff changing the temperature settings on the thermostat is an issue at a particular site, it could be that there are broader issues with the heating and cooling systems, which need investigating and resolving before staff behaviour can change.

An energy week or an energy challenge are good examples of actions to be taken to raise the staff awareness.

Energy week

An ‘Energy Week’ is an event designed to globally raise awareness of energy. The objective is to ensure that all staff members understand that they have a role to play in reducing the company’s energy use and to encourage them to take small steps towards improving energy efficiency at their place of work. In addition, raising staff awareness will encourage them to be more proactive in reporting energy waste.

An Energy Week is a great opportunity to communicate on all aspects related to energy efficiency and use.

To be successful, an Energy Week should make use of appropriate measuring tools (see data collection and analysis above).

Different media can be used to raise awareness amongst employees:
  • Posters and stickers to inform staff before the Energy Week, giving them background information on the initiative
  • Publication of articles in internal magazines and on the intranet
  • Distributing information packs including information on energy usage and tips to save energy
  • Daily energy-saving tips can be emailed to all staff, as well as further e-bulletins and internal communications with information on energy saving
  • Organising lunchtime seminars on specific topics
  • Rewarding with a prize those who have made an effort (i.e. giving a chocolate bar to those who turned off their computers)
  • Organising energy savings competitions and quizzes.

Energy challenge

People will change their behaviour most when they are encouraged to do so through clear incentives. The organisation of an ‘Energy Challenge’ is a great way to mobilise the employees of a company to make energy savings. Performance-based rewards are a useful way to educate staff about energy efficiency measures. An important aspect of such a challenge is the ability to measure the energy savings, ensuring that good followup is possible and that efforts are recognised.

Before starting an energy challenge, one should make sure that the working environment is optimal. It makes no sense to start an energy challenge in a very poorly insulated building. In addition, the challenge should be organised over a long period of time (i.e. winter) to facilitate comparisons. Any success will depend on the potential for improvement as well as the motivation of participants.

Once the right behaviour has been adopted, results should remain stable if regular (monthly) reminding actions are planned. This requires the long-term involvement of a project manager and support from the company hierarchy to ensure the full cooperation of all participants.

17 In the UK, 21% of all business energy use is wasted by wrong staff behaviour.