BT, Land Securities, and Marks & Spencer are finding that initiatives such as Science Based Targets are helping them motivate workers in a bottom-up battle to save energy
Interventions to change staff behaviour can deliver significant energy and carbon savings for companies, yet employee engagement remains an under-utilised asset when it comes to meeting corporate sustainability goals. A 2013 survey from the Carbon Trust found that just 23% of employees had been asked to help save energy at work by their managers, while only 22% felt confident that they knew what energy actions to take.
Back then, the Carbon Trust highlighted a £300m opportunity for British companies who could ignite low-carbon behaviour change, but a recent npower study puts this figure much higher – it estimates up to £860m of cost savings are now up for grabs, cutting business energy use by over 8,400 GWh.
These projections have added significance given that target-setting is growing increasingly sophisticated. Many companies are now adopting Science-Based Targets, aligning their carbon emissions reductions with the latest climate science. Strategically this requires a longer-term approach and for many the development of new technologies and operational practices – something that deeper levels of staff engagement can catalyse.
Land Securities is one of the first companies to have its science-based target approved by the Science Based Targets Initiative. It has a 2030 target of reducing the carbon intensity (kgCO2/m2) in the property it manages by 40% compared to a 2013/14 baseline, for at least two years. This will help pave the way for an even bigger ambition: an 80% carbon intensity reduction by 2050.
Land Securities’ head of sustainability, Caroline Hill, says staff engagement levels have been “phenomenal” since the new target was introduced. “It has really captured people’s attention,” she says. “Before we set our new target, I think energy management was seen as an operational issue that needed to be managed, and that was where it ended.
“Now we have a science-based target, it opens up some really interesting discussions on areas like acquisitions – what buildings we acquire will determine whether we hit that target or not. So if we buy a building that’s got a poor energy performance and we then don’t improve it, it’s going to affect our target. It’s made people think about carbon within the acquisition process in a way that they haven’t had to previously.”
In 2015, Land Securities also undertook a detailed sustainability materiality review in which energy and carbon emerged as the most significant material issues externally for the business. This has helped shaped both the company’s internal and external engagement drive, with positive results. As an example, Hill points to a recent pilot with service partner NG Bailey that led to a 9% fall in energy use at several of the property firm’s key London sites.
“Post-pilot, we’ve now expanded that work to all of our London sites and extended it within the six buildings we’d already started with,” says Hill. “We’ve reshaped our relationship with NG Bailey – whereas before their contract was all about maintenance of the mechanical equipment in the building, the contract has now changed to be more about energy performance.”
Another engagement focus has been to scale up knowledge transfer and capacity on sustainability issues throughout the organisation through a Sustainability Matters training programme. It consists of a generic e-learning course, compulsory for all staff, and more advanced face-to-face, role-specific training modules that reflect the three main areas of the business: efficient operations, smarter investments, and sustainable design and construction.
Staff are also incentivised to make a difference through bonus-related key performance indicators (KPIs). “We now have a group KPI related to energy management,” says Hill. “It relates to participation in the Sustainability Matters training programme, and also to the setting of detailed site-specific energy reduction plans for all of our larger assets, and getting approval for a proportion of measures identified in those plans to be taken forward.”
BT is currently reviewing its science-based targets, having already reached its global climate stabilisation intensity (CSI) target to reduce CO2e intensity by 80% by 2020 against a 1996 baseline. Scott Balloch, who heads up the company’s energy and environment unit, says any future targets will be aligned with the company’s Net Positive goal, which helps its customers reduce carbon emissions by at least three times the end-to-end carbon burden of running the business.
Balloch says science-based targets are one of the areas where he has seen real personal investment from staff. “Many of our employees are experts in what they do in terms of running our infrastructure and our operations. Those people on the ground who are operational experts can bring to the table really good strategic initiatives.”
He cites one example where BT’s power and cooling team developed a business case to replace energy-intensive air conditioning with 246 adiabatic cooling units, which are 85% less power-hungry. Another idea taken forward was to upgrade the company’s power infrastructure by installing 3,330 energy-efficient rectifier units and decommission more than 53,000 network assets that were no longer required. These types of projects have helped the company cut its energy use year-on-year since 2008.
“We are now running these large-scale transformational programmes that needed power and cooling experts to bring them to life,” says Balloch. “This wasn’t something that could have been brought about by the energy team, because we’re not as educated as they are in operational terms of how things need to work.”
BT has long recognised it needs help from staff to manage its impacts, and has a far-reaching internal engagement programme. Since 2013, more than 1,700 employees from 13 countries have completed the company’s Energy Accredited Learning Pathway programme, and last year training was introduced for 30,000 engineers to help them manage some of the company’s biggest environmental risks, such as emissions, waste and fuel-handling. Since 2012, more than 12,700 people have signed up as energy champions to encourage colleagues to save energy.
Such investment appears to be paying off. According to Balloch a recent employee satisfaction survey found that 85% were taking action on at least a quarterly basis to reduce energy consumption for BT. That said, he admits it’s difficult to measure specific energy savings against behavioural change actions, especially if other interventions are being implemented, such as upgrades to building management systems.
“One of the challenges is to try and put a value on what you’re getting from that voluntary ground-up work, for example people switching off lights,” Balloch admits. “We’re very data-driven and we look at the meters on each of our buildings to look at how much energy we are consuming and what impact we’re having, but to separate out what those individuals are doing for some of the other strategic actions is difficult.”
Voluntary pledge platforms like Do Nation have the potential to help here, as each pledge to save carbon or energy can be monitored and quantified, enabling impact reports to be generated. Do Nation offers a pro-version for businesses and founder Hermione Taylor says more than 60 organisations have used it so far.
Pride in sustainability
Siemens Wind Power UK ran a year-long campaign on the platform, which engaged 9% of its staff who raised 267 pledges in total, saving 19 tonnes of CO2 over the year to last January. These were mostly simple actions such as taking the stairs instead of the lift, switching off lights or cycling to work. While this particular campaign wasn’t specifically geared towards the workplace, a feedback questionnaire found that 64% of those who made pledges felt more aware of Siemen’s actions to tackle sustainability, and 74% said they felt "more proud" of what Siemens was doing.
“At a corporate level we have a vision towards going zero carbon – one of the big pieces of feedback from this project was that staff felt they were directly contributing to that goal,” says the company’s bid manager, Alex Fowler.
The project has since won recognition throughout Siemens plc, and the company is potentially looking to roll out a wider pledge campaign across the business in partnership with Do Nation. “Those discussions are at an early stage, but there is a definite interest in doing that,” says Fowler.
But it is not just enough to motivate employees. Technology plays a big role as well in meeting new energy efficiency targets.
Munish Datta, head of Plan A at Marks & Spencer (M&S), says staff’s behaviour change must work in synch with technology investment and the provision of understandable data usage if companies are to maximise their energy efficiency drives. One M&S Plan A target is to halve energy use by 2020 for UK stores, offices and distribution centres. To help achieve this, employees are given live access to energy usage for the buildings they occupy, and resources to help them manage and reduce their usage.
“Each M&S building has a tailored energy efficiency target created from analysing years of usage data, their performance against comparable stores and the energy efficiency technology investments they have received,” says Datta. “We estimate that a quarter of the energy efficiency carbon and financial benefits we gain are from engaging with our colleagues to adopt a more energy-efficient mind-set.”
These activities are underpinned by an internal behaviour change campaign Making Energy Matter. The company’s annual energy efficiency targets also represent one of the metrics linked to staff bonus potential. M&S is now looking at taking more of an energy productivity approach, to increase the economic output from energy used.
Asked where staff can make a difference here, Datta replies: “We rely on the thousands of individual actions right across all of our building types to reduce our energy use. These can range from keeping refrigeration air flows free from stock so that they can continue to work efficiently, ensuring that HVAC controls are not altered manually, checking that all lighting that should be switched off during non-trading hours is switched off and using energy data for the store, office or warehouse one works in to probe and take actions to reduce usage.”
Covestro is one company that has prioritised the development of new technologies over employee engagement to deliver a step-change in energy use. The company, a spinout from Bayer's $12.3 billion materials science division, is a signatory to the EP100 programme, and has set a stretching target to halve energy consumption per tonne of manufactured products by 2030 relative to a 2005 baseline when it was still part of Bayer. (see John Elkington interview)
Covestro’s chief sustainability officer Richard Northcote says while every employee will be given the opportunity to contribute ideas to reduce energy consumption, the big wins so far have been from engineering breakthroughs in its production processes, which have contributed as much as 40% energy reduction in some areas.
“As yet we haven’t seen the same sort of contributions to energy conservation from employee engagement as we have from process developments ... but the smaller savings all add up.”