The practice of workplace sustainability engagement and behaviour change is young and not very well documented, yet there have been great successes. Some notable schemes are outlined below. A key challenge is finding an optimal point between two very different approaches: one is ‘high performance’ and the other is ‘low cost’.

The ‘low-cost’ method is delivered using media – posters, leaflets, intranet, and the internet – that allow massive reach at low cost. It can be deployed across large, complex and diverse populations but this method makes it hard to win substantial engagement. Successful programmes get two or three percentage points of engagement at very low cost.

The ‘high-performance’ approach uses attentive programme management together with design and materials customised on a site-by-site basis, with participants getting personal attention and training. When done well, this can result in very high engagement rates of around 10-15%, and high satisfaction from participants. While this can be cost effective in high-visibility sites for sustainability leaders, it is too expensive to deploy across large organisations. This is because schemes are often bespoke to organisations, designed by internal teams of skilled consultants, and require effort roughly in proportion to the size of the population that they seek to engage.

Large-scale corporate engagement programmes

  • The Center for Climate and Energy Solutions (formerly the Pew Center on Global Climate Change) has developed the Make An Impact programme, run with companies such as Alcoa, Entergy, and Bank Of America. Forty thousand employees across the US have so far taken part in the programme, which comprises a website with tips on sustainable choices (at home as well as at work), a personal carbon calculator enabling employees to see their own footprints and devise a ‘personal action plan’, and on-site workshops and activities tailored for local circumstances. The Centre for Climate and Energy Solutions claims potential savings of over 1500 tonnes of CO2e through providing employees with information on how to save carbon, and how to get in touch with local resources.
  • Environmental Defense Fund, with GE Ecomagination, have developed Eco-Treasure Hunts, a scheme where cross-functional teams collaboratively investigate a workplace’s energy and other resource use, with the aim of identifying, quantifying and recommending possible interventions — both technical and behavioural. At one GE plant in Ohio, staff dressed up as pirates to take part in the treasure hunt, identifying savings equivalent to 20% of current CO2e emissions. The aim is that this is not just an energy audit, but something that helps cultivate employee pride in working efficiently. A similar point is made by a report on a scheme at a Raytheon facility in Massachusetts, where presenting employee energy efficiency and continuous improvement, alongside other lean manufacturing methods, helped raise the proportion of staff participating in the programme to 78%.
  • Student Switch-Off is a national campaign that encourages students to reduce energy use in halls of residence, via a series of incentives and community activities. While not ‘employee’ engagement, the unmetered nature of energy use in halls of residence has some parallels with workplace energy use, and it is interesting to note the strategies used by the campaign.

    In an ongoing competition run via Facebook, participants are challenged to photograph themselves and friends engaging in particular behaviours that will save energy, such as using lids on saucepans and switching unneeded lights off, in return for the chance to win prizes such as Ben & Jerry’s ice cream and event tickets. The idea is that by establishing these behaviours as habits, they will remain with participants as they move out into rented accommodation and in later life.

    The universities involved are able to measure the energy use change, although this information is not the main focus of the campaign from the students’ point of view. In 2010-11, Student Switch-Off was in place at 37 universities, with 15,351 students signed up, saving 6.9% of electricity, 1522 tonnes of CO2e and £232,000.

Some companies have run their own internal engagement programmes, including:

  • eBay’s Green Team, starting as a grassroots employee initiative in 2007, now has more than 2,300 eBay employees in 23 countries involved — around 13% of its worldwide employees.

  • 500,000 of Walmart’s 2.1 million employees have signed up to their Personal Sustainability Practices programme.

  • BC Hydro in British Columbia has run a programme called Conservation Action! in which staff competed between floors to save energy, alongside a variety of other measures. The energy use reduction was taken into account in employees’ annual performance reviews, partially determining the size of bonuses. A 5% reduction in energy use from behaviour change was recorded after the first year.

  • BT engaged 15% of its US employees in an educational programme about photovoltaics and solar water heating.

One Response to “Current practice in workplace behaviour change”

  1. For 2 years now I have been campaigning to get leiaslgtion introduced concerning energy savings in the home without I have to admit much success although I have had some interest from DEFRA and newspapers.The point I am making here is this we are all aware that we need to make savings in the home for starters it confuses me then somewhat, that when I approach government departments with my energy saving idea which if implemented will reduce energy consumption quite considerably during cold weather months not just in one home but millions year in year out it is either ignored or pushed to another department.This proposal if implemented would save more energy in the home than all other home energy savings put together.Why is this proposal not acted on or at least put up for serious government consideration?(Please see my 360 for link)Add: = ^_^ = You miss the point entirely(Intentionally?)

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