Who's on Your Energy Efficiency Team?

Imagine that your organization decides that the summertime cooling set point will be raised by several degrees. The goal is to make a significant dent in energy use. Your job is to get people to buy in to the plan. What would you do?

This is more than a hypothetical case. The Japanese government did exactly that more than a decade ago, requiring higher summer temperatures in government buildings and encouraging the private sector to do the same thing.

But air conditioning restrictions were only one part of the “Cool Biz” campaign. The government loosened its dress code, allowing workers to forego suits and ties in favor of business casual attire. It suggested allowing earlier start times and longer summer vacations, adding greenery, and turning off electronic devices not being used. A marketing campaign promoted Cool Biz. Even the prime minister took to making appearances in short sleeve shirts.

It’s a rare facility manager in the United States who will get anywhere proposing to raise the summertime set point to 82 degrees Fahrenheit, as the Japanese government did in its buildings. But that ambitious effort may hold lessons that apply here. Cool Biz, which is still going strong, aimed to change corporate culture. It is as much about people as carbon emissions. And the people involved are more than occupants.

There’s a growing recognition of the importance of behavior change to support energy efficiency. But individual measures to raise awareness about energy waste will gain power if they are part of a larger effort to create a culture of energy efficiency. Ideally, any culture change effort should be led by the CEO. That’s a tall order. As a first step, maybe someone from the human resources department should be invited to the next discussion of energy efficiency.

Outside of the usual suspects (facilities, energy management, sustainability), have other parts of your organization ever been invited to discuss energy efficiency? I'd love to hear what you're doing.