The Carbon Trust, the UK government-supported low-carbon agency, has launched an online tool called ‘Carbon Trust Empower'. The tool enables employees to make practical commitments to cutting energy and waste through an interactive, animated tour of a typical workplace. It’s seen as a springboard for larger organisations to introduce their own internal behavioural change programmes.
Using Empower, employees can explore energy saving opportunities throughout their office. It starts with how they arrive for work, with options to travel by public transport, before moving on to their desk, where, for example, they can commit to switch off their PC when not in use and teleconference rather than travel. The tool also provides facts and figures so that employees’ energy savings can be assessed.
The Carbon Trust believes that by engaging employees in cutting energy use, paper waste and travel, Empower has the potential to save a typical small business over 15% of their energy bill or more than £6,000 a year – equivalent to powering 3.5km of street lights for a year (perhaps not the best example, given that street lights are being switched off all over the country to save power – and money). Larger businesses that base their approach on this tool could save £150,000 and over 500 tonnes of carbon dioxide annually.
Overall, the Carbon Trust estimates that employees could save UK businesses and public bodies £500m and two million tonnes of CO2 – equivalent to the annual carbon emissions of all the households in Birmingham. Whitbread and Oxford City Council have already signed their staff up.
Well, encouraging employees to be greener firstly requires a degree of education, so that everyone understands the reasons and gets behind the initiatives. It also needs some internal encouragement, to get everyone involved. Empower seems to combine the two. It is only the very first, introductory, step, though, and needs to be quickly followed up. Internal competition to save power seems to be emerging as a great way to incentivise people, for example.
But there are some areas where more in-depth education and involvement is required because they are pivotal to energy use and helping achieve a corporate strategy and targets. IT itself is one of those. A lot more can be achieved by having an IT department that fully sees and understands the benefits of low-carbon IT and brings that view to bear on all decisions. It’s better to have the IT department initiate actions rather than a CSR department making, possibly misguided, demands.