The Energy for Change

Alexa Spence is Assistant Professor, School of Psychology at the University of Nottingham.

I cringe at the title of the project - Creating the Energy for Change - it's cheesy. But it's pretty accurate. Around 1/3 of greenhouse gas emissions in the UK come from shared non-industrial workplaces, and they have the potential for huge reductions. We need significant changes in the way that workplaces think about energy use, but most currently lack the motivation to make these changes - this is our space.

Energy simply isn't the focus for most companies; people are interested in sustainability but it's not their main purpose. Our research, supported by the RCUK Digital Economy Theme, finds this reflected in workers' attitudes. People concerned with their work image, don't really want to be seen to be actively engaging in energy saving as that's not (usually) their job. It's a distraction from what they are supposed to be doing.

Perhaps as a consequence, we have found huge savings with fairly straightforward interventions. For example, we brought staff together in workshops to identify opportunities and strategies to reduce energy use. Ian Gillard (Facilities Manager, Wiltshire council) says, we have made valuable changes... we have made savings - including 25% of the gas usage at one of our main offices...

We want to go beyond straightforward interventions though promoting a change in culture where energy saving goals are aligned with workplace goals, not seen as a distraction. And our initial research on motivations has been impactful - Sophie Longmate (Energy Manager, Boots Plc) says our research provided valuable insight... increasing our capacity to motivate our staff to adopt sustainable behaviours.

We are currently transferring our insights into digital interventions to empower staff for energy saving in the workplace. Our tools aim to promote action both at an individual level and at an organisational level by facilitating the discussion and cooperation around process changes in energy use. We highlight the need to take responsibility for our energy use at work and for this to be recognised and rewarded in a new ethos of workplace sustainability.

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