How companies can cut energy use in the office

Energy accounts for 73% of all greenhouse gas emissions. That’s 36 billion tonnes of carbon being pumped into the atmosphere every year from the burning of oil, gas and coal. As a result, the IEA believes that energy efficiency is one of the four biggest changes we can make to dramatically cut emissions by 2030. But how do we cut energy use in the office?

There are two main ways to cut energy use at work, both at the individual and organisational levels: energy saving and energy efficiency.  

Energy saving focuses on reductions in total energy use through behaviour changes. With energy efficiency focusing on using less energy to achieve the same outcome through more efficient technologies and practices. Energy efficiency at work can save up to 25% of annual energy costs.  

Both energy saving and energy efficiency are crucial for reducing our environmental impact and lowering energy costs.  

Energy efficiency at work can save up to 25% of annual energy costs and cut emissions too

Energy forms part of a company’s scope 3 emissions and is an area where employees need to be involved to support any company sustainability targets. To support this, we recently undertook a research project to find out what companies are doing to bridge the gap between sustainability strategies and employee action and the current best practices used by market leaders to close the gap. 

Here are some real-world examples of actions taken by companies to cut energy use in the office: 

Create systems to monitor and improve energy use 

Savings often start with better information. For example: 

  • Install a digital building management system (BMS) which is used to monitor and regulate a building’s electrical and mechanical assets, such as lighting and heating, ventilation and air conditioning.  
  • Conduct an energy consumption audit, at the facility level or across the organisation, and the cost associated.  

Educate staff on cutting energy use in the office

Educate and engage colleagues on the importance and benefits of reducing energy consumption in the workplace. It also involves implementing practical measures and incentives to encourage energy-efficient behaviour and habits and making people aware of the actions your company is taking. Companies can engage in many different ways including lunch & learns, energy challenges and e-learning. 

Commit to 100% renewables  

Although not an energy saver this is a key part of cutting emissions from energy use. Set a target to use 100% renewable electricity. Companies can use Purchasing Power Agreements (PPAs), self generation, green tariffs, or Energy Attribute Certificates (EACs) to procure 100% renewable electricity. Include additionality as a mandatory requirement when procuring renewable energy. This means only purchasing power from new renewable energy sources that are added to the grid and not buying certificates from existing green energy sources.  

Switch to more efficient products in the office 

Buildings account for 22% of global energy use. Switching to more efficient products can materially cut energy use in the office. This could include converting all lighting to LEDs or prioritising energy efficient products in procurement.  

Select and buy products that have a lower energy consumption and environmental impact than other alternatives. This can include products that have an energy label, a certification, or a standard that indicates their energy efficiency either provided by a government scheme or the supplier. 

Energy use accounts for 73% 
of all greenhouse gas emissions. That’s 36 billion tonnes of carbon being pumped into the atmosphere every year from the burning of oil, gas and coal.

Build more energy efficient products 

Company emissions include the energy use when customers use their products. There are many actions you can take to reduce this including:  

  • Designing and manufacturing more energy efficient products helps to reduce emissions. They will save money for customers when they are using the product too.  
  • Consider sustainability across the entire product life cycle to work towards circular, low carbon, energy efficient products. From using new vs recycled materials, manufacturing and assembly processes, distribution, lifetime product usage and efficiency, and eventual disposal there are options for energy savings all through the lifecycle. 

Conduct a working from home survey 

As well as office emissions, companies may also report energy emissions from employees working from home. Start by collecting data on working from home practices. This will help create a list of actions and, where appropriate, incentives for employees to reduce their working from home footprints. It’ll save employees money too.  

Encourage people to dress for the seasons 

Many workplaces are kept at the same temperature all year, but big savings can be had by allowing the temperature to drop a bit in winter and go up in summer. To do this, encourage staff to dress for the seasons, including giving them flexibility on dress codes. 

Work with customers 

Working with customers can help to reduce energy use through the value chain: 

  • By educating consumers on how to use products more efficiently, large carbon reductions can be made to company carbon footprints whilst also saving customers money.  
  • Encourage and enable sustainable lifestyles and purchase decisions by customers. This is especially important if your services are influencing consumer and company decisions – such as digital platforms, advertising, finance and professional services.  

Move data to the cloud 

Moving data to the cloud can reduce the environmental impact of data centres, as cloud providers can optimise their energy efficiency and use renewable sources of energy. This can lower the carbon footprint and greenhouse gas emissions associated with data processing and storage. The large economies of scale offered by cloud computing can usually operate at a much higher level of efficiency compared to smaller, on-premises servers. 

Follow energy saving best practices 

Adjust heating and cooling systems to working hours according to the occupancy and activity level of the building. This can help to avoid wasting energy and money on heating or cooling empty or underused spaces. It will also improve the thermal comfort and health of the occupants.  

Implement power management policies for computers, printers and other devices, to enter low-power or sleep mode when they are not in use, and turn them off completely when they are not needed. 

Low carbon options for heat, cooling and electricity

We can only get to Net Zero if we dramatically reduce emissions from heating and cooling. Here are some solutions that are available today: 

  • Install heat pumps. Heat pumps improve the efficiency of the electricity-to-heat generation processes. They can be considered in industrial situations where there is a need for low-to-moderate process heat. They can also be used for the heating or cooling of commercial buildings.  
  • Install smart meters to get up-to-date information on energy usage and create a plan to reduce energy usage equipped with this information.  
  • Install solar panels at facilities to increase the use of renewable technology.  
  • Create a regular maintenance schedule for all heating and cooling in the workplace. Maintaining heating and air conditioning (HVAC) systems involves inspecting, cleaning, repairing and replacing the components of the HVAC equipment. 

Green retrofit

Building retrofits offer an opportunity to add better insulation, improved heating and cooling equipment and upgraded management systems. All of these can lead to material cuts in greenhouse gas emissions as well as cost savings.  

Start simple with quick checklists

A quick energy saver or lighting checklist is a good place to start to get ideas to reduce emissions from office buildings. If the building is not owned, you will need to work with your landlord. Some suggested checklist items include:  

  • Are heating and cooling turned off in unoccupied rooms  
  • Are double or triple glazed windows installed  
  • Have you installed smart thermostats that adapt to usage patterns that are set at appropriate temperatures  
  • Have you installed effective insulation  
  • Do employees know to close blinds or curtains when rooms are unoccupied to prevent heat build-up or loss 
  • Are staff educated on energy saving  
  • Have you optimised space. Studies show that office spaces are unused over a third of the time 
  • Have you moved 100% to LEDs? LED light bulbs save energy, last longer, and reduce maintenance costs, making them an obvious choice in almost all situations  
  • Have you installed automatic lighting controls, zone controls, daylight sensors, and presence detector lighting controls  
  • Are timers and sensors in good working order and set according to occupancy times  
  • Do you use natural light where possible  
  • In areas that are infrequently used, such as restrooms, storerooms, or conference rooms, have you installed motion sensor lights to ensure that lights are only on when the space is occupied, reducing unnecessary energy usage  
  • Have employees been trained on the importance of turning off lights to save energy 
A kettle can use 2000 Watts of power when it’s on which is more than your TV, laptop and fridge put together.

What are the next steps?

Employees need to be involved for companies to hit their sustainability targets, but it can sometimes be challenging to shift mindsets and effectively engage them. To address this challenge we have created a guide that looks at how to engage employees around energy usage at work, as well as business travel, sustainable commuting, waste at work, and working from home. It includes: 

  • Why employees are key to meeting Net Zero targets
  • Areas of sustainability you can focus on
  • Practical suggestions and steps you can implement today
  • How to raise awareness and engage employees to get involved

If you’re ready to start raising awareness about sustainability at work, inspiring employees, and bringing teams together to support your sustainability goals then get in touch.

How to align your team with your sustainability goals guide

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