word cloud BECC

I know you all wanted to be at Behaviour, Energy and Climate Change (BECC) in Sacramento with me last week. Because I was speaking and not because it was sunny and warm right? Sadness that you couldn’t be there to hear the 150 other awesome, smart, inspiring speakers.  But on the bright side here is what I had to say about our very own TLC – Care to Conserve program…

…This is a story about the future. A future that will be recognized by energy conservation embedded into organizational culture and demonstrated by actions, intentions and decisions that are made at every level.  This future started to take shape in 2007.

At that time our small department of 2 in Energy and Environment took the challenge to switch course from energy excess to energy conservation. Our plan was to build momentum and capitalize on our rapport and reputation in the hospital to attract the attention of all 500 departments and 16,000 staff.  We believed that massive change would follow once the culture started to shift.  We grounded our work in the principles of Community Based Social Marketing and took our hopes and our tool box to work.

We tried a lot of things, but this is what is working for us right now in our effort to close the gap between values and behaviour.

1) We made it personal.  We are capitalizing on personal relationships and social cohesion between staff.  We make space for staff to find their own meaning and solutions.

:: We work with staff volunteers called Energy Experts to anchor pro-environmental  behaviours for their teams ::

2) Set a goal. For all of us, this is very abstract work. These small and incremental challenges add shape to our task.

:: We use 40% excess lights off in 4 months ::

3) Public commitment.  This has been one of the trickiest elements of the program. We hear that people feel alone. That this work is done in addition to their daily tasks.  Meaningful public commitment helps build the community for which staff can belong.

:: We use a show of hands at staff meetings documented in photo and video ::

4) Feedback. Everyone wants to know how they are doing, especially in relation to everyone else.

:: We use “lights off” spot checks, surveys and sub meter data to take a pulse. This information helps set the social norm and grow that sense of belonging ::

5) Celebration and Recognition. We don’t have much stuff – but we do have plenty of good will, feelings of success and praise. We make sure people feel good about their participation and we leverage those feelings to make new behaviours stick.

:: We use our coveted golden light switch trophy and a short ceremony where staff congratulate each other with a quick high 5 (captured on video of course) ::

We now know that when all these pieces come together the program works. We give staff a way to act on their values. Be the people they see themselves as.

What else do I know? I have slowly let go of the notion that we will prove in one instance this is happening. Instead I have shifted my focus to the signals and trends that are emerging. What I see is very promising.

One of the clearest signals I got was from other departments in the hospital dealing with hand hygiene and safe medication practice.  They are also very tuned into factors related to human behaviour.  These departments with large staff, long research legacies and well documented accountability told me they don’t have one indicator that defines their work. It is instead an ongoing process of incremental change in the right direction.

That has been very liberating for me and since letting go of the proof I have been able to pick-up other trends that I hadn’t seen before – all indicating we are indeed moving in the right direction.  The most significant trend is the echo. We can see that the work is being amplified by others without our prompt.  We are not the lone voice anymore.  There is something to talk about and by talking about it, it is increasingly important.

We are a big complex, time poor organization and yet we still see excess electricity reduced by 30-100% in engaged areas. This year we are charting utility savings in the realm of $1 million. The fact is, without the culture of conservation in place many of the techno fixes would never have happened.

:: So in many respects all of the energy efficiency and conservation we have seen to date can be attributed to the culture we have created ::

We see our success everywhere now.

  • our department has tripled in 1 year
  • voluntary participation in our programs is up
  • the CFO is asking for energy impacts on projects
  • VPs are getting regular status updates from us in person
  • it is personal
  • other organizations are curious about what we are doing
  • we have the experience to close the gap between values and behaviour

What does the future hold? We may be on the road to “lights off” but I still wonder what will happen the day after that?

That was my talk…but the conversation about Behaviour, Energy and Climate Change went in as many directions as you could imagine….don’t trust me have a look for yourself.