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Shared Services BC maximizes motivation to save energy

Image of Bernie Gaudet, Shared Services BC
Bernie Gaudet of Shared Services BC says the triple bottom line of energy efficiency — financial savings, health and workplace quality, and greenhouse gas reductions provide value and resonate with ministry partners and service providers.

Energy conservation programs engage everyone to meet conservation goals

As the lead agency providing products, services, and accommodation to government ministries, the folks at Shared Services BC needed to get everyone on the same page in the name of energy efficiency. Their answer? Hibernation.

The "Hibernation Challenge"is one of Shared Services BC's (SSBC) behavioural initiatives for energy efficiency. The event challenges employees to save energy in their workplace by committing to actions such as turning off lights when not in use, taking stairs instead of elevators, and wearing sweaters instead of turning up the heat.

In combination with other programs, the challenge helps build a year-round commitment to conservation.

"SSBC is accountable [for energy management], but we rely on ministry partners and service providers to help meet the [energy reduction] targets," says Bernie Gaudet, a Director within the Facilities Management Services branch. "Therefore, our programs need to engage building tenants to contribute meaningfully to the goals."

The Hibernation Challenge was developed as part of SSBC's participation in BC Hydro's Workplace Conservation Awareness (WCA) initiative offered through BC Hydro's Power Smart Partner program. WCA supports SSBC's four-tiered energy management strategy, which addresses infrastructure, programming, operations and behaviour.

Working with BC Hydro added focus

According to David Stewart, the stewardship and outreach manager within SSBC's corporate sustainability group, the organization had a high level of awareness around behaviour change even before they made an energy conservation pledge and become a Power Smart Partner.

"However, working with BC Hydro added focus," says Stewart. "We had a model for our work and projects we knew we wanted to tackle, but the Green Teams in different ministries were not necessarily corporately aligned at that time, which sometimes led to reinventing the wheel and not sharing resources.

"Workplace Conservation Awareness helped us to develop annual challenges that are targeted and work across all of government, but still leave enough latitude for Green Teams to flavour them in their own way."

SSBC's real estate portfolio spans everything from correction centres to office buildings, to small pump houses and large laboratories. Plus, it encompasses a diverse range of ministries and public sector institutions. The organization needed a behaviour strategy that's customizable. That's what they found in Workplace Conservation Awareness.

Custom solutions minimize barriers and increase benefits

The Workplace Conservation Awareness initiative is modelled on community-based social marketing (CBSM).

"The way CBSM works is to look at a community, in this case the staff in a particular building, and customize a solution for that building culture that minimizes barriers to energy efficiency, and increases the benefits," says Stewart.

"This is applicable to our work with government because we cover every sector. The solutions that work for lawyers in the Ministry of Justice will be different from those for the work culture of the Ministry of Forests, where the staff roles are more diverse and spread out."

Programs bridge the rural-urban divide

The "Power of 10" program monitored energy use in ten urban office buildings in Victoria and Vancouver to measure the impact of staff behaviour change.

"We had a lot of lobby launches and it was fantastic to have that in-person experience, where people could shake the hand of a Green Team member," says Stewart. "Then recently, we ran the Stay Cool challenge as an online program, and for the first time in a long while, we were able to get a lot of regional office participation."

Since Stay Cool had no in-person component, it used social media to expand engagement. Participants sent in photos of the view from their window as a way to discuss best practices.

Depending on the orientation of their office, there would be different actions they could take, such as closing the blinds. However, the photos were also put onto a Google map, which created a social element for the program, and allowed everyone to share their experience.

Triple bottom line inspires buy-in

Customization helps eliminate barriers to participation, and it's part of demonstrating the relevant values to each audience. "We can show financial savings to financial officers, and workplace health and quality to building occupants," says Gaudet.

"When we can show that triple bottom line of energy efficiency — financial savings, health and workplace quality, and the contribution to greenhouse gas reduction — we tend to have great success. People are genuinely interested in supporting something that has that much value."