Energy efficiency training can improve bottom line

Johnson Controls Inc. recently partnered with the International Facility Management Association (IFMA) to commission more than 1,400 business executives from various industries to answer a survey related to energy efficiency in North America and its effects on business strategy and employee relations.

According to the results of the survey, 65 percent of those who responded believe that green buildings are important for attracting and retaining current and future employees, and 61 percent have begun implementing energy efficient training seminars for employees and their facility managers.

“This is the third year we have done this survey,” said Darryll Fortune, director of global public relations for Johnson Controls Building Efficiency. “In 2007 we conducted the first survey in response to the height of the energy crisis. We wondered what business leaders thought about how energy efficiency impacted their daily business operations.”

This year’s survey examines how events from the past year have impacted the management of energy within companies, including financing strategies, expected return on investment, and the outlook on building efficiency trends.

The survey indicated that businesses across the nation are taking personal responsibility for educating their staff about energy efficient practices in an attempt to improve their bottom line.

“The consistent thing is that there is an increase in concern from business leaders on energy,” Fortune said. “Getting into specifics they are looking at green buildings and the actions behind moving in a green direction without necessarily investing huge amounts of capitol just yet.”

The economy hasn’t allowed a lot of excess capital to be spent on green improvements in most facilities, Fortune said. Those companies investing in new buildings are going the green route, but others are implementing smaller changes, which include investing in energy-efficient training to teach the staff ways they can help reduce energy consumption, Fortune said.

“Access to capital is the biggest barrier for companies seeking improvements in energy efficiency,” he said. “The financial fallout has made it more difficult for organizations to get money, which has pushed them to come up with their own ways of making an impact.”

Some organizations have chosen to wait for stimulus dollars. While they wait, most have chosen to educate their staff and managers to make some impact until it arrives, Fortune said.

“Because of the rising cost of energy, companies will look at their balance sheet and begin shifting their attention to ways they can help bring those costs down,” he said. “For many companies that means engaging their employees, their facility management staff, and challenging them to do more individually to help with the savings.”

Fortune predicts that as the health care debate winds down, energy efficiency is going to be the next hot public issue.

“I believe once the national debate on health care dies down, spring and early summer we are going to see a large focus on energy efficiency and renewable energy,” he said.

According to Fortune, the implementation of solar and geo-thermal technology in new construction is a good thing for business but isn’t the only option for companies.

“There are many retrofit things you can do before you get to that point,” he said. “I would encourage companies to not jump straight to those investments before doing some of the other initiatives that will have a faster payback.”

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