Every Monday morning our national energy report, which includes the previous week’s energy use and costs, is sent to managers. Our daily plant meetings also look at how much energy is costing. These help to keep energy at the top of people’s minds. Energy used to be just a cost; now it’s a category that has to be well managed.

- Graham Bryant, Process Improvement Manager, Simplot

Energy prices, legislation and other business risks and opportunities are dynamic. Regular communication with management and other stakeholders can help keep energy efficiency on the agenda.

Rising prices, emerging legislation and changing customer and investor expectations can all provide opportunities to raise the profile of energy efficiency, and change the way it is viewed within your organisation. It is important that site and senior managers are aware of the changes as they occur. This will help build their understanding of the risks and opportunities related to energy efficiency and improve the chances of success when you present new business case proposals.

Presenting to the management team

Create opportunities to update and present to the management team on a regular basis. For example, if you are about to commence an energy efficiency assessment, you should update them on the latest legislative, price and energy supply issues before you start. In the same way that a business case proposal for a specific project should link with existing business priorities, connect the broader benefits of energy efficiency to current business issues, risks and opportunities at the site, division, corporate and even industry level.

It is important to be well prepared before presenting to a management team. If you are able to, meet with managers prior to the meeting in a less formal setting. Ask them for advice about how you might make your presentation relevant for the different members of the management team. Review current business plans to better understand the important business issues. Make sure you know how much time you have to present, and take time to practice beforehand to ensure that your messages are clear.

Communication needs to be targeted to each individual: their role, interests and understanding of the issue. Overly technical language or jargon may cause confusion and should be avoided.  Modify your language and approach to align with their particular interests and the unique needs of the site. The benefit to the financial bottom line will be of interest to all managers, but other important issues will include any impacts on throughput, safety, compliance and business improvement.

It may be useful to use physical metrics as substitute terminology for energy efficiency because these can be more meaningful for management. For example, discuss expected increases in production volume or the expected reduction in the frequency of production downtime instead of just talking about energy benefits alone.

Potential business drivers

The table below lists a number of potential business drivers you might talk about. It also provides information on how you can frame the business driver from a risk perspective and sources of data and information that may help you develop your presentation and improve its effectiveness.

Business Driver Risk perspective Sourcing your data & information
Rising energy prices Impact on overhead costs and profitability. Use information on expected future price changes from your energy retailer, energy consultant or industry reports.
Energy supply Operational risk – impact on production (downtime) and product quality.Commercial risk – if there is a potential impact on customers. Use site, fleet or company specific data about supply impacts.Be clear on how your approach to energy efficiency can help.
Customer expectations Impact on competitiveness.  Discuss actions being taken by competitors.Provide feedback from customer surveys if available. If not, include relevant questions in a customer survey or ask marketing personnel to investigate customer interests and concerns in relation to energy efficiency and greenhouse gas emissions
Employee expectations Ability to attract and retain employees Use feedback from workplace surveys and performance management reviews.
Investor expectations regarding energy and greenhouse performance Investors are increasingly concerned about how well companies are managing energy and carbon risks, e.g. through reports to the Carbon Disclosure Project or the Dow Jones Sustainability Index Discuss trends in shareholder relations with corporate affairs personnel.Refer to recent reports from institutional investor groups where sustainability is considered in investment decision making.
Local community concerns Impacts on reputation and regulatory approvals. Review current stakeholder issues and concerns.Report back on positive feedback from community-based energy efficiency projects.
Legislative requirements Companies have a range of legislative obligations, e.g. EEO, NGERS, EREP, NABERS mandatory disclosure in commercial buildings. Be involved in consultation processes and briefings/ workshops. Report back on the latest policy or legislative changes.

Tips for briefing management

  • Take the time to prepare for your presentation.
  • Meet with managers one-on-one beforehand if possible.
  • Refer to relevant industry reports for new facts and useful perspectives,  for example, ‘Energy shock: confronting higher prices 2011’ published by the Australian Industry Group.
  • Use relevant graphs and statistics. For example, show how you are tracking towards an energy or greenhouse target, update management on savings achieved to date or use a case study to highlight a key point or promote successes.
  • Develop and present carbon cost abatement curves to demonstrate that you have a ‘pipeline’ of projects that you are progressively implementing and the relative cost effectiveness of each.
  • Consider using a credible speaker from outside the business who has expert knowledge and experience within your industry sector.
  • Make your updates a regular occurrence. This way you can progressively build the awareness and knowledge of your management team. You will also build trust with them so that if you come up against any barriers, it will be easier to have an open discussion and discuss possible issues.

Newmont Asia Pacific: Site management team presentations

Bryan Williams, Principal Advisor Climate Change and Energy Efficiency at Newmont, has learnt from experience that the best way to engage management is to focus on business improvement.

When we reviewed an energy efficiency assessment that we had completed at one site we identified that one of the greatest limitations had been the lack of site management support. We hadn’t communicated what we were doing and why well enough.

So, for our next assessment we did our homework, prepared and then delivered a presentation to the site management team to obtain their buy in. We knew they had completed energy efficiency / greenhouse audits in the past and didn’t get much out of them. So we made sure that we presented this assessment as clearly different from old style audits – it would be more rigorous, involve key personnel and the relevant decision-makers on site and deliver cost savings and other operational benefits. It was also presented as a business opportunity not just environmental risk management.

- Bryan Williams, Principal Advisor Climate Change and Energy Efficiency, Newmont Asia Pacific

Case studies that you might find helpful

  • Simplot Australia: Approach to energy efficiency

    Managers are kept informed about energy risks and opportunities through their involvement in site energy committees or, at a corporate level, through the national energy steering committee. Managers also receive a weekly report on energy consumption and costs for the previous week.

  • Foster’s Group: Approach to energy efficiency

    Managers are briefed informally about the progress of business cases under development so that they have a good understanding of major projects before they are submitted for funding. More formal reports are provided at regular management or team meetings.

  • Australia Post: Approach to energy efficiency

    A senior management steering committee monitors progress of the Carbon Reduction Strategy and reviews new energy efficiency opportunities for possible inclusion and implementation. It is chaired by a senior operations manager and includes representatives from each of the business units as well as support functions such as finance and information technology.