The Psychology Of Energy Cost-Saving For Business

Irish businesses can save more energy. Between 2011 and 2017 Green Business Programme, run out of Cork Institute of Technology, visited 270 business premises and identified over €10,000,000 in potential cost savings.

The Psychology Of Energy Cost-Saving For Business

16 October 2018

Irish businesses can save more energy

Between 2011 and 2017 Green Business Programme, run out of Cork Institute of Technology, visited 270 business premises and identified over €10,000,000 in potential cost savings. The possible savings were broken down as follows:

  • €6.2 million on energy
  • €2.7 million on waste
  • €1.2 million on water

As energy accounted for 60% of the total potential savings, this would be a logical place to start for businesses looking to save money.

In some cases a capital investment may be required to update equipment, but a lot can be done to reduce energy consumption by simply being smarter about how things are used.

The untapped power of common-sense solutions

Just like in our homes, a common-sense approach can work wonders; if it doesn’t have to be on, turn it off.

There are numerous electrical appliances that can be turned off at night or even during the day when they are not in use at work.

If you consider an office floor with computers, laptops, printers, scanners and lights, there is no need to have these left on or even on standby overnight.

One of the big advantages of Pinergy for business is our Smart Meter allows you see real time data every 30 minutes. This means you can track and cost saving initiatives and report on results almost immediately.

The psychological approach to saving

Often, the biggest challenge for businesses is not identifying the method of cost saving but implementing it with staff.

For a variety of reasons, energy consumption is intangible for most employees in companies. They don’t see the bills each month so have no idea how energy use impacts the bottom line.

Equally, if the ‘done thing’ is to just stand up and walk out in the evening, they may need convincing to add an extra task or two to their ‘quitting time’ routine.

There are lots of ways these obstacles can be overcome. Like any problem, sharing the issue and as much information as possible between management and staff is a good starting point.

Merely issuing a directive to ‘save money’ or ‘stop wasting energy’ won’t be enough. These messages will probably not resonate well with staff and may even have the opposite effect.

Using information gathered during psychological studies, behavioural experts have found several ways that companies can use to help achieve the desired results.

For example, Adam Grant, who is an author and professor at Wharton University along with Professor David Hofmann from the University of North Carolina carried out a series of tests at a hospital.

They were trying to see if they could motivate hospital staff to wash their hands more. If they could achieve this the likelihood of contamination and infection would be reduced, thereby shortening patients’ stay and ultimately reducing costs for the hospital.

The results were recently featured in a bestselling book by author Daniel Pink “To Sell Is Human”.

Grant and Hofmann posted signs around the hospital encouraging people to clean their hands. The placed the signs next to 66 of the hospital's soap and hand-sanitizer dispensers for two weeks.

The signs carried three different instructions.

  • 1.One third of the signs were about self-interest: HAND HYGIENE PREVENTS YOU FROM CATCHING DISEASES
  • 2.One third of the signs were about the patients: HAND HYGIENE PREVENTS PATIENTS FROM CATCHING DISEASES.
  • 3.The final third were used as the control sample and contained a catchy slogan: GEL IN, WASH OUT.

The results were conclusive. The second sign succeeded getting hospital staff to use much more hand sanitizer product from dispensers.

They then recreated the experiment with just two signs


The results were the same, the patient focused sign encouraged more hand cleaning than the personal consequence sign.

Add some context to the conservation

Pink concluded in his book – “While we often assume that human beings are motivated mainly by self-interest, a stack of research has shown that all of us also do things for what social scientists call ‘pro-social’ or ‘self-transcending’ reasons.

That means that not only should we ourselves be serving, but we should also be tapping others' innate desire to serve. Making it personal works better when we also make it purposeful."

The same idea can be applied to energy conservation if we show the impact wasting resources has on the company, and more importantly, the wider community and environment.

Once you can introduce a little context to staff as to why energy saving is important and will have benefit beyond the business, it will resonate more with everyone.

Behaviour change theory

The research journal Frontiers in Psychology published a paper in 2016 called Turn It Off: An Action Research Study of Top Management Influence on Energy Conservation in the Workplace

In the section on Behaviour Change Theory, the paper highlights three ways that management in a company can inspire a desired action, namely reducing energy consumption, from their staff.

1 - Modelling

Management are constantly issuing directives to employees about how they want things done. However, one of the most effective ways to solicit results is by management demonstrating or modelling the behaviour in the workplace they are trying to implement. It shows that this behaviour is not about job titles or position in the company, it’s about everybody pitching in and making a positive impact.

2 - Social norms

Social norms can describe some of the unwritten rules in the workplace, the ‘done thing’. Research has shown that if social norm messages can be changed, they are generally more effective in changing pro-environmental behaviour. A catalyst will be required to make the seismic shift in how things are done, but once the new social norm is established, the target behaviour will become the new ‘done thing’.

3 - Persuasive messages

Prompts can be an effective way of changing social norms. If you can find a repeatable, scheduled way of reminding individuals about new tasks, you have a better chance of these becoming the new social norms.

Prompts can be a simple and inexpensive way to change behaviour. They can also be less intrusive in the workday compared to other strategies. And they can potentially influence large numbers of people if you take the approach that Grant and Hofmann applied by using language focused on who is being helped.

What can Pinergy do to help?

If you would like to hear how Pinergy can help reduce the energy costs for your business, please feel free to get in touch with Colm today.


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