How ISO 50001 has reduced energy use and sparked behaviour change at npower

EXCLUSIVE: UK gas and electricity supplier npower has revealed that compliance with ISO 50001 has played a crucial part of the company's energy and carbon reduction efforts, igniting behaviour change among staff as a result.

Speaking to edie ahead of his appearance at edie Live next month (scroll down for details), npower’s sustainability manager Jonathan Hulbert revealed that the use of the ISO 50001 energy management standard as a framework has proved influential in creating a “holistic approach” that has seen both board members and employees strive to implement best energy management practices.

“Over the past few years, we’ve moved from an interest in sustainability, to a systematic, business-focused quality standards approach – using ISO 50001 to leverage everything to the very best standards that we can implement,” Hulbert said.

“Whether it’s exceeding targets or driving innovations, or how we get the most bang for our buck, ISO 50001 has introduced a holistic approach to everything we do for best management standards. It gave us a framework to plan, focus and implement everything.”

Introduced in 2011, ISO 50001 creates a standard and framework requirement for establishing, implementing and ultimately improving energy management systems. Hulbert explained that, by following the framework since its inception, npower has been able to set and exceed carbon intensity reduction targets. 

npower had previously set a carbon reduction target of 50% by 2015, against a 2008 baseline. By following through with ISO 50001 requirements – and introducing onsite solutions and data management in the process – the energy company ended last year reducing their carbon intensity by 56% compared to 2008. 

“What I liked about ISO 50001 is that it is a ‘what’ rather than a ‘how’. It shows you what you should be doing and drives the best practice international standards,” Hulbert added. “It gives you the framework to not only meet that standard but also the organisational need to surpass it and set new targets.

“It then asks you to focus on the valuation of these targets and make sure everything is working as part of a continuous improvement cycle. It’s really helped us promote a step change and to be objective in achieving our targets.”

Employee interaction

In light of these significant reductions – and after careful analysis – npower has now set an ambitious new absolute carbon reduction target of 25% by 2020, against a 2015 baseline. But for Hulbert, the ISO framework goes beyond targets and has actually provided tangible proof of an on-going behavioural change within the staff at npower, which has been driven by data management.

Hulbert noted that combining the ISO framework with an enhanced data management system – the company has recently acquired the utility monitoring company RUMM to compliment this shift – has “formed a major part in getting employees to interact with energy efficiency”.

“The greater control you have on data, the greater control you have on management, both financial and environmental,” he said. “Here at npower we are firm believers that if you can’t measure it you can’t manage it. But of course you have to be able to translate it.

“It’s given us a cultural shift. A big part of data management is about using it to engage and communicate with our staff and it allowed us to galvanise everyone on what we’re trying to achieve. It’s created a holistic approach which is the lifeblood of the company.”

Easy energy

One of the more prominent ways that npower has sparked this behaviour change is through the Environmental, Action, Sustainability and You (EASY) campaign. The campaign focuses on everyday things that staff can do as part of business-as-usual activities, in order to reduce energy consumption. Hulbert believes that the campaign has allowed the sustainability team to “get on with the technical stuff”, safe in the knowledge that staff are engaged with sustainability policies.

These changes are then scrutinised further through the use of site league tables, which are growing in popularity across businesses and organisations, allowing npower to monitor energy use on a site-by-site basis. But due to the complexity of each site, Hulbert believes that league tables can’t measure personal accountability and engagement, pointing to npower’s focus groups as a better indicator of behaviour change.

“There’s measurability about how people respond to tasks and the receptivity to our initiatives gives us an understanding of how on-board people are with the concept,” he said. “The focus groups allow us to measure employee involvement.”

With the ISO 50001 framework complimenting npower’s sustainability agenda, and an increased emphasis on staff behaviour to implement future goals, npower – which was the first UK company in the energy industry to be awarded the prestigious Carbon Trust Triple Standard – is now beginning to turn to innovation to further drive its energy reduction commitments and hit the 25% carbon reduction goal.

“We’re concentrating on unlocking the hidden potential of demand-side response and how this interacts with onsite generation capabilities and to potentially export these sources,” Hulbert said. “We see the benefit of it just like our customers do, both in terms of the financial savings and the energy reductions.”

Jonathan Hulbert at edie Live

Jonathan Hulburt will be speaking at the Energy Efficiency Theatre at edie Live in May, discussing what excellence looks like in regards to energy management, alongside associates from the Carbon Trust, Costa Coffee and Citi Corporate Realty Services.

If you manage your company’s energy, sustainability, environmental or corporate responsibility, then two days at edie Live will give you a free pass to all the learning, peer-to-peer networking, innovative suppliers and inspiration you need to drive sustainability through your organisation.

View the full edie Live agenda and register to attend for free here.

Matt Mace

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