How to be a Sustainability Leader: Awards Q&A with Energy Manager of the Year

As the deadline for edie's Sustainability Leaders Awards 2017 approaches, we talk to last year's Energy Manager of the Year Jude Hughes to find out her secrets to success and top tips for Awards entrants.

Over the past eight years in her role of energy manager at the National Institute for Biological Standards and Control (NIBSC), Jude Hughes has ignited something of a cultural shift in behaviours and attitudes towards sustainability at the organisation.

During her tenure, the NIBSC has reduced electricity consumption by 14%, gas consumption by 20% and shrunk its carbon footprint by 21%. Through Hughes’ effective staff engagement programme delivery – which acted as a deciding factor in the judges’ decision to crown her Energy Manager of the Year – the NIBSC has saved more than £746,000 through energy efficiency measures.

Standing out on her long list of achievements, Hughes has overseen the adoption of a £180,000 LED retrofit project that has since saved £45,000 annually; and introduced a 1,490 solar panel array installation which looks set to save the organisation £2.7m across a 20-year lifecycle.

More recently, she has become a huge advocate of the Warp-it reuse platform, which has seen NIBSC reuse and trade used office and lab furniture to save more than £100,000 and create waste and carbon savings of 11,329 kg and 21,475 kg of carbon respectively.

So, as the entry deadline nears for edie’s 2017 Sustainability Leaders Awards (13 September) – which now incorporates the Energy Manager of the Year award – edie asked Hughes how taking home the coveted trophy has “endorsed” her ideas and concepts, and what advice she would have for other budding energy managers that are looking to gain the recognition they deserve.


edie’s Q&A with Energy Manager of the Year Jude Hughes

edie: Your demonstration of leadership was one of the key things that our Awards judges praised you for. What key skills have you developed in order to place energy management into the heart of the business and drive change?

JH: When I came into the roll I was the first to actually do it. So I set my own path about what I felt was important and what I needed to react to in terms of legislation. At the institute I’m at, the infrastructure is very old – some of the buildings and equipment are from the 1980s – so one of the first things I had to do was looking at the replacement of those by working with the relevant members of staff.

With the maintenance team, I looked at what energy efficiency measures could be brought in and I’d work with project managers and the guys on the ground. I think from that, you get to earn people’s respect, especially when you implement things and they work well.

You need to get people on your side and get them to realise that you do know what you’re talking about. We’ve worked to introduce a lot of training and awareness initiatives with staff, and it allows me to integrate with different divisions and staff.

What I think is really important is being able to get buy-in from senior management. Our senior management team meet on a monthly basis and I have a routine slot with them to go through and talk about the things that I want to implement and get them on-board. By starting off doing low-cost/no-cost solutions you can begin to see results and it gives them the confidence to support you and give you a larger budget for projects as well.

So do you have to alter the language and conversations you have with staff compared to how you would interact with the board?

Yes, definitely. I get on with most people and I try to get a bit of humour into the conversations and I try and see things from other people’s point of view as well. You need to be able to reach compromises with people or explain to them why you’re doing something, but also to take their side on-board. There might be reasons they do things in a particular way.

One of the things the we looked at was the zoning of their handling units, which were pretty much running 24/7. When we started to talk to them we found that there was no particular reason to do so, perhaps it was historical.

Just getting them to try it differently, even if it’s just one member of staff, can highlight the benefits. It’s about talking to people in the language they understand, but also telling them why you want to do something. If they have an understanding about that, they’re more likely to want to be a part of it.

Has winning the award helped when you approach the board looking for buy-in? Has it given you a sense of reputable leverage?

Obviously [the board] was really pleased. As a scientific institute, it’s nice to get recognition and I think that the board totally respect what they have with this. I’ve had so much positive feedback, and the board are saying “it’s nice to know people think you’re as great as we do”. It seems the award is endorsing what people felt and its beneficial to have that recognition.

The judges commended you for igniting a cultural change in the workplace. A lot of people are looking to tackle behavioural change issues and for you to have demonstrated how to do so is remarkable. How do you go about igniting this change?

I try and make things interesting and fun if I can. I’ve come up with slightly more quirky ways to ensure that the views of sustainability and energy saving aren’t lost on the staff. A couple of examples include the idea of a village green day. It’s based on the concept of a village fair. All I wanted was an area where lots of stuff could go on that would be related to energy savings. We’d never really done anything like this before, and it was a bit of a gamble, but we had eco-driving simulators with a Top Gear-style leaders board. We had energy bikes that staff could plug into equipment and cycle to charge it.

There were also competitions and prizes and food. It was a brilliant day and this is what I try to do, make things a bit different and interactive. You soon find that word of mouth gets more people to join in and I finished off this awareness drive with a weekend switch-off. Our staff made pledges and we saved 10% on energy over that weekend. That’s a great way to measure the response to the awareness.

When you first came into the role you were one of the early adopters of LEDs, which wasn’t an established technology at the time. Now we’re at the point where it’s considered a low-hanging fruit. Once you’ve picked this fruit does it become harder to ramp up improvements?

What you have to remember here, is that we’re Government [funded] and the budgets are on decline. You have to really justify everything you’re doing. I’ve tried to stick to low-cost/no-cost but what I’ve been building up to was for people to take it seriously and put some money behind it.

Solar is still quite expensive, but it’s a big project that we’re just finishing off. We’ve just put up 1,490 solar panels on the roof and it should cover about 10% of the site.

In my mind the job is never done. You’re always revisiting areas and looking back over historical practices to see if you can change them to make them greener and looking at new technologies to take on-board. This is something I’m keen to go and solar was our first step towards renewables. But I’m asking myself what else can we do?

We’re definitely looking at double-glazing and insulation as improvements, but buildings can affect tasks depending on whether they’re modern or in need of a retrofit.

So for your institute, in old building infrastructure, what is the biggest energy output that you have to monitor?

We’re a massive research institute, with a layout similar to that of a hospital. We have corridors of individual laboratories with very few offices and its full of lab equipment. We’ve got to use fridges and freezers and microscopes and monitors for research, so the labs are our biggest user of energy and that’s why I think it’s just as important to actually work with staff to turn things off. It’s important to reinforce that message.

We’ve proved that it works and every time we have a switch off I’ll be roaming around the corridors at night ensuring that everything’s been switched off and informing those who can do better. Reinforcing the message is a big part in what you’re trying to do.

Do legislative frameworks such as ESOS and ISO standards help with the management process?

JH: When I started here there was pretty much nothing in place so I built up an in-house EMS system, which I’ve developed to move into more than 30 different categories. I’ve put in policy and guidance on the back of this. But I actually have a meeting next week to move this towards ISO14001 which is what I’m looking at to get a sense of external recognition.

Are you confident that this framework will unmask some hidden improvements that can be made?

I don’t really think so. I think it would just reinforce the fact that we’re at a particular level and we’ve done a lot in this area and we push ourselves forwards to try and continuously improve. I’m guessing that this would just make our work more official.

We’ve noticed that NIBSC have been working with Warp-It to promote the reuse of equipment. How is this collaborative approach working for you?

It’s working amazingly. When I started here we were looking at recycling as well but I wanted to go a step further and introduce a waste hierarchy so that we could look at reuse options. We’d been looking for a more formalised system and creating a forum for unwanted items.

I came across Warp-It and, after speaking to its founder Daniel O’Connor, I found that we were both very passionate about waste management. I talked to senior managers and showed the business case for using this system and we implemented it about two years ago.

We had a big organised launch day for it and staff brought along stuff that could be physically put onto Warp-It to help populate it. It’s really easy to use, it’s a bit like eBay or Gumtree but there’s no money involved. It’s really taken off. We’re an institute that tries not to spend too much, so things like furniture and lab consumables, it’s ideal to be able to look through Warp-It.

We’ve just reached over £100,000 in savings through Warp-It as well as the waste and carbon cost savings. Although we’re a big institute in terms of size, there’s a relatively small number of 350 staff. Compared to universities this is small, so Warp-It are using us as an example of massive savings for a small-staffed institute. It’s a great system and I’ve talking to Government bodies who have asked me to give a presentation of my experience in using Warp-It as they’ve just been granted a Government contract.

The fact that you were an early adopter of LEDs surely means that you’ve got one eye on the horizon of new technology that could enhance savings. Is there anything in the pipeline that you are excited about?

We’re in the planning stage of developing a really big extension and we’re going for a flexi-lab design. While we currently have corridors of laboratories, we’re looking at a flexible working space for the researchers and we’re looking to get a BREEAM rating of excellent for it. We’re looking at low and zero-carbon technology that we can put into this building.

One of the things we’re looking at is combined heat and power (CHP), to perhaps go into this. Solar will also be considered, while more passive technologies are also being looked at like shading over lower levels and double-glazing and looking at light, heating and cooling systems. And it’s all in the mix at the moment, but it needs to be signed off by the Department for Health first.

For any energy managers aspiring to make real change within their organisation, or perhaps considering entering the Sustainability Leaders Awards, what tips would you give to them to deliver savings and mobilise the workforce?

As an energy manager it is very standard that you’re alone, without a team, so what you really need to do is influence people and key stakeholders. You need to be working with maintenance staff and you want to be working with project engineers so you can implement new technologies.

It’s about trying to work in the areas where you want to make the change and getting people on board who cover all the different disciplines. I’d also recommend just trying things. I’ve tried anything and everything as different things will work for different people. Sometimes I use trial areas, such as one willing department, that I then task with creating 10% in energy savings over a weekend. The first time we tried we achieved 8% in savings, which wasn’t good enough, so the next weekend we got 9%, before hitting the 10% target on the third weekend.

Working with them enabled us to build up that momentum and we could show other departments to implement the scheme site-wide and raise motivation. If you can get examples where you demonstrate savings, then you can get people on your side.


Matt Mace

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