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Behavioural Carbon Management (BCM) – Can it make a difference?

Organisations are finding themselves under increasing pressure to reduce their carbon footprint. Some are taking the lead because they believe 'it's the right thing to do'. Others will engage through concern for public perception, recognising the potential positive impact for brand image and reputation. Some will reluctantly comply with climate change legislation, such as the Carbon Reduction Commitment (CRC) Energy Efficiency Scheme. In reality, most organisational responses to the carbon management challenge will be driven by a combination of factors. The bottom-line is that large consumers of energy will need to change and take carbon management seriously. Ultimately reputation and profitability are at stake....not to mention the state of our environment.

To date improvements in carbon management have focussed on putting in facilities management systems, updating infrastructure, setting carbon reduction targets and monitoring performance to reduce overall carbon footprint. Whilst these initiatives are undoubtedly necessary, they need to be underpinned by a core 'belief' in the value of carbon reduction and a 'commitment' to change the way people think and behave in relation to it. This is about embedding behaviours that create a business culture that is committed to taking responsible action in this area.

In reality, the cost of changing behaviours is relatively small, compared to investing in environmentally friendly systems and new technologies. It ultimately requires people to 'think before they act' and to be consciously aware of the impact their actions have on the cost of energy consumption. We need that ‘unfreeze – change – refreeze’ pattern of behaviour modification to take place in organisations. However, whilst it appears to be quite a simple concept, it would seem to us that the ‘unfreezing’ process is, so far, slow to get going. Put it to the test – walk around your workplace during a lunch break and take a mental note of how much energy is being wasted. Why aren't people taking responsibility? Why aren't people questioning each other? Do they actually care about these issues?

We recognise that changing behaviours can be challenging, but unless positive steps are taken in this respect and the messages around positive BCM reinforced through action, real progress is likely to be limited. There is a parallel here with employee adherence to Health & Safety regulations where genuine understanding and ownership of Health & Safety values are needed to achieve behavioural change.

Some organisations have responded to the Behavioural Carbon Management challenge by running awareness campaigns, which is a very good start. The problem lies in the word 'awareness'. It usually doesn't go far enough. We believe that 'behavioural' change requires people to take real responsibility for their actions. This should perhaps begin with those in leadership positions, who by acting as positive role models, showing their commitment and offering guidance, support and encouragement, can influence those around them.

It would seem that the challenge of creating a ‘better’, more sustainable, carbon efficient landscape for UK business is in its infancy, but we firmly believe that Behavioural Carbon Management can make a difference in reaching these goals... and a significant one at that!

Clive Hickman

January 2011

To speak to Clive about his work in this area and to find out more about the relevance of Behavioural Carbon Management to your organisation get in touch with NBA through the ‘Contact’ page.