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‘Energy Smart’ campaign enthuses staff to save energy


Birmingham City Council aims to reduce their CO2 emissions by 20% by 2010. As part of their drive to achieve this goal, the ‘Energy Smart’ campaign was launched in October 2006. Energy Smart is an internal communication campaign aimed at raising awareness and encouraging behavioural change among Council staff to reduce energy and water use. With 50,000 employees in the Council, there is a huge potential for behavioural change to impact on energy and water consumption. The campaign is continuing to gather pace as staff from across the Council show their support. According to Leo McMulkin, head of the Council’s Urban Design’s Sustainability and Energy Management team, “Staff are really getting behind Energy Smart, and starting to realise just how much energy is wasted in the workplace. Even small changes in habits will add up to a big difference if everyone’s doing their bit.

Project description

Aim The aim of the Energy Smart campaign is to encourage staff to save energy and water by providing advice on simple actions they can take to reduce energy and water consumption. Overall, the campaign will help the Council to achieve their goal of reducing their CO2 emissions by 20% by 2010.
Key points Energy Smart focuses on four themes: lighting, water, electricity and heating.

The campaign was launched using a short film considering the environmental impact of a fictional council employee’s activities. The film was produced by the UK business video production company iceni®, with input from Birmingham City Council’s communications team.

In the film, ‘Helen’, works for Birmingham City Council. As she climbs out of bed on a cold October morning, a seemingly unimportant event throws her day in two different directions. Helen is about to live the same day twice... at the same time. Energy Smart Helen saves resources by switching off TVs and monitors and not wasting water. The other Helen wastes energy and this makes her day go from bad to worse as she gets covered in coffee, loses her work and gets a parking ticket.

The film was displayed at the Senior Council Officers meeting to launch the campaign and copies were given to delegates to take away to show to staff at their team meetings, in this way disseminating the campaign throughout the Council.

The film will now be a regular feature at corporate inductions for all new staff. An energy awareness segment has been built into staff induction sessions in order to show the DVD and provide new recruits with the opportunity to ask questions of the Council’s Sustainability and Energy Management team. Louise Holland, principal Human Resources officer for the Council said: “We’re really pleased to have a regular energy awareness slot as part of the corporate induction. The DVD presents a serious topic in a light-hearted way, allowing staff to take the messages on board and change their behaviour accordingly. We’ve also included a Q&A session so that staff can speak directly to the council’s specialists in energy management and raise any issues they may have.

Following the launch of the film the Council has produced features on each of the four campaign themes in their monthly internal newsletter, ‘Inner Voice’. These features include ‘hints and tips’ based around saving energy in relation to the current theme of the campaign. For example, for the heating theme, the following hints and tips were provided to staff:

Room for improvement...

Are there rooms in your building that are used only occasionally, but are heated all the time? Many radiators have individual controls so that they can be turned on only when needed.

Smart move

Move furniture away from radiators to leave plenty of space, allowing heat to circulate properly. Blocking the radiator makes it work hard to heat a room.

Hit the floor

If your heating is provided via floor grilles, make sure they are not blocked or covered by furniture such as filing cabinets, which will absorb the heat.

Dress to impress

Our buildings are heated during cold weather but on cooler days, before the central heating is switched on, don’t waste energy by using a fan heater - a stylish jumper or cardigan will keep you just as warm!

Game of draughts

Draughty windows and doors make life at work uncomfortable, as well as wasting energy. Fitting draught strips will stop heat escaping and draughts. Draught-proofing and keeping windows and doors closed can reduce energy consumption by 15 percent.

Shut up!

Keep windows and doors closed in cold weather. If you forget to close a window overnight, it can waste the energy needed to drive a small car more than 35 miles.

As well as providing hints and tips, staff have been actively engaged in the campaign through a competition where staff were asked what the chief cause of climate change was (the correct answer being CO2 of course). Hundreds of people entered the competition, and the winners received wind-up radios.

The campaign also has an email address for which the responses to the competitions can be posted. The email address is also used for suggestions and complaints which are actioned by the Sustainability and Energy Management Team within the Council’s Urban Design department.

Reason for inclusion as Shining Example Birmingham City Council’s Energy Smart communication campaign engages staff by using different types of media and incentives to participate through competitions and prizes. By incorporating the film produced for the campaign into an existing procedure, the Council’s induction programme, the Council has utilised an excellent opportunity (at an ideal point in time) to raise staff awareness and encourage energy conservation.

Costs and benefits

Costs & funding The Council has funded the campaign. The total costs of the campaign are not yet available as it is still active.
Benefits There has not been any quantitative measurement of the impact of the Energy Smart campaign on energy and water consumption. However, it is clear from responses to the competition that staff are engaging with the campaign, and therefore it seems that the campaign messages are getting across. It is hoped that staff will transform their energy and water-use behaviour both at work and at home.


Achievements The campaign is considered to be successful, as although it is now three-quarters of the way through, employees are still engaging with the competitions and suggestion box. The DVD is still popular with requests for copies from all divisions of the council. The poster and leaflet campaign has also been successful with people awaiting the new leaflets. The success of the campaign is believed to be due to the incorporation of employees as either actors or models into the DVD and the leaflets, plus the practical approach used to put across the important messages.
Lessons learned The use of a professional company to produce the DVD was a key factor in the success of this campaign. It enabled the DVD to be of a professional ‘polished’ standard and also not to be seen as a ‘corporate’ film. The tips for energy saving used on the posters and leaflets are all easy to read and to put into practice.

To know more

Organisation name Birmingham City Council
Contact Coral Tiling
Phone +44 (0)1 213 036 530

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