Saving Energy Pays - For Neighbors and Sustainability-Minded Workers

Here’s how amping up rivalry around the block and rewarding innovative employees can help reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
May 6, 2016 3:35 PM ET

Some companies pay employees up to $20,000 for great energy-saving ideas. Really.

Business leaders in several large corporations are getting creative by giving big financial rewards to managers who help reduce the operation’s energy consumption. There’s a good reason for these incentives: after the United Nations’ Climate Change Conference in Paris in December, the US committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions – including carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide and others that contribute to global warming – 26% to 28% from 2005 levels by 2025.

To that end, new programs are tackling the problem on two fronts: private homes and big businesses, with energy companies aiding the battle.

Home is where the energy-saver is

American homes are responsible for 24% of the world’s energy demand and 17% of global carbon emissions, according to the nonprofit organization The Climate Group. Its research shows that electricity use has tripled in the US since 1970 and that demand is expected to increase another 50% globally by 2050. Although those in the US currently consume double the energy of European homes and 10 times more than homes in China, several energy-saving solutions could help the US reach its Paris goals.

To combat these numbers, The Climate Group developed the Home2025 project to help energy companies provide innovative solutions to cut emissions from homes.

Energy companies started benchmark programs for districts in which neighbors try to keep up with the Joneses, motivating each other to reduce emissions. For example, in some places, utilities ranked residents based on how their energy consumption compared to their neighbors’, and consumers’ electric bills spelled out this comparison. These homeowners reduced their emissions by 2% more than people who got standard bills that didn’t provide rankings among neighbors.

Bigger company, bigger energy savings

On the corporate level, efforts to cut emissions are more competitive – and can mean big money for employees. General Motors links its plants’ energy reductions to the performance evaluations of certain managers. This motivates bosses to encourage energy efficiency and reach specific targets.

GM also offers incentives to workers who make suggestions that lead to energy savings for the company. If their proposed projects prove beneficial, employees can earn up to $20,000 of the money that was saved from putting the idea to use.

Another method to reduce carbon emissions is having companies disclose their emissions reports publicly. Reporting to third-party entities ensures transparency and gives businesses added motivation for long-term improvement.

For example, GM annually submits its emissions results to the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP) and earns a ranking based on the information it discloses to investors. GM has earned a perfect score for the past three years, demonstrating its continued commitment to lowering emissions and responding to customer trends.

With all these programs, corporate entities and citizens alike are jump-starting the nation’s progress towards reaching greenhouse gas reduction goals.

Reposted from with permission.