Lessons from the Corps: Influencing Corporate Decision-Makers

EDF Staff | August 16, 2011

By Andrew Mulherkar, Intern, Corporate Partnership Program, EDF

Energy efficiency represents a trillion dollar resource for the U.S. economy. In a perfect world, these numbers would speak for themselves. In the real world, Climate Corps fellows do.

After identifying energy efficiency opportunities and evaluating the potential savings, our fellows often face the difficult task of convincing companies to invest. Effective communication is critical to their success.  To point the fellows in the right direction, we turned to Mike Walker of Beacon Consultant Networks Inc. Speaking to fellows as an expert on influencing corporate decision makers, Walker left us with three key suggestions:

1.  Transform actions, not attitudes. Changing a mind doesn't always translate into changing a bulb. While we may believe that attitude drives action, research suggests that the reverse is true. To effectively engage decision-makers toward energy efficiency, it's necessary to offer easy next steps and to remove barriers to action. What does this look like in practice? Rather than asking employees to turn off lights, install a programmable timer that automatically shuts off lighting after work hours.

2. Don't assume energy efficiency will sell itself. Most corporate decision-makers focus exclusively on the mission of their business. An energy efficiency project may possess the golden trinity of a low investment, high return, and short payback, but even this doesn't guarantee action. It's critical to use sufficient marketing resources to sell energy efficiency investments, while also working to increase benefits and eliminate barriers for stakeholders.

3. Speak the appropriate language. For a corporate audience, this requires knowing the ins and outs of NPV, ROI, and the like. Business decision-makers respond to data. Emotional appeals may motivate consumer behavior, but business decisions generally require enough levels of discussion and approval to remove any considerations that aren't backed by numbers. This includes good PR, which is almost never sufficient in motivating companies to act. Developing a concise business case for energy efficiency investments is therefore essential.

The good news is that energy efficiency projects often do meet investment criteria—they just need strong advocates. And  EDF Climate Corps fellows are here to help.

EDF Climate Corps matches trained students from leading business schools with companies to develop practical, actionable energy efficiency plans. Sign up to receive emails about EDF Climate Corps, including regular blog posts by our fellows. You can also visit our Facebook page or follow us on Twitter to get regular updates about this project.