As part of an energy efficiency assessment we brought together the site General Manager with the Mining, Technical Services, Coal Preparation and Maintenance Superintendents to review our initial list of projects. By involving senior site management early in the decision-making process, rather than waiting until after the business case is developed, there was greater awareness, buy-in and support from senior site management.

- Mahdi Mason, Senior Environmental Officer, New Hope Corporation Ltd

Each energy efficiency project will involve different decision-makers. Getting to know who these people are and their areas of responsibility helps you start to build support and target your business case.

Everyone in an organisation has a role to play in delivering on business goals. Specialisation of functions and tasks mean that the priorities of one manager may be different from those of another. To gain support and resources, you need to understand who the key decision-makers are and how to get them interested in energy efficiency.

Targeting communication to the decision-maker

Communication needs to be targeted to each individual: their role, interests and understanding of the issue. Overly technical language or jargon may cause confusion and should be avoided.  Modify your language and approach to align with their particular interests and unique needs.

You can use these discussions with decision-makers to help raise their awareness and build support for your project. By doing some initial research and then testing your ideas early in the process, you will also gain valuable insights into the benefits you should focus on and the concerns that you will need to respond to.

The people who will need to support your business case proposal may be different for each business case proposal. It all depends upon the type of project, the level at which sign-off needs to occur and whether you need financial support or ‘buy-in’ to help implement the project.  Develop a strategy that includes clear and focused messages, as well as relevant, evidence based data and information to support your case.

The table below outlines the varying interests of different key decision-makers within an organisation and how these relate to getting their support for project investment:

Decision maker Their role and interests How to get their support
General manager Overall responsibility for the business including approval of major investment decisions. Main concerns: meeting production, sales and profit targets Relate energy efficiency to production, safety, cost reduction targets and corporate reputation. Tell them what other sites or companies have done, and the benefitsExplain major risks and how they’ve been addressed
Site/ facility manager Overall responsibility for operations and/or delivery of services. Main concerns: safety, meeting production and expenditure targets for the site Relate energy efficiency to production, maintenance/uptime, safety & cost reduction targets. Tell them what other sites or companies have done, and the benefitsExplain major risks and how they’ve been addressed
Finance manager Executive role with responsibility for managing business or site expenditure. Main concerns: cost control, return on investment Understand their current investment priorities and challenges. Ask them for examples of effective business cases. Highlight financing opportunities i.e. tax breaks/concessions, government funding, energy performance contracting etc
Environmental manager Responsibility for environmental management and compliance across the business/site. Main concerns: environmental compliance, demonstrating environmental and energy efficiency outcomes Understand their current environmental priorities. Discuss links between energy efficiency and environmental issues within the company (e.g. greenhouse gas emissions, water, waste)Discuss how better data on energy will help them meet multiple compliance requirements
Business improvement manager Responsibility for identifying and implementing business improvement projects across the business/site. Main concerns: improving operational performance Find out about their current priorities and projects. Discuss how the project could generate whole-of-business financial savings and other business benefits

Tips for communication

  • Take time to speak to key decision-makers one-on-one to understand how your project might help meet their objectives. Engage with these people as early as possible, keep them informed on progress, and demonstrate how you can help them achieve their objectives. Use these relationships to reach out to and influence other managers that may be involved in the decision making process.
  • Use internal drivers such as energy or carbon emissions reduction targets, together with external drivers such as customer response, as a reason to discuss possible energy efficiency projects with personnel that may not have a direct interest in energy efficiency.
  • If you can’t speak with them one-on-one then find other opportunities. For example, present to management meetings or ask a corporate level energy or sustainability champion to discuss your project with a senior decision-maker.
  • In your discussion you might include:
    • clear and focused messages and questions. If you already have evidence-based data and information to support your case you may also mention this
    • describe your project and ask what is viewed as the most important benefits and risks that should be considered as you develop your business case proposal
    • test some of the benefits that you think are likely to be most important and gauge their response
    • ask if there are recent successful proposals that you might review in order to improve your own
  • Use the right language – align with ‘business speak’ in your organisation.
  • Describe the consultation process that you have undertaken in developing the project and if appropriate, list the key decision-makers that have provided feedback along the way.

 Case studies that you might find helpful

New Hope Corporation: Involving senior managers early in the process

New Hope Corporation is an Australian coal mining company with three open cut operations in Queensland. Mahdi Mason, Senior Environmental Officer explains their approach to getting support from senior site management.

“In planning our energy efficiency assessments we recognised the importance of involving senior site managers but knew that we had to do that in a way that didn’t draw too much on their time. First we conducted workshops that were aligned with our Lean Business Improvement Program in which we identified both energy efficiency and business improvement projects. Following those workshops we brought together the site General Manager with the Mining, Technical Services, Coal Preparation and Maintenance Superintendents.

By having the key decision-makers together in one room for three hours we were able to quickly review and prioritise the projects that had been identified and identify new ones. Following the workshop, formal capital expenditure proposals were developed for the prioritised projects. By involving senior site management early in the decision-making process, rather than waiting until after the business case is developed; there was greater awareness, buy-in and support from senior site management.

One example of a successful project is an increase of the tray size and payload on the 785 dump truck fleet at New Acland Mine. This has led to an energy saving of approximately 3.685 TJ and $4.9 million per annum.”

Mahdi Mason, Senior Environmental Officer, New Hope Corporation Ltd