In 2011, Jaz Rabadia became the youngest chartered energy manager in the UK. We asked her how her current employer Sainsbury’s has managed to cut energy use in its stores by 14% in just two years.
“To be honest, I didn’t really know about energy management when I was at school”, says Jaz. “It was only when I got to university and did some energy-related modules as part of my mechanical engineering degree that I realised how exciting a career it could be.”
An energy study Jaz conducted in a Sainsbury’s store as part of her degree led to an offer of a permanent position as an energy manager at the supermarket’s HQ, where she has now been working for five years.
“The majority of my work involves looking after the 1000+ supermarket and convenience store we have – setting store budgets, implementing energy projects and providing tools for colleagues to help reduce energy in store, Jaz continues. “It’s a great role with lots of variety and I love seeing the difference my work is making.”
Focus on convenience stores
As part of Sainsbury’s 20x20 Plan, the supermarket has committed to reduce its carbon footprint by 30% by 2020 compared with 2005 levels. In order to help achieve this goal, Jaz has recently been focusing on reducing the impact of Sainsbury’s convenience stores, of which there are over 500 in the UK.
“One of the simplest things we’ve done is to combine the energy switch off button with our security keypads. People might forget to switch off the lights, but they never forget to switch on the security alarm. By combining the two, the energy that isn’t needed is automatically switched off when our employees leave the store in the evening.
“Encouraging people to pull down night blinds on refrigeration cabinets at the end of the day is also helping. A lot of what we do is behind the scenes and in plant rooms, which is something all colleagues can see and get involved in’’
“In total, we’ve achieved a 14% energy saving in our convenience stores since the start of the project in 2010.”
“Another big project we’ve got going at the moment is Sainsbury’s Carbon Academy”, Jaz adds. “We’re aiming to train 20,000 people across the business on sustainability by 2020, including members of our Supply Chain and contractors.
"Through the training we want to highlight the importance of carbon awareness, and improve the skills and knowledge base of our people. The training is mostly done online in short modules and starts from the very basics.
" It was launched in May 2011 and although it’s early days it seems to be going down well so far.”
Employee engagement is clearly a crucial element of embedding sustainability in a business, so how is this being encouraged at Sainsbury’s apart from through the training?
“I have three main tips for engaging employees around sustainability”, says Jaz. “Firstly, keep it simple. Even though technical language might seem clear to us, most people won’t understand it. A good way I’ve found to make the figures hit home is to convert the data into something that people can relate to. For example, store colleagues may not understand kilowatt hours, but they do understand store sales. So we might say, ‘Did you know switching this pizza oven off for just one hour would save you the equivalent of xx pizza sales?’ and it will make more sense.
“Secondly, tailor the communications for the audience - make them realise what’s in it for them. Lots of people might think, ‘Why should I bother turning off the lights? What’s the point?’ If you show them that that saving energy also saves money that can lead to more benefits for the employee, they’re more likely to do it.
“Thirdly, use your existing communications channels to communicate about sustainability rather than coming up with new ones. At Sainsbury’s we have a daily bulletin that everyone reads first thing when they come in. We include sustainability messages in that rather than sending out extra communications as they probably wouldn't get read otherwise. People are busy, so you need to make it as easy and accessible for them as possible.”
Engaging young people
And it’s not just employees Jaz is keen on engaging around sustainability. “I think it’s really important to get more young people interested in energy management and sustainability as possible career options”, she says.
“Sustainability is going to get more and more important in the years ahead and I think that if more people know this is a possible route for them when they’re at school, they might seriously consider it. I’m a STEM ambassador and often go to schools to tell students about my role, and to try to encourage more people – especially girls – to study science and engineering.
“Energy management is a fantastic career and I’d love to help more people discover it.”
Jaz has recently filmed a video with City University to encourage more young people to study engineering. Watch it below: