Addressing The Sustainability “Rebound Effect”
Today, as more jan/san and facility management organizations operate more sustainably, some are experiencing what is known as the “rebound effect.”
“When organizations adopt sustainability initiatives, they often find their operating costs go down," says Katrina Saucier, with Sustainability Dashboard Tools, LLC., a technology that helps organizations measure and monitor energy, fuel, water, and other resources to help reduce costs.
However, the progress made by the sustainability initiatives is sometimes lessened when organizations either use the money they saved and spend it on items that increase their environmental footprint or end up using more energy. This issue is the rebound effect. Here are some example of the effect, according to Saucier:
- Building administrators that had turned down the winter thermostat to save energy, now turn it up because the building has been insulated.
- Distributors that were streamlining customer deliveries to reduce fuel consumption, now eliminate those initiatives because they have transferred to more fuel-efficient vehicles.
Despite these issue, Saucier says a company that experiences the rebound effect is still probably better than one that doesn’t focus on sustainability at all.
“While research on the rebound effect is patchy, it does not appear to cancel out all the sustainability good that has been accomplished," says Saucier. “Some studies indicate [that] for every two steps forward organizations take, some take one step backward.”
So how can distributors, property management companies, and other organizations prevent the rebound effect? Saucier suggests the following:
- Communicate. Distributors need to communicate to their staff that many large corporations now select vendors based on their sustainability initiatives and ability to reduce their environmental footprint.
- Engage. Employers must be able to convey their sustainability accomplishments to their customers and staff.
- Publicize. Sustainability efforts are not just for customers and staff to know about. Sustainable companies should keep their communities and industries in the know, too.
“This last point is crucial,” says Saucier. “As more people hear about a company’s sustainability efforts, employees often look for new ways to increase the company’s sustainability efforts. This helps put a lid on the rebound effect for good.”
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