Using Industry’s Own Words to Evaluate ISO 50001 Energy Management Systems Adoption

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A growing body of research is starting to qualitatively and quantitatively reveal the drivers, benefits, and challenges of implementing an ISO 50001 energy management system (EnMS). To date, a few surveys of ISO 50001-compliant firms, mostly in Europe, have been conducted. An as yet unused data source springs from the annual Energy Management Leadership Awards, held by the Clean Energy Ministerial. Launched in 2016, this international awards program requires ISO 50001 certified organizations to develop a case study describing their implementation experience, using a uniform template. This report analyzes these case studies from 2016 and 2017 using the method of content analysis, a well-established practice widely used in the social sciences to examine qualitative information.

Content analysis occurred via a close reading of each case study and transcription of relevant phrases from the following categories: motivations and goals; role of management and the organization; benefits achieved; keys to success; and challenges. Phrases were then assigned one of several carefully defined attribute “codes” within each category that capture their meaning. The relative frequency of each code suggests, or even demonstrates, the importance of the corresponding concept. In some instances, the results of this analysis are consistent with the previous survey-based work, and in some cases the analysis reveal new insights.

Some of these attributes were frequently mentioned across several categories. Management support (CEO) is seen to be critical in terms of challenges, keys to success, and role of management and the organization, while an energy-aware culture (CUL) is simultaneously a major benefit, challenge, and key to success. Cost savings ($) and environmental sustainability (SUST) concerns were each both a motivation and a benefit, with existing values and goals (EX) proving both a motivation and a key role in management and the organization. Amassing accurate energy data (INFO) was both a challenge and a key to success, while prevailing over silos (SILO) was both a key to success and a critical management and organizational practice. Going forward, policymakers and others looking to promote ISO 50001 uptake can use these results to highlight benefits and incentives that will resonate well when communicating with industrial facilities.

Applying the methodology of content analysis to Energy Management Leadership Awards case studies yields new insights into different perspectives on successfully operating an ISO 50001 EnMS. For example, cost savings are commonly believed to be the primary motivator for firms to invest in energy efficiency. Yet this analysis shows that other important drivers, such as existing energy goals and values, environmental sustainability concerns, and government incentives or regulations, are mentioned in more or nearly as many case studies. In another example, this paper reveals over several categories that management support is necessary for successful implementation, and highlights the importance and advantages of energy-aware company culture. Widening the lens, application of this content analysis method to a new area—in this case energy management system implementation—holds broader promise for the field of energy program design. Researchers can adapt this method to more systematically and consistently analyze other qualitative data to allow for better comparisons and reach new conclusions.

The ECEEE Industrial Summer Study 2018 version of this paper can be found here.

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