Energy sustainability. For many business leaders, it’s still a relatively new consideration. In fact, until recently, sustainability was mostly a dream of advocates and early adopters. Something that only made sense if it could be achieved in addition to other more pressing priorities.

But not any longer. Sustainability is a smart business strategy whose time has come. It’s a means to a competitive edge, through better operational performance, cost savings and customer admiration. But that kind of success doesn’t come from forward-thinking energy policies alone. Businesses need managers to put those policies into action.

After conducting research on the relationship between executive policymakers and managers, Eric Mower + Associates discovered a concerning disconnect: while managers generally understand the value of energy sustainability, they have trouble understanding how a sustainability directive fits into their business performance goals. Our study found that managers are much more likely than executives to report that energy-efficiency and sustainability initiatives are not a part of their business strategy, and cite the biggest barrier as not knowing where to start.

The good news: given proper guidance and the right approach, executive leadership can give managers the tools to help prioritize, implement and achieve greater energy sustainability.

Here are three ways decision-makers can clearly define how managers can implement a more effective energy-efficiency action plan:

1.    Explain how the goal fits within the business’s competing priorities.

Make it clear that true energy sustainability is not blind environmentalism. It is the effort to increase the sustainable use of energy in a way that will drive your profits and productivity. And it’s important to realize that, yes, environmental solutions will require a solid economic footing.

2.    Base decisions on energy intensity.

By concentrating on the amount of energy that goes into a unit or process, facility managers can continually find ways to use less energy to accomplish tasks. This essentially allows them to focus on other business goals while still increasing the sustainability of their operations.

3.    Emphasize the ROI.

Remember, because it’s worth repeating: the business case for energy sustainability is not about the environment alone. It is about the competitive edgebusinesses achieve. Increased efficiency leads to a better return on investment. And that’s a meaningful advantage you can easily sell to your customers.