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Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI)

The Importance of DEI in Energy Efficiency

March 14, 2024

In the ongoing pursuit of sustainability and environmental stewardship, the energy efficiency industry occupies a pivotal role. As we strive to reduce carbon emissions, mitigate climate change, and transition to cleaner energy sources, it is essential to recognize the critical importance of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) within this sector. Moreover, the leadership demonstrated in DEI initiatives is proving to be a catalyst for positive change, driving innovation, and social impact.

At its core, the energy efficiency industry is tasked with optimizing energy use while reducing energy waste, and enhancing sustainability across various sectors such as commercial and industrial facilities. However, to truly fulfill its potential and address the complex challenges of our time, embracing diversity has become vital. Elie Touma, Director of Strategic Growth, has been a key voice in championing DEI initiatives across the many layers of the energy efficiency field. He shared his thoughts on how this type of effort impacts the way we create solutions within sustainability.

ES: How do you believe diversity, equity, and inclusion contribute to the success and effectiveness of sustainability and energy efficiency initiatives? 

ET: It’s important to first understand what sustainability means. The United Nations looks at it through the lens of sustainable development and describes it in this way: “sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” Therefore, DEI is not a factor or a contribution: it’s part of the definition by the UN. It’s the core of it. To tackle climate change and achieve sustainability through energy efficiency, we need to collaborate. We need to involve everyone in the solution.

ES: How do you collaborate with other leaders in the industry to promote DEI goals?

ET: This is my favorite thing to consider. We try hard to work with partners in other small businesses. When thinking about collaboration and how to go forward, you must be open to recognizing the value in each person around you.

There is a story that I like to refer to as an example of this idea. Einstein had to give a lecture about relativity to a room full of reporters and large audience. On the day of his presentation, he fell ill and felt that he would not be able to properly give the lecture effectively. His chauffeur, having accompanied Einstein to countless events, was well acquainted with the topic and the style of lecture Einstein was to give. It was the chauffeur that suggested they switch roles for this event, trading clothing and masquerading as the other. Einstein takes a seat in the audience while his chauffeur seamlessly gives the lecture on relativity. At the conclusion of the event, one reporter asked a complex question to the chauffeur on stage still believing him to be Einstein. The chauffeur replies that the reporter’s question was so basic that his “chauffeur” is able to answer it for him. With that, Einstein stood up in the crowd and proceeded to respond to the reporter’s question.

I can’t validate the integrity of the story but I like the moral of it because it so clearly demonstrates that anyone can learn, be trained, have valuable knowledge and wisdom regardless of their walk of life. Wisdom only resides in what we know as well as in our ability to innovate and adapt with and involve people around us. It is critical to stay open to what others have to say and share. In the field of sustainability, we need diverse ways of thinking from different areas of expertise. It’s the only way we can innovate.

ES: What role do you believe education and training play in fostering a culture of diversity, equity, and inclusion within organizations and projects in our industry?

ET: It’s always important, but it’s also much bigger than that. It’s about walking the talk. Education and training are key elements and certainly have their benefit in broadening the minds and attitudes within our field. For the sake of effectiveness in those efforts, it’s a matter of promoting values and behaviors around openness, curiosity, respect, and awareness. It becomes less about the type of educational tools and all about the ongoing practice of empathy. We want to foster a sense of belonging and empowerment for all members of an organization regardless of identity, role, or contribution. It’s way more than the mechanics of education and training; it’s choosing bravery over perfection.

By fostering a diverse workforce and leadership, companies can tap into a wealth of groundbreaking ideas, approaches, and solutions. Different perspectives lead to more robust problem-solving, enabling organizations to devise tailored strategies that address the unique needs of various communities. In embracing DEI principles and practices, companies can drive innovation, ultimately advancing the industry’s sustainability goals and contributing to a more just and resilient world. As we continue to navigate the challenges of the 21st century, let us recognize the transformative power of DEI leadership in shaping the future of energy efficiency and environmental sustainability.

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Categories: Ask An Energy Pro, Blog