Easy 1st steps or “low hanging fruit”

Wednesday, June 10, 2009 by Mats Larsson
In change management jargon companies that go about a large scale change program often look for “low hanging fruit”, this means areas where change effort could have a rapid pay-off. The news of such easy first steps is likely to improve morale and motivation for the project within the organization.
However, while, in some cases, success could be easily achieved in one area this does not mean that the same will be true for the program as a whole. Normally, it is not true. This means that initial success does not say anything about the prospects of success for the rest of the program. Only analysis and thorough planning can ascertain overall success.
Some hours ago I came up with an idea within energy transformation that seems like an opportunity for an easy first step. When I interviewed the environmental manager last year for a large Swedish food retail chain, she said that labelling all the products with their carbon dioxide footprints is very far away. This chain had only just started calculating the CO2 emissions from production to point of sales for 100 articles. These calculations have proved to be very complex and sometimes similar products, such as vegetables show very different results, depending on whether they have been transported to Sweden by truck from Spain or by boat from South America. The products from South America transported by boat show a much smaller CO2 footprint than similar products taken from Spain.
OK, we need to accept this. It is complicated. In some cases, however, when it comes to some products that sell in large volumes, it is less complicated. We could look upon these cases as “low hanging fruit” and it would be possible to start with them.
In the case of some goods sold in large quantities, such as bottled water, soda, beer, bread, flour, household paper etc transportation distances differ greatly and virtually all products are transported by truck. It would be very easy and inexpensive for stores to post the transportation distances from the breweries on a large board in the beverages department. Similar information could be posted in the bread department and everywhere where this information would be easy to access and for products for which the information is relatively easy for customers to interpret.
If there is a problem labelling peppers from Spain and South America, it would still be possible to identify fruit and vegetables that are locally or regionally grown. this could be done by using a separate area for these products or by posting a symbol beside the price of these products.
Maybe the largest retail chains will not be the ones that start this type of movement, but a smaller chain may find it interesting to attract enérgy conscious customers and then the large chains may have to follow.
In Sweden, the labelling of environmentally friendly detergents and other products started in the 1980’s by a store manager and owner who marked the environmentally friendly alternatives on the shelves for the benefit of consumers. Soon other stores and chains followed suit as it became obvious that this was a service that was valued by customers. Now, a similar action could be taken by store managers who would like to help consumers to identify energy efficient products.
However, as mentioned above, the opportunity to identify “low hanging fruit” does not mean that we do not need change management, analysis, a strategy and a plan in order to continue to reduce the energy consumption that is related to our patterns of consumption. It is not at all clear cut whether we should reduce our consumption of kiwi fruit from afar, or if we would be better off if we planned our shopping trips so that we could use less fuel going to the supermarket or mall.
We need to identify the energy savings that are less costly to make and that render the smallest reduction in well being, or that possibly even increases our well being.
The alternative, as mentioned before, will be to pass the task of saving energy on to others, which may seem like a good idea at this point, but such a decision will catch up with us sooner than we can imagine.

In change management jargon companies that go about a large scale change program often look for “low hanging fruit”, this means areas where change effort could have a rapid pay-off. The news of such easy first steps is likely to improve morale and motivation for the project within the organization.

However, while, in some cases, success could be easily achieved in one area this does not mean that the same will be true for the program as a whole. Normally, it is not true. This means that initial success does not say anything about the prospects of success for the rest of the program. Only analysis and thorough planning can ascertain overall success.

Some hours ago I came up with an idea within energy transformation that seems like an opportunity for an easy first step. When I interviewed the environmental manager last year for a large Swedish food retail chain, she said that labelling all the products with their carbon dioxide footprints is very far away. This chain had only just started calculating the CO2 emissions from production to point of sales for 100 articles. These calculations have proved to be very complex and sometimes similar products, such as vegetables show very different results, depending on whether they have been transported to Sweden by truck from Spain or by boat from South America. The products from South America transported by boat show a much smaller CO2 footprint than similar products taken from Spain.

OK, we need to accept this. It is complicated. In some cases, however, when it comes to some products that sell in large volumes, it is less complicated. We could look upon these cases as “low hanging fruit” and it would be possible to start with them.

In the case of some goods sold in large quantities, such as bottled water, soda, beer, bread, flour, household paper etc transportation distances differ greatly and virtually all products are transported by truck. It would be very easy and inexpensive for stores to post the transportation distances from the breweries on a large board in the beverages department. Similar information could be posted in the bread department and everywhere where this information would be easy to access and for products for which the information is relatively easy for customers to interpret.

If there is a problem labelling peppers from Spain and South America, it would still be possible to identify fruit and vegetables that are locally or regionally grown. this could be done by using a separate area for these products or by posting a symbol beside the price of these products.

Maybe the largest retail chains will not be the ones that start this type of movement, but a smaller chain may find it interesting to attract enérgy conscious customers and then the large chains may have to follow.

In Sweden, the labelling of environmentally friendly detergents and other products started in the 1980’s by a store manager and owner who marked the environmentally friendly alternatives on the shelves for the benefit of consumers. Soon other stores and chains followed suit as it became obvious that this was a service that was valued by customers. Now, a similar action could be taken by store managers who would like to help consumers to identify energy efficient products.

However, as mentioned above, the opportunity to identify “low hanging fruit” does not mean that we do not need change management, analysis, a strategy and a plan in order to continue to reduce the energy consumption that is related to our patterns of consumption. It is not at all clear cut whether we should reduce our consumption of kiwi fruit from afar, or if we would be better off if we planned our shopping trips so that we could use less fuel going to the supermarket or mall.

We need to identify the energy savings that are less costly to make and that render the smallest reduction in well being, or that possibly even increases our well being.

The alternative, as mentioned before, will be to pass the task of saving energy on to others, which may seem like a good idea at this point, but such a decision will catch up with us sooner than we can imagine.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009 by Mats Larsson