The Goodwill Energy Challenge: Engaging Participation in a Member-Based Organization

by | Mar 13, 2014

Goodwill Industries International (GII) is dedicated to saving energy by promoting energy-efficient practices and products across its voluntary member organizations (member organizations are independent community-based organizations that meet the criteria and standards for membership established by GII). Founded in 1902 to improve the lives of others, the GII organization is committed to honoring its heritage by being socially, financially, and environmentally responsible. Demonstrating its commitment to energy efficiency, GII uses EPA’s measurement and tracking tool, Portfolio Manager, to track energy performance and savings in its multiple facilities. This partnership also allows GII to use other ENERGY STAR tools and resources, which provide a framework for engaging numerous member organizations in improving energy efficiency.

The Goodwill Energy Conservation Challenge

In 2012, GII launched the Goodwill Energy Conservation Challenge as part of its Goodwill Sustainability Program, formerly called the Going Green Initiative. The Challenge involved friendly competition among Goodwill facilities and member organizations, and invited participants to take action in reducing energy use. GII’s overall goal was to increase the number of facilities benchmarking their energy use. The goal of the competition was to see which member organization could improve its ENERGY STAR energy performance score (1-100 scale) the most.  Participants first tracked their energy consumption using Portfolio Manager in order to establish a baseline. Before launching the Challenge, Goodwill Sustainability Program team members engaged the Sustainability Program Steering Committee, comprised of CEOs from member Goodwill organizations, to ensure the competition had buy-in from leadership and member organizations. This type of buy in is a key ingredient in the success of any energy efficiency competition.  To show this support, a Steering Committee member and fellow CEO announced the launch of the Challenge at the annual conference for CEOs.

Through the support of an external sustainability consulting firm, Eco-Coach Inc, the Goodwill Energy Conservation Challenge included three main phases and activities for the member facilities. First, participating facilities made a pledge to engage in the Challenge; next, each store entered a year of energy data into Portfolio Manager and shared that data with GII; and third, facilities began taking steps to decrease energy use, including tracking progress and entering data into Portfolio Manager on a quarterly basis. Finally, at the end of the competition, members were recognized for their participation and the winners were awarded prizes for their energy accomplishments.

The Challenge ran from February 2012 through June 2013, and nearly 40 member organizations, constituting more than 500 locations, participated.  Each entered two years of energy consumption data and was able to measure improvements over its baseline. Throughout the competition, GII sent  participants energy-saving tips and quarterly progress reports. GII also provided access to other helpful tools, such as the Building Upgrade Manual, to help participating Goodwill facilities know where to focus their efforts to improve energy efficiency. Participants that achieved the greatest improvement in their buildings — 1 – 100 ENERGY STAR score compared to the baseline year — were recognized for their achievements.


Six Goodwill organizations in two different categories —“Freshman” for those using Portfolio Manager for the first time, and “Sophomore” for those that had previously used Portfolio Manager—were recognized and received cash prizes from money donated by corporate sponsors. Nine other Goodwill organizations that showed an increased ENERGY STAR score over the course of the Challenge were also acknowledged during the award ceremony.

Through participation in the Energy Conservation Challenge, Goodwill met its initial objective to increase the number of its facilities and member organizations that are benchmarking energy use in Portfolio Manager. Goodwill members also earned ENERGY STAR certification for 18 buildings. In recognition of Goodwill’s energy management efforts, GII CEO Jim Gibbons was invited to be the keynote speaker at the 2012 ENERGY STAR Buildings Partner Meeting in Washington, D.C.

Lessons Learned and Next Steps

After the competition, GII solicited feedback from participants to improve the Challenge for the next year. GII learned that providing best practices, case studies, consistent communication, and status updates throughout the Challenge, as well as responding promptly to participant questions and needs, are important to maintain momentum and excitement.

Currently, nearly 50 Goodwill organizations have signed up for the 2013 Challenge, which began in 2013 and will wrap up in June 2014. In this competition, GII plans to provide support to Challenge participants in the form of periodic updates on their standings; case studies showcasing member savings achieved during the previous Competition; and webinars on using ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager and on energy efficiency best practices internally and externally.

ENERGY STAR was introduced by EPA in 1992 as a voluntary, market-based partnership to reduce greenhouse gas emissions through energy efficiency. Today, the ENERGY STAR can be found on more than 60 different kinds of products as well as new homes and commercial and industrial buildings that meet strict energy-efficiency specifications set by the EPA. It is a brand that is recognized by more than 85 percent of Americans.

Over the past 20 years, American families and businesses have saved nearly $230 billion on utility bills and prevented more than 1.7 billion metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions with help from ENERGY STAR. In that time, more than 300,000 buildings—representing more than 30 billion square feet, or more than 40 percent of the total commercial buildings market—have benchmarked their energy performance using EPA’s ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager.  For more information on ENERGY STAR for commercial buildings, visit

ENERGY STAR Competition Resources

There are numerous no-cost ENERGY STAR resources available to help building owners and operators communicate the value of energy efficiency. For example, EPA developed the ENERGY STAR Energy Efficiency Competition Guide to help organizations plan and execute successful energy efficiency competitions. This step-by-step workbook walks an organization through the details and decisions needed to design an effective energy competition. As Goodwill has demonstrated, a competition can engage facility managers, inspire participants, and challenge everyone to improve building energy efficiency.

Other communications materials offered by EPA include co-brandable posters, energy tips, and campaign materials, to engage an organization’s stakeholders, employees, and customers. EPA also offers technical resources, such as a Return on Investment calculator, management tools, training sessions, networking meetings, marketing materials, and off-the-shelf employee outreach kits to make energy efficiency that much easier.  EPA also provides retail-specific ENERGY STAR resources in its tools and resources library.

Stephanie Plummer is National Program Manager, Commercial Properties — EPA ENERGY STAR program. Anca Novacovici is president of Eco-Coach.

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