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Oct 30 2009

Schneider Electric builds climate change community

I have just been looking at the website of Schneider Electric, a Danish French manufacturer of electrical equipment, including building management systems and whole host of other products. It wasn’t the main corporate website, but a community website, ActiveBE.com.

I have looked at a couple of businesses in the architectural, engineering and construction (AEC) industry that have embraced social media to develop conversations with their employees, customers, end-users, potential recruits and other stake-holders – architect HOK and software vendor Asite, for example. However, their focus has been on their community, not on wider issues.

ActiveBE.com is a company-endorsed campaign site focused on climate change in the run-up to the UN Climate Change Conference (COP15) in Copenhagen this December. Its mission is to highlight the contribution of the built environment to global warming:

Energy is the number one cost of operating a building, and buildings are the number one consumers of energy on the planet. We feel these two facts hold the key to solving the climate change problem.

Buildings contribute more to global warming than all the cars, planes and factories in the world combined. The good news is that we have the technology to reduce the energy use of most buildings by 30%. The better news is that we can make it highly profitable for building owners to do this.

The website invites people to make green pledge videos (for ever pledge uploaded, Schneider will donate $20 to a scholarship fund for a deserving student of architecture or engineering), aiming to reach 1000 videos by 31 December 2009 – 40 were uploaded in the first week.

The site is using social media; it has a blog and forums, and there is an ActiveBE Facebook Page (153 fans to date), a My Green Message Group (also on FB, with 73 members to date), a YouTube Channel (147 views), a LinkIn Group (28 members) and you can follow ActiveBE on Twitter (226 followers to date). (I think some of the ActiveBE messages are supposed to be displayed on the site’s Buzz page but it didn’t load up when I tried it – [update (02 November 2009): Stefan from ActiveBE tells me “There was a glitch on the Buzz page but it is working now. We’re using the Twitter API and sometimes they have problems with their feed”].

The aim is directly relevant to the AEC industry. As the ActiveBE blog says:

We need to open up conversations and make some noise leading up to COP15. The more people we can make understand that we have to change the way we run our buildings, the more likely it is that change will happen in time to save our planet. Before you know it, building architects and engineers will only build energy efficient structures.

Of course, Schneider’s interest in ActiveBE is not purely altruistic – some might even dismiss it as a publicity gimmick. Of course, Schneider will be looking for architects and engineers to specify its products in new, more energy-efficient buildings, but it is also aiming to inform the climate change debate (the site has facts about climate change, COP15 – its assessment of the conference venue is a nice touch – and potential solutions) and to build a conversation with other industry professionals. Can’t fault them for trying.

(NB: thanks to Jim McHale of Memoori for the link.)

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