Institutional Change

Organizations hold significant influence over trends in energy efficiency and the adoption of clean energy technologies. Beyond technical interventions, improvements in energy performance throughout organizations are driven by institutional and behavioral changes that augment existing policies and procedures to support sustainability goals. Institutional change towards energy performance improvement involves the collaboration and cohesion of many stakeholders with a diverse range of priorities. Understanding these nuances have led to a growing area of research that seeks to identify the pathways by which organizations can leverage their influence to affect change internally and set the stage for future progress.

The Sustainable Operations (SO) Group at Berkeley Lab helps organizations achieve their energy savings and greenhouse gas emission reduction goals by considering a combination of factors in behavior, policy, and technology. We pioneered a framework for institutional change that shapes many of our programs and projects. With this framework, organizations establish processes of continual improvement that can lead to sustained energy and cost savings.

Five-Step Framework for Institutional Change

The SO Group created a five-step framework (hereafter “the framework”) for institutional change that helps organizations formalize a process for continual improvement. We help integrate this conceptual framework in large organizations, private companies, and beyond.

Colored cycle of five step framework for institutional change

color coded five step framework description of five steps

This worksheet shows how to apply this framework to your organization. 

Through the use of this framework, Berkeley Lab's SO Group works with state and federal agencies as well as private corporations and NGOs to help establish a standard for organizational solutions for efficient and effective energy use. This can be completed through the implementation of energy management systems and the procurement of green technologies.

Organizational Energy Management

The SO Group conducts research at the nexus of behavioral science and energy management to find pathways to better energy performance and establish a process for institutional change. We believe that organizations, whether businesses, non-profits or government entities, present complex ecosystems for decision making in which the dynamics of individual behavior are compounded by multiple, often competing roles and objectives. Through the implementation of energy management systems (EnMS) and continual improvement cycles, we help organizations achieve effective institutional change.

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Empower Procurement Program 

The SO Group is partnered with Empower Procurement, a CEC-funded procurement assistance program that works to identify and address the challenges and opportunities that buyers and sellers face with clean energy technology procurement.


Creating Effective Change: A Five-Step Framework for Incorporating Sustainability into Organizations - Payne & Wolfe, 2017 Energy Exchange Workshop.

This presentation outlines a five-step framework for incorporating sustainability into organizations. This includes two case studies, a group activity, as well as additional resources.

Sustaining Sustainability: A Framework for Organizational Change - Payne & Diamond, 2015.

This comprehensive web training covers strategies for individuals and organizations to achieve lasting, sustainable changes in energy performance.

Organizational Change Supporting Sustainability - Payne, 2015.

This presentation provides context for the “Roles, Rules, and Tools” framework and lays out the eight social science principles for effectiveness when promoting organizational change.

Evidence-Based Background Material Underlying Guidance for Federal Agencies in Implementing Strategic Sustainability Performance Plans Implementing Sustainability: The Institutional-Behavioral Dimension - Malone, E., Sanquist, T., Wolfe, A., Diamond, R.,

This report introduces the conceptual framework behind energy-saving strategies in federal agencies and beyond. This guide includes the foundation for the “Roles, Rules, and Tools” framework and the eight social science principles for institutional change.

Deputy Division Direction and Sustainable Operations Group Lead
Program Lead
Senior Research Associate
Research Associate
Research Associate
Research Associate
Research Associate