This article was originally published by Stephen Dixon on LinkedIn

The start of a new year typically means resolutions for the months ahead. While business leaders are always looking for new and better ways to run their organizations, the new year brings an opportunity for renewed energy and emphasis.

This year, why not consider an often-overlooked opportunity that could drive a great deal of value for your business: energy management. Energy efficiency efforts often deliver double digit returns and may represent some of the best investments in business efficiency available.

Energy management must be treated like any other management issue that’s made a priority at the top of the chain. Why? Because like any goal worth pursuing, it will ultimately yield benefits. In this case, the benefits are not only financial, but also cultural and environmental.

On the financial side, better energy management will help eliminate waste and trim your energy costs. What’s more, it will also mean your business is more environmentally responsible—an increasing focus for a range of stakeholders, including investors. If you’re looking for added incentive, energy management has also been linked to increased employee engagement and satisfaction.

Here are a few things to consider as you get started.

Understand the opportunity

Make no mistake: better energy management will translate to a more profitable and efficient business— from financial savings to improved customer and employee experience.

Take, for example, the typical office space within which many of us work. Improvements to the heating ventilation and air- conditioning system can make for a more comfortable and healthier setting, ultimately cutting absenteeism and creating a more productive place to work.

Or, how about retail? I recently stepped into two different stores in a search for a specific product. One had new, retrofitted lighting—I wanted to stay and shop. The other was dark and dated, and even though it had the item I wanted, I didn’t want to stay and browse.  Now scale that to the company’s network of national stores and you can see the potential opportunity. Better looking merchandise and a brighter atmosphere can boost time spent in stores—and sales.

Map your spending 

Business leaders are not powerless when it comes to energy expenses.

Start by instructing your finance team to create a new “energy” category on your business’ income statement, broken out from the usual “utilities” category. A line item could be created for each energy type including lighting, refrigeration or HVAC, and don’t forget water—an increasingly costly utility expense.

It’s also critical to understand how your business is consuming its energy. This can be done through third-party audits or other tools. In Ontario, for example, Save on Energy offers an audit funding program, which can help any business better understand how they’re using their energy.

Once you have a clear picture of what you’re spending and where you’re spending it, it’s time to bring operations and management together to take real action on reducing it. Trust me, it will pay off and you’ll have the opportunity to leave the business in a better place than you found it.

Create a cultural shift

We all know sustainability is a growing focus for many. By making energy management a formal priority, you can serve as inspiration and motivation for your entire organization.

Since all journeys begin with a “first step,” start yours by naming a strategic champion in your business. Make this person responsible for assembling a team and give them the authority and resources to create and implement an energy policy that’s aimed at finding opportunities for being energy efficient in your operations.

Finally, let your new energy team create projects that empower your workforce to act! It has been my experience that business staff are often eager to help with energy initiatives so be creative with rewards and recognition, not unlike setting goals for sales or business growth. Support can be informal through regular leadership communications but also formal mechanisms like adding a line to everyone’s job description, so they know you are serious about energy efficiency.

For employees to act, they simply need the direction and the permission to do so—and it all starts from the top.