Meet the engineer in charge of Starbucks' energy bill

Jaz Rabadia sits on a wall in a park.

12 December 2015


Jaz Rabadia is the Senior Manager of Energy & Initiatives at coffee chain Starbucks. She studied Mechanical Engineering at university, but it was her experience working on the checkouts in a supermarket that kickstarted her career in energy.

What made you want to study engineering at university?

Like most students, I had no idea of what I wanted to do when I ‘grew up’. I chose engineering mainly because I knew it wasn’t the typical subject for a girl to be studying, but it turned heads and I quite liked being different. From a young age, I was inquisitive and creative; engineering provided me with the opportunity to continue this.I researched engineering and discovered how important it is in bettering the lives of people all around the world. I knew then that by studying engineering, I could also help to make a difference. It seemed to be the perfect fit as I knew a degree in engineering would impress future employers and that there was a real shortage of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics) skills in the UK, plus I wanted to keep my career options open.

How did you get into energy management?

Whilst studying for my Mechanical Engineering degree at City University London, I worked part-time as a checkout assistant in my local Sainsbury’s store. In the second year of my degree, I had to select two additional modules. I chose Energy Management and Renewable Energy and it was then that I saw how engineering could be applied to make a difference for the world’s future energy demands. When it was time to start writing my dissertation, rather than take on the project title I was given, I decided to create my own project, ‘The energy utilisation and management at Sainsbury’s’. It seemed perfect, applying my engineering principles to a real-life challenge; energy management in the workplace – and above all I could do my dissertation during paid working hours!

Once complete, I presented my findings to Sainsbury’s Head of Energy who saw just how passionate I was; he even included a summary of my project in Sainsbury’s Corporate Responsibility Report. I maintained contact with him and soon after graduating, I received a call from him – offering me a job! It really was that simple and I’ve never looked back since. I never imagined that my part-time job as a Sainsbury’s checkout assistant would result in a role as Group Energy Manager for the company and then go on to land me a role working for the biggest global coffee company, Starbucks.

What does your job as an energy manager involve?

As Senior Manager of Energy & Initiatives at Starbucks, I'm responsible for reducing the electricity used to power the stores, the gas used to heat the stores and the water used for washing and cleaning across our Europe, Middle East and African region. My role involves procuring energy from the wholesale markets, negotiating competitive contracts with suppliers, implementing energy efficiency engineering projects across the stores, influencing the sustainable design of new stores, setting accurate budgets, developing environmental colleague engagement tools and making sure the business complies with all environmental legislation. I love that my role takes me all over Europe and allows me to meet new people. There is a great sense of partnership working at Starbucks and I really enjoy discussing energy-saving opportunities throughout the organisation with baristas, store managers and our leadership team too.

Why is it so important for large companies like Starbucks to employ people to manage their energy usage?

Energy specialists are employed to help companies achieve their environmental and sustainability ambitions. Alongside this, energy can form a large proportion of the company’s costs and there are often lots of opportunities to build in efficiency through the use of technology, procurement strategies and behaviour change. These roles are becoming more and more common as companies are being driven by the corporate responsibility agendas, changes in energy legislation as well as customer expectations. In a global business like Starbucks which has a growing presence in over 65 markets across the world, it is crucial for us to listen to the experiences and knowledge our partners in stores to learn and apply key energy lessons.

Stay tuned for the second part of Jaz Rabadia's interview, coming on Monday.

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