An energy efficiency expert says bosses who do not support sustainability risk losing customers, staff and money.
Chief executives who were not on board with the "Green Wave" risked being bypassed, said Bob Dixon, Siemens' global head of efficiency and sustainability.
"When we face a client like that we approach the lower level officers."
Energy efficiency helped retain staff, attract customers and helped businesses stand out from the competition.
"And guess what, it also lowers cost. All CEOs like to grow their business and reduce their costs - that's what they teach in business school."
Dixon, with 35 years of experience in building systems, facility operations, energy conservation and management, spoke at the Energy Management Association conference in Christchurch last week.
Buildings use about 40 per cent of world energy and are responsible for 21 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions.
"The Green Wave is moving through the world - it's no longer a debate about sustainability and do we need it but about how to implement it."
In the United States, green buildings were up to 5 per cent more expensive to build but attracted on average 6 per cent higher rents and a 16 per cent higher selling price. Energy savings of between 20 per cent and 40 per cent were achievable in every building and business.
According to International Energy Agency figures, a $1 investment in energy efficiency was equal to a $2 investment in power generation and supply.
Dixon said technology to help make buildings more energy self-sufficient was getting cheaper.
Small and light wind turbines, solar heating and solar power, geothermal energy, heat pumps and biomass power plants were featuring in new building design.
Dixon said other alternatives did not have to be costly. "The easiest no-cost thing that can be done is behaviour management," he said.
"The one thing that we always include is behaviour modification - you can get employees enthused."
The Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority has said up to $2 billion could be saved through simple changes in buildings.