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In 2008, The Progressive Corp. began looking at ways it could make the 3,500 vehicles in its company fleet more environmentally friendly.

You’ve probably seen the white vehicles with blue lettering around, or maybe you’ve even had to deal with one for an accident you were involved in. Either way, about 3,000 of those 3,500 vehicles are used by the company’s claims department and are constantly out and about. And in the past, many of those vehicles were six-cylinder Ford Explorers — large vehicles that use a lot of gas.

“When it comes to our fleet, this was an opportunity for us to look at what do we really need as a business as far as a vehicle and look at our costs and then look at emissions,” says Wanda Shippy, Progressive’s social responsibility manager.

Progressive's fleet operations team started looking at more fuel-efficient alternatives, and they discovered the four-cylinder Ford Escape, which is a less-expensive vehicle and is more environmentally friendly, so they decided to replace the Explorers with Escapes.

“The way that it happens is when those leases come up for renewal or replacement, we then make the transition from the six-cylinder to the four-cylinder,” Shippy says. “It’s a gradual process.”

By the end of 2008, Progressive had transitioned 9 percent of its vehicles. By 2009, it was at 28 percent, and by the end of 2010, it was around 41 percent.

The organization has embraced the efforts, but even though people wanted to make the change, it didn’t come without its share of challenges — the largest being how to identify realistic goals and how to move forward on those.

“It starts with understanding your business and knowing, based on the type of business that you are, where can you be socially responsible?” Shippy says.

Kathy Schulz is Progressive’s manager of travel and fleet operations, and she says it’s important to really look at your business closely before you make any major decisions regarding your fleet and sustainability initiatives.

“It’s important to understand your business, and every business is different, and they use their vehicles differently,” Schulz says.

She says they look at how much their vehicles are used and how exactly employees use them.

“There are opportunities, so not only could you reduce your carbon emissions by buying more environmentally friendly vehicles, but also, if you’re not utilizing to full capacity, reduce the number,” Schulz says. “That’s the greatest reduction in emissions by having less vehicles out there.”

To do that, Schulz says she looks at the costs and usage of all its vehicles, and she also looks at rental vehicle usage combined with fleet usage. While these numbers are important, they also have to keep the customers in mind.

“It’s a balancing act,” Shippy says. “You have to look at how many vehicles do you need in order to provide the service you promised when people purchased your (product), and then how can you do that by using them efficiently and having the usage high on the vehicles you have. [Look at] how many vehicles do you need to do that, and that can fluctuate as the business changes.”

It also comes down to weighing the initiatives against some of the organization’s core values, as well.

“We always want to focus on one of our main core values, which is the Golden Rule — to treat others as you would like to be treated,” Shippy says. “Our CEO constantly says just do the right thing. We make a decision that we think is right for the business and right for those that we serve every day.”

How to reach: The Progressive Corp., (440) 461-5000 or www.progressive.com

Find a plan that fits you

By Mark Scott

You can make a difference in the environment even if your business does not have a fleet of thousands of vehicles taking the road each day. That’s the message from Jason Mathers, project manager for the Environmental Defense Fund. The nonprofit organization helps businesses find solutions to environmental challenges.

“Anything an employee is doing for the company on behalf of the company, the emissions associated with that are part of the environmental footprint,” Mathers says. “Just because you’re not able to easily track something doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.”

Figure out what impact your company does have in terms of the number of vehicles you put on the road and how much they are used. Encourage your employees to be better drivers by not speeding, idling or hauling unnecessary weight in their vehicles.

“You’re talking about vehicle efficiency and routing, driver behavior and all these things that have a very significant return on investment,” Mathers says.

If you do have fleets, look at the vehicles you have and whether a more fuel-efficient model could do the same job.

“If you can take a modest step over your entire fleet, that can add up to a significant impact,” Mathers says.

How to reach: Environmental Defense Fund, (617) 406-1806 or www.edf.org/greenfleet

Published in Cleveland

When Mark Leuenberger was considering integrating GPS technology into part of Cox Enterprises Inc.’s 13,000-vehicle fleet a few years ago, he was looking at it from a customer service improvement standpoint. But in doing so, he discovered a way for the fleet to be more environmentally friendly, as well.

“As part of collecting that data, we monitored idle time, and that’s really where it came up, and we had a real opportunity to reduce our carbon output and create a fairly large green initiative with that,” says Leuenberger, assistant vice president of supply chain services and fleet management.

He saw that many of the drivers were idle more than they were driving, so they implemented GPS technology into 5,000 vehicles that sends alerts when the vehicle has idled too long and shuts it down. This encourages employees to finish paperwork up in the home instead of in the vehicle. They also implemented a new routing system that leads the trucks on tighter routes, which reduces the mileage and the amount of time the vehicles are on the road.

“Telling your techs where to go next and how to get there really has an impact on our green initiatives,” he says.

As a result of these initiatives, the drivers were able to reduce idle periods by as much as 84 percent, depending on the market. The new routing system reduced mileage by about 15 percent. On top of these reductions, Cox was able to reduce its fuel consumption about 8 percent, and it has reduced the overall fleet size by about 400 vehicles over the past few years, because not as many were needed anymore as a result of the efficiencies created.

One of the biggest things he says you have to keep in mind when rolling out new green initiatives is communication.

“Start communicating long before you implement the initiative,” Leuenberger says. “Prepare people for its coming and the why component of that communication is extremely important. You definitely want to lay out that this is going to be advantageous to you.”

For Cox employees, the changes gave them the ability to perform more work, which meant more money in their pockets. Additionally, it was simply the right thing to do.

While these are great reasons to make the changes, he says it also comes down to costs.

“It has a positive impact on vehicle repair costs and vehicle wear and tear,” Leuenberger says. “All that behavioral changing, all that doesn’t just save us the amount of fuel we burn. It has impacts in all these different areas, so you really want to communicate all the different areas of the job or the company where it has a positive impact.”

He says if you want to make green changes, you have to look at what the cost and return is.

“The biggest challenge is financial,” Leuenberger says. “You’re obviously not going to put in big components that have a negative impact.”

Another big key to implementing a greener fleet also comes down to leading by example. Cox has one of the largest executive fleets in the country with more than 600 vehicles and quite a few more on a cash allowance for driving their own vehicle. All of the cars in the company fleet must meet a minimum of 27 miles per gallon.

He says, “The company cars that are driven by everybody from our chairman all the way down to direct levels are fuel-efficient vehicles.”

How to reach: Cox Enterprises Inc., www.coxenterprises.com

Find a plan that fits you

By Mark Scott

You can make a difference in the environment even if your business does not have a fleet of thousands of vehicles taking the road each day. That’s the message from Jason Mathers, project manager for the Environmental Defense Fund. The nonprofit organization helps businesses find solutions to environmental challenges.

“Anything an employee is doing for the company on behalf of the company, the emissions associated with that are part of the environmental footprint,” Mathers says. “Just because you’re not able to easily track something doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.”

Figure out what impact your company does have in terms of the number of vehicles you put on the road and how much they are used. Encourage your employees to be better drivers by not speeding, idling or hauling unnecessary weight in their vehicles.

“You’re talking about vehicle efficiency and routing, driver behavior and all these things that have a very significant return on investment,” Mathers says.

If you do have fleets, look at the vehicles you have and whether a more fuel-efficient model could do the same job.

“If you can take a modest step over your entire fleet, that can add up to a significant impact,” Mathers says.

How to reach: Environmental Defense Fund, (617) 406-1806 or www.edf.org/greenfleet

Published in Atlanta

It’s all about the green at Frito-Lay North America Inc., but in this case, it’s not just money we’re talking. Instead, the snack-food company has taken green to its company fleet and made efforts to make those trucks and its delivery processes more environmentally friendly.

One of the biggest initiatives that they’ve implemented is electric delivery trucks, but they look at many different ideas when deciding what’s best for their fleet.

“[We] figure out what applications really deliver the best results, and we call those out and find the best of the best initiatives and pilot those and implement them into our fleets,” says Mike McConnell, the company’s director of fleet capability.

Pilot programs are critical to figuring out what works for your organization. McConnell suggests first looking at whether an idea meets guidelines from SAE International, a global association of more than 128,000 engineers and related technical experts in the aerospace, automotive and commercial vehicle industries. The organization focuses on lifelong learning and voluntary consensus standards development.

Then look at what works best with the routes your trucks take. So if your trucks do a lot of highway miles at high speeds, aerodynamic products are likely the best options. But on the other end, if they’re in the city mostly and do a lot of starting and stopping, the electric vehicles are good solutions. You may need to employ a combination of efforts depending on the different fleets you have.

“What we’ve learned is there is not one size that fits all to improve the fuel economy and sustainability of a fleet,” McConnell says.

It’s also important that you make you sure you test any initiative you want to implement. McConnell says Frito-Lay pilots its programs before rolling them out.

“The suppliers will all give you data, but their data could be skewed depending who they tested it with and how the truck was used, so we like to do our own in-house testing and we do a lot of that,” he says.

His pilot launch for the electric vehicles included 21 trucks in Canada, Texas, New York and Ohio. When doing a pilot program, it’s important to be rooted in data.

“We know cost of maintenance, cost of fuel, cost per mile — we have a lot of benchmarking and internal scorecards,” he says. “On any project, we’ll look at what those key performance indicators are and say, ‘OK, what are we looking for, what are the thresholds for this being feasible or not,’ and we’ll monitor that.”

Lastly, you have to look at how much payback you’ll get in terms of environmental impact and return on investment compared to how many dollars you invest.

“What we found is in the past, there have been tradeoffs where you have to spend money and not get a big return,” McConnell says. “We really have to be able to find win-win situations where we can make a significant improvement in our environmental footprint while actually getting great payback on the investment associated with the technology.”

For example, they looked at hybrid technology, and while many companies are investing heavily in that arena, it didn’t make sense for Frito-Lay because their drivers are stopped a lot when they’re in selling and delivering to customers.

For Frito-Lay, the biggest initiative that can deliver on both is electric vehicles for routes that are 100 miles or less. While there is an increased ticket price for the vehicles themselves, they can eliminate all the fossil fuel associated with the vehicle, and then the cost difference between electricity and diesel creates a significant pay back on that investment — the company reduced its fuel consumption by 8 percent and grew the business.

McConnell says, “It’s a pretty significant impact if you think about it, especially with the volatility of fuel prices now a days.”

HOW TO REACH: Frito-Lay North America Inc., (800) 352-4477 or www.fritolay.com

Find plan that fits you

You can make a difference in the environment even if your business does not have a fleet of thousands of vehicles taking the road each day. That’s the message from Jason Mathers, project manager for the Environmental Defense Fund. The nonprofit organization helps businesses find solutions to environmental challenges.

“Anything an employee is doing for the company on behalf of the company, the emissions associated with that are part of the environmental footprint,” Mathers says. “Just because you’re not able to easily track something doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.”

Figure out what impact your company does have in terms of the number of vehicles you put on the road and how much they are used. Encourage your employees to be better drivers by not speeding, idling or hauling unnecessary weight in their vehicles.

“You’re talking about vehicle efficiency and routing, driver behavior and all these things that have a very significant return on investment,” Mathers says.

If you do have fleets, look at the vehicles you have and whether a more fuel-efficient model could do the same job.

“If you can take a modest step over your entire fleet, that can add up to a significant impact,” Mathers says.

HOW TO REACH: Environmental Defense Fund, www.edf.org/greenfleet

Published in Dallas
Tuesday, 22 February 2011 14:33

Plan green

Jerome Webber approached the effort to green the vehicle fleet at AT&T Inc. just as he would any other business initiative.

“You have to learn before you leap,” says Webber, vice president of fleet operations in St. Louis for the Dallas-based telecommunications company. “If you have a simple fleet and all it is is several hundred passenger cars, then it’s probably pretty simple. But for most of the large commercial fleets, most of them have a somewhat diverse fleet that spans across the nation. Learn what works best for your fleet.”

AT&T began with a pilot project in 2008, placing about 100 alternative fuel vehicles in different departments and different locations across the company. The effort gained some traction and received a commitment from Chairman, President and CEO Randall Stephenson to spend about $565 million over the next 10 years to green the rest of the company’s fleet of nearly 76,000 vehicles.

“The commitment came from the top,” Webber says. “We did our work making sure our key stakeholders understood the success of the pilot we did in 2008.”

The lesson is that even with a project that attracts attention like an effort to go green, you have to take a methodical approach and look at how to properly and successfully incorporate it into your organization.

“It’s good to have some guiding principles,” Webber says. “Understand what it is that you are trying to do. Whatever it is you’re trying to do, you need to make sure you stay on task with driving your activities toward that particular set of guiding principles.”

Take the time to talk to your people and study the numbers so that you can come up with a plan that everybody feels good about and addresses any concerns that may exist.

“Give them a, ‘What’s in it for me?’” Webber says. “We have to make sure we connect the dots for them. How does this work for them? What impact does it have for them? We spend some time always making sure we educate them as to the effect it has on the overall business of AT&T.”

For AT&T, Webber focused on the savings that could be accrued through better fuel efficiency.

“A lot of the technologies we’re deploying have anywhere from a 30 percent to 50 percent impact on their operating costs,” Webber says. “That’s huge for a lot of these department heads that want to understand what does it do for them other than just say, ‘AT&T is greening their fleet.’”

But he also used the program to encourage employees in the company to alter the way they drive when they’re out on the road.

“We kicked off in 2008 a national anti-idling program that basically says, ‘Don’t idle,’” Webber says. “Employees that hear those kinds of things and see that a company of our size and stature is taking those kinds of steps to ensure that we are doing the right things from the standpoint of sustainability, they buy in to that.”

It’s OK to toot your own horn and talk about the good things that your company is doing when that helps boost your image with the general public.

“Customers want to know that they are dealing with a responsible and conscientious company,” Webber says. “When our vehicles are riding up and down the street, they are moving billboards. There’s a lot of people that get a chance to see that.”

In order to take advantage of these opportunities, you need to start with a plan.

“Just make sure people understand what you’re doing, what it’s about and how you’re going about it,” Webber says. “Your employees are one of your greatest assets to make this happen.”

How to reach: AT&T Inc., www.att.com

Find a plan that fits you

You can make a difference in the environment even if your business does not have a fleet of thousands of vehicles taking the road each day. That’s the message from Jason Mathers, project manager for the Environmental Defense Fund, a nonprofit organization that helps businesses find solutions to environmental challenges.

“Anything an employee is doing for the company on behalf of the company, the emissions associated with that are part of the environmental footprint,” Mathers says. “Just because you’re not able to easily track something doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.”

Figure out what impact your company does have in terms of the number of vehicles you put on the road and how much they are used. Encourage your employees to be better drivers by not speeding, idling or hauling unnecessary weight in their vehicles.

“You’re talking about vehicle efficiency and routing, driver behavior and all of these things that have a very significant return on investment,” Mathers says.

If you do have fleets, look at the vehicles you have and whether a more fuel-efficient model could do the same job.

“If you can take a modest step over your entire fleet, that can add up to a significant impact,” Mathers says.

Published in St. Louis
Wednesday, 16 February 2011 16:09

Creating a mindset

Weatherchem Corp. considered itself a sustainable manufacturing company long before Jennifer Altstadt arrived. But when Altstadt, the president, began using the buzzword “sustainability,” she received some pushback.

“We had a few managers talking about, ‘We have a lot to do to take orders and ship our products; we don’t have time to be tree huggers,’” she says. “That has the wrong context that sustainability is something you do separate from business. With the training and the discussions that are involved, sustainability is how we do business; it’s not separate from business.”

You, your managers and your employees all have to buy in to the idea of implementing sustainability initiatives in order for your company to see any success. So when you suggest forming a company mindset around sustainability, your staff has to recognize the direct link.

“Where we focused first was internally,” says Altstadt, who has about 100 employees. “You can get caught up in the, ‘What does it mean to the outside world?’ It goes beyond the scorecard that large customers might be asking for. To begin, you really have to look internally and create the basics. A basic recycling program has to be in existence. Start small, start simple and see where that goes.

“It’s really been the employees who start to come up with the ideas, and it’s listening to employees where they want to take it. Are they interested in doing more with the community? Are they interested in doing more with wellness? With that mindset, then as you are just doing normal operating, buying equipment, you think, ‘How do we do it a little more different?’ We do start thinking about energy and long-term effects.”

Your employees can’t just show interest, they have to take ownership in the initiative. Instead of forcing ideas, ask them where in the business they think efficiencies can be found. Along with direct conversation, put in place feedback mechanisms specifically for sustainable ideas.

“No. 1 is you just have to listen,” Altstadt says. “That sounds simple, but you have to make time to be available. It’s simply making sure that it’s not only I or the management team that agrees that this is something important. We listen to the ideas. We do have a formal suggestion box that we take seriously. Our vice president of operations, for the most part, is the person who reads those and makes sure they’re implemented.”

No matter how you’re gathering employee feedback, you have to provide individuals with suggestions or a response. Altstadt is informed of who made a suggestion so that she can personally take time to thank that employee.

With a response, Weatherchem also provides small recognition for the idea, usually a gift card for groceries or gas between $25 and $100. The instant recognition encourages employees, even those beyond sustainability, to participate with the suggestion box.

Weatherchem’s sustainability initiatives include going landfill free, making all recyclable products and using a chiller that uses naturally cold air from outside to cool its manufacturing space. The chiller generates energy savings of about 40 to 45 percent compared to previous equipment.

To keep ideas and momentum going, you also need to set measurements where possible and update employees on the progress being made.

“The word ‘sustainability’ makes people feel good. It’s not about cost cutting. At times, that’s one of the benefits, but when you talk about leaving the world a better place and what can we do to help ourselves and help the world, it’s something that makes people feel good,” Altstadt says. “So involvement becomes natural.”

How to reach: Weatherchem Corp., (330) 425-4206 or www.weatherchem.com

Find a champion

Glimpsing at the positions companies are hiring for these days, many of the titles include sustainability manager or sustainability director.

Whether you’re a large company that can hire a full-time employee to implement sustainable measures or a small company increasing your commitment as you grow, you need to have a champion or champions if you want to see continuous improvement.

“You do need a dedicated resource, especially at the very beginning of the program,” says Anna Frolova-Levi, a vice president at Weatherchem Corp.

That resource may be a person or persons. Depending on the size and structure of your company, as long as every top and middle manager has bought in to the program, designating a single person might not be necessary.

The main reason for dedicated resources is that, before you can implement any processes, there are the responsibilities of research, setting metrics and explaining to employees what a company culture based on sustainable measures really means.

Either way, putting people, time and funding behind projects is usually a signal to employees that the focus is important to the company.

“It’s all about people in the end,” Frolova-Levi says. “You have to bring people with you to get excited about the whole concept.”

Published in Akron/Canton
Tuesday, 25 November 2008 19:00

Going green

Starting a recycling program could be easier than you think.

Jim Dietz, co-owner and president of Lake Erie Graphics Inc., says that CEOs may be surprised at how simple it is to get the ball rolling on a program to collect plastic, paper and aluminum cans for recycling at your company — and that it can benefit your company financially. 

Dietz’s company, a 35-employee commercial printer located in Brook Park, has implemented numerous green initiatives, including picking up its customers’ paper recycling as an added, free service. He says the first step to starting an office program is to make it easy for your employees to recycle by allowing them to keep containers in their cubes and by placing a larger collection container in an easy-to-reach spot.

“Instead of walking to the trash can to throw it away, you put the recycling bin right next to it so they drop it in there,” he says. “I don’t know how much easier it could get.”

You can also educate employees about the impact they’re having on the environment if they’re not recycling. Both http://www.earth911.org/ and www.epa.gov/recyclecity have a wealth of information on the effects of not recycling and offer ways you can motivate your staff to take part.

“There’s a lot of material on the Internet that talks about what’s going to happen to that product if it makes it to the landfill, if it doesn’t get recycled,” he says. “I think those are things you need to educate your employees about — ‘Look, this bottle is going to last 100 years or whatever in the landfill.’ If you can display that, give them something to think about, I think that has a big impact.”

Dietz says that a problem some companies encounter is trying to find somewhere to take the recyclables.

“So, whether somebody takes it home at night, takes it to their community where they accept that or if there is [somewhere] local — you see the containers where you can drop off your waste paper and your cardboard at churches or schools,” he says.

And if you can’t find anyone at your company to handle the program — or if you want to reward a volunteer for taking charge — paying someone a little extra could go a long way.

“That’s a good incentive,” he says. “To find somebody that will take it on as a challenge, and ... you take this home, you leave an hour early. There’s a lot of ways to encourage people. It probably relates to what it is that ... motivates them. Is it $20 in their paycheck, or is it an extra hour of vacation? There’s a lot of ways you could do it to motivate someone to get involved.”

Aside from the impact you’ll have on the planet, recycling can also benefit your company financially. “The easiest thing is to look at the waste can and see what’s in there and start working on how to reduce that trash,” he says. “There’s a benefit there, too, if you reduce your Dumpster waste or the amount that you’re paying a company to haul it away. Then just try to figure out, what can we do to recycle this? Where we can take the paper?’

Maybe get the employees involved and say, ‘Hey, we’d like to do this to benefit the environment and all our kids and future.’ Then, maybe, let the employees come up with the ideas.”

Watchful eye

Now that you have a recycling program in place, you want to make sure it runs efficiently and that everyone is doing their part. With these tips from http://www.earth911.org/, you can monitor progress to evaluate cost-effectiveness, employee participation and environmental impact.

  • Provide feedback to employees. By providing feedback, you can share successes, progress and problems with your company’s program.
  • Use memos, newsletters or companywide e-mails to distribute updates or milestones about the program.
  • Publicize the quantity your company recycles.
  • Calculate/distribute disposal cost savings based on the decrease of office waste.
  • Survey employees/departments to identify program problems and improvements.
  • Post informative articles on recycling, source reduction, reuse and/or the environment to further educate staff.
  • Include information on recycling program participation in new employee orientation and the company handbook.

You can also show how successful and creative your program is by promoting your company’s efforts outside of your business.

  • Apply for various local, state or federal awards, such as the Paper Recycling Awards.
  • Become an EPA WasteWise business to further improve your program.
  • Get involved in local, state and/or national recycling, environmental or industry-related organizations.
  • Distribute press releases on your program to local newspapers.

HOW TO REACH: Lake Erie Graphics Inc., (216) 265-7575 or http://www.lakeeriegraphics.com/

Published in Cleveland
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