Corporate Conservation Is More than Just a Box to Be Checked

Tips for implementing a corporate conservation program
by Susan Anable

Our nation’s and the world’s resources are increasingly constrained. Companies across the United States and here in Arizona can lessen their impact on the environment by reducing industrial byproducts as well as consumption of energy, water and raw materials. Businesses that incorporate eco-friendly practices remain competitive and see lower operating costs, ensuring long-term business success. In short, it can be good for both the environment and your bottom line. The topic of corporate conservation has elevated nationally, resulting in trends and best practices that span across a multitude of industries. In 2015, 62 percent of small businesses nationwide had implemented some type of company or employee-based sustainability program. As of this year, that number has increased to 88 percent, according to the Cox Conserves Sustainability Survey.

Cox Communications places corporate environmental responsibility at the forefront of our daily operations — we’ve made it part of our DNA. We emphasize the importance of minimalizing our environmental impact in the communities we serve, and challenge other local businesses to consider incorporating responsible environmental impact practices as part of their operations. Recently, Cox Enterprises announced that the company had recycled more than 100,000 tons of materials since 2013. Whether it’s walking into a conference room with motion detector light triggers, or using three different categories for recycling and waste management in the cafeteria, conservation is top of mind for Cox employees in Arizona. Businesses can create their own corporate conservation program by following these tips.

First, map out a plan of action for the company’s conservation program. Businesses can create value and demonstrate leadership to customers and employees by developing and deploying a conservation strategy that considers how its operations impact the community. The strategy should be both reasonable and achievable, as well as align with the company’s overall business plan.

In 2007, Cox formalized its commitment to sustainability with a goal to reduce its carbon footprint by 20 percent and launched a national sustainability program, Cox Conserves, to engage the company’s employees and community partners. Across its divisions, Cox is involved in scores of projects to reduce consumption and recycle or compost materials. These efforts are diverting materials from landfills, decreasing consumption of natural resources, and reducing the energy and emissions associated with manufacturing new products. In fact, our Cox warehouse facility here in Phoenix achieved zero waste-to-landfill status about a year ago by implementing a conservation program.

When considering how to form a conservation plan for a business, it is important that it identify the focus of the program, cost and measurement, and the role that both employees and stakeholders will have in the plan. Narrowing the focus on sustainability efforts that are within reach will allow the organization to provide more strategic attention to the areas that matter most. When creating a plan, a company needs to consider:

  • What is the company’s current impact on the environment?
  • What sustainability efforts are its industry peers undertaking?
  • How will the company fund its new conservation initiatives?
  • Who will be in charge of deploying the program?

As part of the conservation plan, a company should inventory the products used in everyday operations and evaluate ways to maximize green alternatives. For example, if a company uses vehicles as part of its operations, it should consider researching more fuel-efficient vehicles that will also get the job done. Green emissions vehicles and hybrid operations are a growing trend among business fleets. With more than 13,000 vehicles, our organization has one of the nation’s largest fleets. We have technicians in the field daily serving our customers, and we are one of the largest and greenest fleets in the state. By transitioning our fleet of vehicles to energy-efficient trucks, we were able to achieve savings in fuel costs while also reducing our carbon footprint by cutting more than 25 million pounds of carbon dioxide.

Cox also actively identifies opportunities to harness solar energy and employ fuel cell technology. Overall, Cox annually prevents more than 21,000 tons of greenhouse gases from entering the environment through its alternative energy projects.

Second, establish quantifiable benchmarks to measure the company’s impact on the environment. The company should hold itself accountable by creating a quarterly report to analyze the success of its conservation efforts. For example, through Cox Conserves, we made a commitment companywide to invest more than $100 million in sustainability and conservation initiatives since 2007. Through these investments, the company has offset 82,000 tons of carbon, diverted 97,000 tons of waste from landfill, and conserved 57 million gallons of water. These projects are helping the company mark our progress against the established baseline and reach our goals.

We are making this happen here in Arizona through programs like Turning Waste into Growth (TWIG), which sells used materials, such as leftover food, to a company that turns food waste into feed. We then donate these profits to local youth-based nonprofit organizations. Through the efforts of the TWIG program, Cox has donated more than $60,000 since 2008 to local youth-focused nonprofit organizations that directly impact Arizona communities.

Allow room for adjustments as the company implements its plan. A company’s conservation program will evolve organically. This year, Cox Conserves achieved its goal of reducing its carbon footprint by 20 percent, and we now have expanded our plan to be carbon and water neutral by 2044, and have added initiatives to engage suppliers, customers and peer businesses.

Examples of how we will become carbon neutral include small changes such as implementing motion detectors in public rooms that turn lights off when not in use, to larger efforts such as solar power systems in our buildings. Not only have these changes supported our conservation efforts, they have also helped improve our bottom line through the savings of fuel and energy.

This is only a start. Our corporate conservation plan reaches far beyond the immediate goals achieved this year, and we are now focused on the future. Our plan is embraced by Cox employees and supplier partners, and brought to life through eco-friendly initiatives that are good not only for the environment but also for business and our customers. This creates tremendous value for all stakeholders, while also providing a good example of a vision and a mission that have measureable goals.

Encourage employee participation in the company’s sustainability efforts. A company’s conservation program will only last as long as its employees participate. There are many ways to encourage employees to “think green” and build excitement for the company’s corporate sustainability efforts. Beyond business operations, Cox seeks to inspire environmental action in communities and employees. The Cox Conserves Heroes program, created in partnership with The Trust for Public Land, has honored nearly 200 environmental volunteers across eight states and donated nearly $1 million to nonprofits on their behalf.

Cox also engages its employees in its conservation efforts by recognizing sustainability ideas at work through the Cox Conserves Chairman’s Cup, which collects, rewards and implements sustainable practices across the company. Cox Conserves and You, an internal digital platform, enables employees across the nation to track their eco-actions and to share ideas. These are just a few of the ways that other companies can encourage their employees to “think green” and become excited about participating in their corporate sustainability efforts.

Practicing conservation as a part of a corporation’s everyday operations is imperative to success in today’s business. By making conservation a focus in business, companies are also contributing to the long-term sustainability of Arizona. We encourage companies to join in and see how they can contribute to the environment while also helping their bottom line.

Companies Can Conserve

Five easy conservation tips a company can implement today:

  • Encourage employees to power down equipment at the end of the day.
  • Reuse boxes for future shipments by covering up the original signature panel with one of the company’s own.
  • Install energy-efficient light bulbs throughout the office.
  • Switch from paper coffee cups to reusable mugs in the breakroom.
  • Send e-cards this season instead of mailing business holiday cards.

Susan Anable, vice president of public affairs, Southwest region, has been with Cox Communications since 2001. She is responsible for media relations, community relations, government affairs and internal communications for Cox in Arizona and Nevada. Prior to joining Cox, Anable was part of the Arizona State Senate Research Staff, serving as staff director; and natural resources, agriculture and environment analyst.

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