In early 2016, Corporate Sourcing engaged Claims Control Data Analyst Henry Hwang to analyze employee coffee usage throughout our Claims organization.
Collectively, they recognized that our use of single-serve coffee makers could be negatively impacting the environment and wanted to do something about it. The single-serve coffee pods we used were non-recyclable or biodegradable, which means every cup of coffee brewed was generating a lot of plastic waste.
“I was shocked when I did the math,” says Henry. “Annually, our coffee pod usage was such that if we were to stack them singly, the stack would be approximately 22 miles high, which is high enough to skewer the ozone, and after seven years, be within the reach of the International Space Station’s orbit”
Henry reached out to our Corporate Social Responsibility Manager Wanda Shippy who then connected him with Carolyn Nogy, Claims’ Social Responsibility Advisory Board member. Together the team came up with recommendations that leveraged Henry’s analyses. Using the results of their research, Claims leadership decided to introduce a new, more sustainable employee coffee program, using drip-coffee machines, that would yield a positive effect on both company finances and the environment.
”Discontinuing use of non-recyclable pods at our locations may only have a small positive impact on the environment but I feel that every effort, no matter how small, contributes to protecting the environment,” Henry says. “At the end of the day, drip-coffees also taste better, are more environmentally friendly, and, on a per-cup basis, are about one-tenth the cost of individual coffee pods. It’s a triple win!
This is just one example of how the initiative and passion of one person can benefit all of us.less
In 2015, our California Social Responsibility team launched an environmental awareness campaign for employees titled “Changing Environmental Behaviors in the Workplace.” The month-long initiative, held in June, aimed to reduce environmental and financial costs in our business activities. The focus was on changing habits in four key areas: the office break room, paper use, work commutes and energy savings.
Throughout the month, employees received a weekly email covering one of those key areas. It included actionable tips and real-world examples of employees who were already embracing positive behaviors with good results. The email also shared data about the financial impact of these behaviors on the company.
“Often, we don’t realize that the everyday decisions we make in the workplace can have far-reaching effects on both company finances and the environment,” says Carolyn Nogy, claims casualty manager and California social responsibility team leader. “We challenged our employees to embrace some simple and small changes, making them permanent habits that make a difference.”
Embracing these changes led employees in California to take a broader look at how we do things.
In our claims offices, for instance, we’ve traditionally supplied paper and polystyrene cups, paper plates, paper bowls, and plastic utensils for use by employees or customers. As a result of the campaign, however, two offices are running a pilot in 2016 that’s looking at switching to reusable items. The hypothesis: The environmental and financial costs to buy and clean reusable items are lower than the costs to continually buy and discard disposable items.
“If we were to provide reusable tableware instead, the positive impact on the environment could be substantial,” says Carolyn.
Once we have pilot results, we’ll determine the potential for moving to reusable kitchenware in other offices in California and countrywide. One thing we know for sure: California employees share a passion for making Progressive a great place to work through socially responsible endeavors.less
To that end, our Facilities group has worked on making our outdoor areas as sustainable as they are attractive. Here’s an overview of some of the group’s recent efforts in and around our Cleveland-area headquarters buildings.
One of our campuses was built on the site of a former golf course. Much of the green space surrounding that building consists of grass that—while fine for golf—is not native to the area, and has required a lot of mowing and maintenance.
In 2015, the Facilities group removed 11 acres of the old turf, replacing it with native fescue and perennial ryegrass. The team expects these native grasses to completely overtake the old fairways within three years, transforming the area into a meadow. It’ll require only occasional mowing and integrated pest management, reducing our carbon footprint. And, it’ll be a natural habitat for insects and birds.
Guided by research done by The Ohio State University, the Facilities team has carefully chosen the trees planted in and around our parking lots. By planting diverse species, the group is helping trees thrive in this challenging environment, making them better suited to resist pests, deer, road salt and disease.
The Facilities team has expanded its rainwater collection efforts, which started in 2010. Progressive’s harvesting system now collects rain from 2,600 square feet of roof, yielding more than 4,000 gallons per two inches of rainfall. That water is collected in cisterns with a 7,000-gallon capacity. It’s then used to irrigate flowerpots and pressure-wash entrances, parking garages and company-owned vehicles.
Progressive employees do like their coffee! Fact is, 32,000 pounds annually go to our compost. That produces 400 cubic yards of compostable waste the Facilities group collects annually at our Cleveland offices.
Most of the 200 yards of usable compost is used for planting trees and maintaining gardens on Progressive properties. Remaining compost is donated to area non-profits for garden projects.
Perhaps the most functional effort by the Facilities group is a “farm to table” garden, right outside an entrance to one of our headquarters buildings. The garden features rows of herbs and fresh vegetables grown during the warmer months. These are then used by AVI, Progressive’s food services vendor, in dishes enjoyed by employees in the company’s cafés.
The garden is now in its fourth year. Aside from enhancing the café lunch options, it helps educate and advocate sustainable gardening practices. It’s all done at little or no cost to the company.
Our Facilities group is proving that the outdoor space at a corporate headquarters can feature more than just “pretty” landscaping. It can be sustainable and functional as well.less
Currently, customer mailings are produced by our Creative Business Operations (CBO) organization at two internal facilities in Cleveland and Colorado Springs. Each handles two types of transactional mail, including the printing of documents, insertion and mailing.
The first type is what CBO calls “simple mail.” These include most routine policy documents like bills, signature forms, endorsement notices and memos. Simple mail pieces have a limited number of pages and pre-printed inserts in each envelope.
The other type is what CBO calls “complex mail.” These pieces have more pages per envelope, and typically more pre-printed inserts. Complex mail can also include items like ID cards, which are printed separately from—and require collation with—routine policy documents. Complex mail is supplemented by work done off-site by vendors, including special print projects and envelope printing.
So, what does it all mean? A typical mailing from Progressive might contain a coverage summary, a couple of endorsement notices, an ID card, and three to five color inserts promoting services or additional coverages. It involves the work of multiple production lines and vendors. And, it uses a lot of paper and other resources.
And that’s why this pilot is intriguing. We’ll test a portion of a new, highly streamlined process that could have significant sustainability implications.
The test will look at eliminating most pre-printed inserts, replacing them with “onserts.” With onserts, promotional information typically included in a separate, pre-printed insert is instead printed on the existing white space of a routine policy document.
This test will run for five weeks. Additional tests and analyses—looking at other areas of the print and mailing processes—will take place throughout 2016 and beyond.
“Our goal is to simplify and get everything into one stream,” says Mark Malysa, business platform owner for external communications. “The complex pieces would be incorporated into a single, simplified flow. We’d upgrade some of the color-printing capabilities in the ‘simple mail’ flow. We’d eliminate the pre-printed inserts. We’d also upgrade equipment capabilities to handle envelopes and other tasks we now outsource.”
From a sustainability perspective, this approach could reduce the amount and variety of paper used, and reduce the waste often associated with printing inserts. It would also eliminate a large amount of the transportation involved in working with the outside vendors.
And, it would allow for flexibility as the company continues to grow, helping us operate efficiently and avoid waste for years to come.
All this complements our efforts to encourage customers to go paperless, where they choose to access policy documents online rather than receiving paper in the mail. In 2015, we avoided mailing 41.1 million pounds of paper thanks to customers making this choice.
We’re continually looking for ways to reduce the amount of paper used in our customer interactions.less
For 2015, the team shifted its resources away from large capital projects toward conservation opportunities related to day-to-day operations.
“It’s been a few years since we looked at our operations this thoroughly,” says Adam Wilson, senior engineering consultant. “It was time. We need to make sure that we update our buildings as their energy loads evolve and the technology changes.”
The team’s most significant project was related to lighting at our Service Centers. The effort actually started before 2015, and is now achieving significant energy savings.
New centers have been built with LEDs in all parking-lot and building-mounted light fixtures. Offices and work bays have T8 fluorescents. These newer technologies have replaced the less-efficient metal-halide lighting that was standard in earlier centers.
We’ve built a total of 14 new centers with these standards, including one in 2015. The result? The new Service Centers have each saved an average of 32,500 kWh annually with these lights.
Meanwhile, many of our older Service Centers have undergone floor plan renovations related to new claims standards and workflows. The team used this opportunity to upgrade lighting in those centers to LED and fluorescent.
We’ve upgraded 23 centers in total, including seven in 2015, using these standards. These changes have saved, on average, 10,956 kWh annually at each Service Center.
Other Real Estate Engineering team highlights include:
An analysis of our uninterruptible power supplies. These are battery backup systems that ensure continuous power to call centers and other critical functions. The analysis has led to a decision to upgrade our decades-old units to more energy efficient systems that are better suited to handle our current and projected loads. The upgrades started in 2016.
A project to improve air pressure management at one of our Cleveland campuses. For maximum HVAC efficiency, the air pressure inside a building should always be a bit higher than the air pressure outside. To address recurring challenges related to this balance at one of our campuses, the team has modified HVAC programming while our internal HVAC team installed new outdoor pressure sensors. The result has been improved HVAC efficiency and employee comfort.
Data-driven modifications to free-cooling equipment and air handlers at multiple Progressive locations. This work has helped the equipment run more efficiently. And, it has paralleled numerous programming tweaks related to lighting and HVAC throughout our facilities, helping optimize energy use based on employee need.
These operational improvements require little capital investment, will produce measurable energy use reduction in coming years, and will increase employee comfort. And, they’ll help virtually all Progressive employees save energy and reduce their carbon footprint, every day.less
We’ve reported on some of the ways we’ve helped consumers go paperless with their insurance. A cross-functional Enterprise Print Committee regrouped in 2015 to help employees find ways to use less paper as well. Ann Corwin, sourcing manager, brought together the team to look at print use holistically in our work environment and develop an enterprise print education strategy.
The team has looked at the overall company picture and brought these business units together to work on a more efficient approach.
The team developed a three-fold strategy:
Communicate common goals and make recommendations to management regarding print devices.
Educate employees on print use and opportunities, and address issues or questions.
Search for tools to help manage print use by developing and reinforcing printer standards, addressing roadblocks, improving processes, reducing costs and tracking progress.
“Education has been a primary focus,” says Ann. “For example, people have been printing too many times and too many pages. They print, then forget that they printed and print again. To avoid this, we’ve been telling employees about the secure print option on our multi-functional printers.
“If you set this option as your print default, your print job is sent to a network queue. Then, when you’re ready, you go to the printer, type in the password you set up, and the printer releases your job. It’s ready when you are.”
Other paper-saving tips have included removing cover banner pages and using two-sided printing. These efforts have already positively impacted our paper and consumables use. In the first year, the team saw a $70,000 savings.
The team has big plans for 2016 and beyond. “The focus is to encourage all employees to be aware of their paper use and think about their options. We want to get everyone using sustainable practices for printing, scanning and copying,” says Ann.less
Since 2007, we've reduced our regional electric consumption by 105,328,167 kWh.
Since recording company vehicle carbon emissions in 2008, carbon emissions have been reduced by 8,340 tons.
Most of our recycling efforts are related to paper, glass, aluminum, plastic and cardboard.
See 2015 results for these efforts below.
In our Service Centers across the country, we introduced a process for recycling the paper and plastic materials we use to prepare vehicles for customer pick up. Based on customer feedback, this effort was viewed positively by customers and added value to their overall experience.
For America Recycles Day, our Real Estate and Facility Services organizations held events throughout the week of November 15th at large Progressive locations to recycle new and gently worn shoes, cold-weather gear, crayons, household batteries, CDs/DVDs, cell phones and animal bedding. Items collected were donated to local organizations like Battery Solutions, Soles4Souls, Sub Zero Mission and PAWS for recycling or charitable purposes.
In January, we organized a week-long collection of unused Progressive-owned computers and related equipment as part of a massive e-cycling effort. We encouraged employees to clear these items from their work space. A total of 5,020 pounds of items were collected, which were sent to Arrow, our recycling vendor, for recycling or to be appropriately re-purposed.
Progressive’s Real Estate group donated office supplies and furniture to organizations suggested by employees through the Donation Station. In 2015, we gave away over $5,100 worth of items to six charitable organizations and schools in northeast Ohio. Since inception, we’ve given away more than $25,500 worth of items to 15 charitable organizations and schools in northeast Ohio.
For Environmental Awareness Week in April, employees participated in educational activities around the company to learn ways to reduce, reuse, and recycle and help make a difference in the environment and our communities.
Progressive donated 899 computers, laptops and monitors to 23 schools and charitable organizations around the country in 2015 at an estimated value of more than $92,000. Since inception, the program has donated more than 2,100 computers, laptops and monitors to 49 schools and charitable organizations around the country at an estimated value of more than $260,000.
In 2015, we recycled 12,590 pounds of ink and toner cartridges and reused 5,621 pounds of ink and toner cartridges through UpCycle.
Progressive’s Real Estate members donated their design skills to redesign the studio at Art Therapy Studio, the oldest creative art therapy program of its kind in the country. Its mission is to enhance the quality of life for those with emotional, cognitive or physical challenges through the therapeutic use of art.
Our efforts to run an environmentally responsible business put us, once again, in Newsweek’s Green Rankings. The popular online magazine ranked us among the best of the U.S.’s largest companies based on our corporate sustainability and impact on the environment.
We continue to encourage customers to go paperless by choosing to access policy documents online rather than receiving paper in the mail. In 2015, we avoided mailing 41.1 million pounds of paper thanks to customers making this choice.