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Greening the Blue Box

December 19, 2011


The annual UN climate change negotiations are again behind us, and although some progress was made, it seems that there are still more questions than answers about a global response to climate change. Climate scientists remind us that to avoid the worst effects of climate change we need to reduce emissions to a level that will keep the global average temperature rise to 2 degrees Celsius or less. To achieve this, and to do it fast enough, everyone needs to get involved in some way.

Here at American Express, we are committed to doing our part to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions, and the collective efforts of many people around the company result in our progress towards that goal. Although American Express has been pursuing energy efficiency since the early 1990’s, it was in 2007 that the journey took on a new direction.

In 2007, we calculated our first carbon footprint, and we committed to voluntarily reduce our carbon footprint 10% by 2012. Through a combination of energy efficiency measures, renewable energy purchasing and being smart about business travel, we are progressing towards this goal. In fact, we are on track to exceed our goal, having achieved 34% reductions through 2010

During 2011, our continuing efforts to reduce our carbon footprint included energy audits for European sites and energy benchmarking for our largest facilities. Also this year, one of American Express’s largest data centers earned the Energy Star - recognition for many years of work investing in energy efficiency technologies and operational strategies.

In addition to working on being more energy efficient at existing sites and building new energy efficient sites, we focused this year’s efforts on increased internal sustainability and climate change communications. This included new eco-information available on our employee intranet, road shows and ramped up annual Earth Day and Earth Hour efforts. We also distributed stickers to employees reminding them to assist in corporate carbon reduction efforts by turning off computers and monitors when not in use. Operational measures like reducing waste and consolidating deliveries to avoid unnecessary transportation emissions were other strategies we pursued.

When tackling large amorphous projects such as climate change, we must always keep in mind that small incremental changes add up. Our other 2011 carbon reduction efforts don’t count towards decreasing our official carbon footprint, but they do contribute towards climate change awareness and mitigation. For instance, employees volunteered their time to participate in many company sponsored tree plantings and our philanthropic support enabled the completion of a sustainable visitor reception center on Easter Island in Chile that serves as an introduction to the national park, providing information and educational materials for visitors. In our Brighton, UK location, newly installed ‘eco-bikes’ display how much wattage is being generated when employees cycle, allow phones and laptop to recharge with the power generated, while also translating watts generated into how much cycling it would take to power everyday appliances. By using the bikes, employees can develop a more tangible understanding of energy consumption while getting fit.

Thinking of small things that add up…the holiday season is here and I wish you good health, happiness and some quality time with family and friends. In the spirit of the season, I’ll close with these tips for lightening your holiday related eco-impacts:
 

  • Minimize wrapping and reuse gift bags when possible. Try wrapping your gifts in newspapers, magazine ads or reusable cloth bags
  • Be creative with décor – use fruit, potted plants or wine bottles as centerpieces and then share these items with guests when the party is over
  • If you need to use disposables, look for paper or other bio-degradable materials
  • Consider helping someone in need by making a donation to a charitable cause
     

CSR Now! will be on hiatus until Monday, January 9, 2012. Until then, here’s wishing you happy holidays and a sustainable new year!

 

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