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Green for the Holidays

December 17, 2012

American Express has always taken social and environmental responsibility seriously and over the years we've made progress to conserve energy, reduce waste and promote sustainable use of natural resources. Today, I'm pleased to announce that we achieved our inaugural five-year carbon footprint reduction goal, and we are committing to a new goal to reduce our carbon emissions in the next five years.

In 2007, American Express first calculated the company's carbon footprint and set a five-year goal to reduce it by 10 percent by 2012. I'm pleased to say that we exceeded this inaugural goal significantly, lowering our carbon footprint by 27.5 percent including an absolute 10.2 percent decrease through in electricity use and business travel. While this is significant progress, there is more work to do. Our second generation carbon footprint reduction goal is to reduce American Express's carbon footprint an additional 10 percent by 2017.

Two major milestones in greening our operations occurred during 2012. Earlier this month, our new home in Brighton, U.K. officially opened with a "Very Good" BREEAM rating. Use of low-energy light bulbs and external solar shading to naturally moderate temperature help make the building energy efficient while roof-top solar panels reduce the carbon intensity of the electricity used. The façade features vertical gardens, and rainwater harvested from the roof will be used in the operation of the building. This is our first building designed to fully embrace BlueWork, the transformation of American Express' work spaces to enable greater employee flexibility and space and resource efficiency. As we continue to implement BlueWork in 2013 and beyond, we expect that improved space utilization will help contribute to our new carbon reduction goal.

American Express' new offices at 1 John Street, Brighton, UK

Another addition to our portfolio occurred in May of 2012 when we opened a brand new state-of-the art data center in Greensboro, North Carolina here in the U.S. A hub for Cardmember data processing, the site uses onsite solar and thermal energy sources and has received the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Gold Certification. Due to business growth and the digital transformation of our company, we expect electricity use at data centers to increase in the next few years. Thanks to our new, efficient data center, these increases will be smaller than they would have otherwise been.

Achieving our new goal will require efforts from all of our employees, in the same way that the achievement of our inaugural goal was the result of teamwork across the company. During the past five years, reductions in electricity use and employee business travel resulted in an absolute 10.2 percent reduction of American Express' carbon footprint. To encourage virtual meetings, we have been installing state-of-the art Telepresence studios and making them increasingly accessible to employees. Today we have 52 studios in 36 office locations. Our data center and facilities managers have been working hard to optimize operations and improve energy efficiency across our portfolio. In the coming years we will continue to perform upgrades to office building controls and lighting, heating and cooling systems as well as continue to expand our use of virtual servers and improve server utilization at our data centers.

The balance of the footprint reduction - 17.3 percent – came through purchasing green power produced with low-carbon sources like wind and solar. Today 29 percent of all our electricity comes from green power, compared with none five years ago. We work directly with our utility providers committing to long-term purchasing agreements of large blocks of certified renewable electricity. American Express is proud to help stimulate demand for clean electricity in this manner, and help the transition towards a low-carbon grid. We intend to continue purchasing clean electricity generated by wind, solar and other renewable resources to help reach our new goal.

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 communications around environmental issues. This included new eco information available on our employee intranet, road shows and ramped up annual Earth Day and Earth Hour efforts. Starting in 2013 we plan to get employees more involved in taking steps to adopt environmentally preferable behaviors at work through a program we call Green2Gether.

The holiday season is here and I wish you good health, happiness and some quality time together with family and friends. As the New Year approaches, I hope that you too will consider joining American Express in committing to reducing global carbon emissions though everyday actions like:

  • Turning off lights, computers, monitors, TVs and other electronics while not in use to help reduce unnecessary electricity use
  • Switching to energy efficient lighting (CFLs or better yet LEDs) and appliances that will lower your electricity consumption and bills
  • Adjusting the thermostat a few degrees down in winter and up in summer
Together we can make a difference.

P.S. CSR Now! will be on hiatus until Monday, January 7, 2013. Until then, here's wishing you happy holidays and a sustainable new year!


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