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Case study

Pacific Blue Cross

Pacific Blue Cross began to manage its greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions (carbon footprint) with Climate Smart in 2012. In just one year, from 2012-2013, Pacific Blue Cross was able to reduce their emissions by 10%. Pacific Blue Cross’ approach is one of continuous improvement, and in 2013 the firm saw advances in nearly all business activities contributing to their carbon footprint.

The most significant improvements were in decreasing the company’s emissions from paper usage and solid waste. Further areas in which Pacific Blue Cross lowered their emissions included heating, staff commuting, and business travel by air and land.

To decrease emissions from solid waste and increase the recovery percentage of recyclables and organics, Pacific Blue Cross began by removing the personal waste bins at each desk in their call centre, one of 25 different departments at their Burnaby headquarters. Learning from this successful elimination of the personal waste bins in the call centre, Pacific Blue Cross implemented this policy in the remaining 24 departments.

A few challenges often encountered by companies working to address and minimize the environmental footprint from solid waste are the particularities of building infrastructure, and navigating agreements with waste hauling companies. Pacific Blue Cross worked hand-in-hand with their building managers while implementing these changes. This cooperation facilitated a reduction in waste-to-landfill of 37.5% at Pacific Blue Cross in just one year, between 2012 and 2013. The company expects to reduce waste to landfill by a further 30% (the final numbers are being tallied for 2014).

Equally impressive has been Pacific Blue Cross’ success at reducing paper use at their headquarters. Between 2012 and 2013, paper use decreased by over 20%, as the company switched to a new administration system that prioritizes electronic exchanges rather than paper. This is no insignificant feat in an industry where, until very recently, paper has been the primary medium for doing business – whether in terms of making claims, billing, explanations of benefits or simply issuing cheques and receipts. With this reduction in paper usage Pacific Blue Cross is now saving over $65,000 annually – despite having switched their purchasing to 100% post-consumer recycled paper, a more expensive choice.

Overall Pacific Blue Cross expects to have reduced emissions from waste and paper by 305 tonnes from 2012-2014. This is equivalent to the emissions from 64 passenger vehicles in one year, or the carbon sequestered by 7,821 tree seedlings over ten years. (Source: EPA Greenhouse Gas Equivalencies Calculator)

Pacific Blue Cross has been exemplary in terms of sharing information on their sustainability and carbon-cutting efforts with all staff. Jamie Ellis, Pacific Blue Cross’ Manager of Building & Facilities, has spearheaded the company’s emissions-reduction and Climate Smart certification initiatives, and has helped pass on detail to staff “from the CEO’s office to the mailroom” in terms of both successes at the company, and challenges staff need to work to overcome – such as the proper practices for sorting organics and recyclables. Using Climate Smart’s software and guidance has allowed Jamie and the Pacific Blue Cross’ green team to communicate the company’s efforts to staff, in the form of real, quantifiable data relating to their sustainability initiatives and goals.

In addition to its waste and paper initiatives, Pacific Blue Cross has been an innovator in many other ways. By updating software and servers, and installing light sensors in meeting rooms, the company is addressing certain core areas of electricity usage as well.

By partnering with Climate Smart-certified business (EcoService Canada) and Climate Smart Solutions Provider (LotusPro), Pacific Blue Cross has also targeted their water consumption, as well as the natural gas they use to heat water. EcoService offers waterless car-wash services at their headquarters, and LotusPro provides zero-chemical ozone-based cleaning products that do not require hot water.

The suite of initiatives underway at Pacific Blue Cross has led to Pacific Blue Cross being recognized as a leader both locally and across North America. The City of Burnaby bestowed a ‘Business Stewardship’ award on Pacific Blue Cross in 2014, and in 2015 Pacific Blue Cross received a ‘Green Initiatives Award’ from the Dallas-based Communitas Foundation, administered by the Association for Marketing and Communication Professionals.

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