One Atlas Brand - Many Shades of Green

Aug 05, 2009

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Doing business in today's world carries a big responsibility. As the Harvard Business Review wrote in 2006: Virtually every activity in a company's value chain touches on the communities in which the firm operates, creating either positive or negative social consequences.

The Amplifier has reported extensively over the years on many facets of social responsibility demonstrated by Atlas employees, agents and associates. From the outpouring of humanitarian care for victims of Hurricane volunteerism in support of myriad community causes all across the land. Time and again, Atlas people act with the characteristic social consciousness that pervades the Atlas network.

In this article, we feature a few examples of how responsible environmental practices by Atlas people are creating positive social consequences. At the corporate level, Atlas World Group is bringing sustainability into a sharper focus to reinforce its commitment to integrity, quality and solutions. Within Atlas agencies, each a cooperative entity, managers are exercising their entrepreneurial freedom to establish objectives and policies for environmental stewardship. We all share the Atlas brand with pride. But, as you will see, there are many shades of green.

Atlas Van Lines has been a leader in the moving industry since its founding over 60 years ago. In the past, that's meant early adoption of technologies and continuous service improvements for customers. Today, it also means "living green."

In 2007, Atlas World Group headquarters in Evansville embarked on an important initiative to protect the environment. The first goal: to significantly reduce the quantity of documents printed.

"After we identified our print habits, we found specific steps we could take to bring our numbers down immediately," says Atlas' Director of Marketing Communications Barbara Cox. Those steps included print only when necessary, avoid color printing, and avoid printing e-mails. "We educated everyone about the costs of printing, that black-and-white is cheaper than color, and that photocopies are cheaper than laser prints," says Barbara.

The initiative brought results. In the first year alone (2007) Atlas printed 1.1 million fewer pages. In 2008, the printed pages decreased by another 778,000 pages. Over the first two-year period, the initiative saved approximately 223 trees. (see In related policies, the company is now printing all sales literature on recycled paper, and has added a formal aluminum and plastic container recycling program at the headquarters building.

The company also set its sights on energy reduction, powering down personal computers in common areas each evening at an annual savings of $15 each. "It doesn't sound like much – until you multiply it by the 550 computers in the building," says Barbara. Employees embraced the idea and lobbied to expand it. Now, PCs stop sipping electricity company-wide from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m.

At the same time, Atlas introduced new policies for data retention to reduce disk space requirements, introduced virtualization to reduce the load on servers, and began gradually replacing CRT monitors with more energy-efficient flat panel models. "Flat panel monitors cost $75 more than CRT monitors, but the payback is only four years," says Barbara.

More recently, Atlas conducted a heating and cooling energy audit and adjusted its thermostats, as well as installing sensors that switch lights on automatically in seldom-used rooms when someone enters.

"Operating in a more environmentally aware way is good for the community at large," says Barbara. "And, showing people how to operate more responsibly at work helps them understand how they can apply the same thinking at home. Best of all, these kinds of things cost very little to implement beyond the time it takes to analyze the situation and communicate the changes."

Atlas Earns Award for Environmental Excellence

On October 10, the Chamber of Commerce of Southwest Indiana (CCSI) recognized Atlas Van Lines with the 2008 John Biasini Environmental Excellence Award. Atlas earned the recognition in the energy/renewable resources category for programs that prevent pollution by reducing energy usage or by producing energy using low-emissions technology.

"Reducing our carbon footprint is tantamount to our company's ultimate goal: conducting business with integrity," says Atlas World Group President and COO Greg Hoover. "A responsible company doesn't just look for ways to be fiscally responsible, but environmentally friendly as well. Over the past several years, Atlas has worked hard to reduce the resources that our company and its fleets consume."

Biasini award plaqueThe Chamber administers the Biasini awards program to encourage environmental stewardship and to recognize those companies that make extra effort to improve the region's environment. Atlas is setting an example for other companies to follow. Says Chamber Vice President of Public Policy Steve Schaefer, "These awards are an effort to recognize that work and encourage action by other companies."

Environmental responses are taking shape in various ways at other Atlas companies.

At Titan Global Distribution headquarters in St. Louis, employees recycle about 900 pounds of office paper each month. Cornerstone Relocation Group (CRG) in Basking Ridge, New Jersey, reports that Vice President of Consulting Services Janet Olkowski is serving on a green initiatives task force for the Employee Relocation Council (ERC). The group is developing ways Council members can put "green" policies to work in risk management, home marketing and property evaluation processes.

At Atlas International, Information Systems Manager Ken Nunn recently attended a community "green seminar." Now, Ken and the management team are bringing new ideas to bolster the old. Not only do employees feed recycle bins for paper and aluminum, they have added a reminder (as does CRG) to every outgoing e-mail: Please consider the environment before printing. The company is in the process of adopting a "print both sides" policy for desktop printers and copiers, and paper handouts at meetings are taboo–employees use laptops and electronic presentation tools instead.

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"One of the biggest savings we've seen is a result of document imaging," says Human Resources Manager Terri Micka. "Since we implemented the system in July, starting with our accounts payable invoices, we've reduced the duplication of paper in our customer files by about 20 percent. As we continue to phase in document imaging throughout the organization, it will continue to offer us the ability to reduce paper and become more efficient and reliant on our system tools, versus working from the customer file."

Change is in the Air

You can find outstanding performers in every endeavor. When it comes to environmental responsibility in the moving and storage industry, no one would argue that one company in Walpole, Massachusetts, is setting the bar extremely high. To understand how it has evolved as a paragon of green virtue requires a little history.

Bill Duggan admits to an obsession with trucks for as long as he can remember. At age 10, he began working part-time for a local mover. A few years later, when his family relocated to Boston, he became enamored of the Atlas professionals who handled the move. He decided he, too, would one day run an Atlas agency.

Dreams do come true. Today, Bill is President of Wm. Duggan Co., Inc. (2189), a top-quality performer with a slew of Atlas awards on the wall. Along the way to building a successful business, he experienced an environmental epiphany. It took place on a visit to South America.

"South America has incredible natural resources, but some urban areas are spoiled by air pollution," says Bill. "During all of my visits, I have had difficulty breathing, largely due to auto, bus and truck pollution caused by older models."

The experience prompted Bill's decision to sell all of the company's trucks and buy new ones. "In 2003 and 2004, we replaced all of our straight trucks with new 2004 emissions models. In 2007, we replaced all of our tractors with 2007 emissions models." Bill says the expenditure totaled several million dollars.

"I thought the increased fuel efficiency and lack of mechanical failures and breakdowns would allow us to justify the expense," says Bill. "I wasn't expecting the enormous payoff that resulted."

The payoff includes fewer equipment failures, greater confidence and productivity among employees, a long waiting list of qualified operator candidates seeking employment – and more interest among potential new customers.

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An Industry First

Now Bill is upping the ante with the purchase of a hybrid straight truck – the first hybrid truck in the relocation industry by it's 3 top truck manufacturers. It combines diesel and battery power to enhance fuel economy by up to 30 percent and also reduces emissions.

"This truck is ideal for a stop-and-go application, which is how we will use it, primarily for deliveries between Boston and New York City."

Bill purchased the Kenworth truck from Atlas Terminal Company, which sourced it from Evansville Truck Center (Palmer Trucks) and Kentucky Trailer.

"It was especially exciting to be involved in this sale," says Lloyd Hill, Sales Consultant with Evansville Truck Center. "We all understand the importance of fuel efficiency and the environment. I expect we'll see more and more of these trucks on the road."

"We were fortunate and pleased to introduce a new truck body product to the industry for this hybrid," says Kentucky Trailer President & CEO Gary Smith, Sr. He explains that KT decided last year to re-enter the truck body market, and this project presented an ideal opportunity. "It fits well with our own innovative initiatives for green business," says Gary.

The truck's state-of-the-art technology includes a PACCAR engine and Eaton diesel-electric hybrid power system. When the operator applies the brakes, the transmission converts the energy to electricity and sends it to the batteries. Advanced powertrain controls monitor driving conditions and automatically select the ideal power mode, smoothly switching among electric-only, combined diesel and electric, and diesel-only power modes.

Bill sees this truck as another way of moving responsibly toward the future, and he encourages others to think about similar investments for their businesses. "If enough people buy them, these trucks will become more affordable for us all. That would be a good thing."

Bright Idea Leads to Sunny Disposition

While most workplaces get their energy from the local utility, one Atlas agency has found there's a good resource 93 million miles away. In December, partners Pat Robbie and Dan Doran flipped the switch on a new solar power system to supply electricity for a 68,000 square-foot office and warehouse at All Season Movers (198) in Kearny, New Jersey.

"We were looking for something that would allow us to give back to the environment," says Dan. "It just happened that our accounting firm was aware of incentives for commercial solar applications in New Jersey. We looked into it, and we saw it was a good fit."

Trinity Solar Power in Freehold, New Jersey provided engineering expertise as well as insight on the business case. All Season's accounting firm helped to locate a bank with a sweet financing package.

"Our lender gave us a 10-year lease, after which time we can purchase the solar panels for one dollar," says Pat. "Our only collateral is the equipment itself."

The photovoltaic (PV) system employs 965 solar panels mounted on the roof. These transform the sun's rays to direct current (DC). Seven inverters convert the electricity to alternating current, the standard for household wiring and power lines to homes. The system generates more than enough electricity to handle the lighting and cooling needs of the building. All Season sells the excess back to the local utility company.

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"Besides saving about $36,000 in electrical expense this year, we expect to earn over $100,000 this year for providing electricity to the power grid," says Pat.

But it gets even better. "We're getting a 40 percent tax credit which can be used over the next 15 years," says Pat. "And to top it all off, we're finding new opportunities with prospective clients who take green practices into consideration when they choose a vendor."

All of which has brought extremely sunny dispositions to Pat and Dan – and an enthusiastic endorsement for others who may be interested.

"This is an ideal application for a moving and storage company," says Pat. "After we write off the equipment, we'll get back 70 percent of our investment. If you can find a bank to work with you, there's no way you can't make money."

As every moving professional knows...

used packing materials accumulate over time. Action Moving Services (238) in Burnsville, Minnesota also knows how to put such materials to good use.

"We have our own baler to bundle the cardboard and newsprint we end up with," says President and CEO Bill Everson. "When we have a semi load, we take it to RockTenn (a recycling center of the RockTenn Company) and they recycle it and send us a check. It's not a profit center, but the main thing is we keep it out of landfills and avoid paying to have it hauled away."

When items must go into the waste stream, Action provides an efficient service, separating recyclables from other waste. "We've negotiated favorable rates with the landfill and with recyclers of PCB-containing office equipment," says Bill. "We can dispose of clean items for our customers at a savings...this service is especially helpful for customers with office moves."

Environmental responsibility extends to other areas as well. Used oils and hydraulic fluids accumulated in the truck repair facility become fuel for high-efficiency, clean-burning furnaces. This heats the shop entirely and supplements the heating for the warehouse.

"We recycle all metals from our shop and our customers," says Bill. "We have agreements with recyclers and favorable pricing for materials such as drums and electronics from copiers. We also recycle all toner cartridges separately for refilling."

The company's recycling efforts have earned it a Green ARROW (Award for Reduction and Recycling Of Waste) from the Dakota County Recycling Program. What's more, their conservation provides cost savings in other areas. For example, timers cycle engine block heaters for trucks (a necessity in the Minnesota winter) and more efficient fluorescent lighting consumes less electricity.

"It has become routine for everyone here to do their part, because it helps us all," says Bill. "Even some of the ink cartridges that we recycle help an employee's church, which gets income by selling them to the refilling companies. We are always looking for ways to conserve... not only is it cost-effective, we believe it is the right thing to do."

"Shred with ease at DeVries"

single leafDeVries Moving-Packing-Storage (1217) in Spokane, Washington, partners with United Data Security to make shredding easy and affordable not only in its offices, but for customers. For a modest $20 fee, customers get a 64-gallon bin a couple of weeks before the move. They can feed the bin for as long as they need. When they are ready, a truck comes and shreds the contents on the spot, takes the shredded paper to its processing facility for baling, and recycles it to make–what else? Boxes!

Turning Idle Time into a Smaller Footprint

Like many green-minded businesses, Golden Van Lines (991) takes several approaches to shrink its carbon footprint. It recycles most everything it can, controls electricity consumption like a miser, and even uses biodegradable soap for washing trucks. Last summer, the Atlas agency added a new, high-tech conservation tool to its operations. Using a GPS enhancement, the company now monitors the idling time for every truck in its fleet.

"One gallon of diesel fuel, when burned, releases about 20 pounds of carbon dioxide into the air," says Quality Assurance Director Rodney Box. "We've been able to reduce our emissions significantly – and save money."

When the company measured total idling time during June and July, it averaged slightly less than 28 hours a month. During August, with GPS tracking operator behaviors, the total dropped to about 13 hours. Subsequent months have shown similar reductions.

"We monitor each truck, and we talk to the individual operators to remind them when it becomes obvious they need to conserve," says Rodney. "Our rule of thumb is, anytime you're out of the truck for ten seconds, turn off the engine. There are exceptions, of course, such as when an operator is hooking up a trailer."

To put the savings in perspective, Rodney points out that the fuel consumed in two hours of idling equates to about an hour of driving. "The higher the cost of fuel, the greater the economic benefit."

"Our dedication to excellent service includes a commitment to operate responsibly in every area of our business," says Golden Van Lines President Todd Winter. "Our care for the environment reflects how we want to be viewed as a company by our employees and our customers."

A Culture of Quality with Deep Roots

When it comes to "working green," Paxton Van Lines, Inc. (1610) inspires by example. From an early embrace of the ISO 14001 Standard for Environmental Management (the first household goods carrier in the U.S. so registered) to recent activism for local water quality, a commitment to sustainability is intrinsic to this Atlas agency's culture.

"We believe social responsibility is essential to quality management," says Chief Marketing Officer and Senior Vice President Freddy Paxton. "We make it a priority for all Paxton Companies to maintain ISO registration for both environmental management and quality. Each standard is indispensable to how we do business." Paxton Companies employ a variety of conservation efforts. They recycle virtually everything, from packing materials to toner cartridges, to tires and batteries. And they monitor energy consumption carefully. Even used motor oil gets a second life, powering heaters in the vehicle maintenance shop.

For their success at pollution control, Paxton locations in Virginia have earned the state's "Exemplary Environmental Enterprise" (E3) designation from the Department of Environmental Quality. The title recognizes a "fully implemented environmental management system and pollution prevention program, as well as demonstrated performance."

Realizing that transportation presents its own challenges associated with fuel systems, Paxton is taking extra steps to ensure the quality of storm water runoff at its properties. In 2007, the company's E3 locations joined a statewide effort by businesses to protect and preserve the water quality in Chesapeake Bay.

"As a volunteer in Businesses for the Bay, we do several things to prevent pollution," says Paxton Safety Director Kevin Callahan. "For one, we use double-hulled in-ground fuel tanks, monitored continuously and tested monthly."

In addition, says Kevin, a dike system at the company's Springfield location prevents potentially contaminated runoff from reaching the storm sewers that run to the bay. A retention pond at the Sandston facility collects storm water for testing before it is released into the bay. For truck washes, a self-contained system captures and reuses water. When water leaves Paxton properties for the storied Potomac River and on to the Chesapeake Bay, it is verifiably free of harmful pollutants.

two leaves"Our focus has always been to minimize our environmental impact," says Freddy. "It's part of our philosophy. We're doing our part and learning every day, just as any business must if it intends to stay around."

Proof is in the Numbers: 14001

Alexander's Mobility Services (353) will soon enter an elite group of companies. The Atlas agent is taking on the heavy lifting to complete requirements for the ISO 14001 Standard for Environmental Management. Targeted completion for registration is January 2010.

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"We are already registered according to the ISO 9001 standard," says Corporate Quality Control Manager Zeke Oaks, who oversees the effort for the company's eight locations from Minneapolis, Minnesota (215). "We have a lot of things already in place that will make it efficient for us to attain this certification as well." Zeke points out that Alexander's has a history of environmental responsibility and a multitude of programs to reduce, reuse and recycle. The ISO "green" credential validates that commitment, and more. "ISO 140001 certification provides a map for environmental stewardship. It ensures that we set specific goals and maintain those levels each and every day," says Zeke. "It encourages us to continue to improve and will make us an even better company."

Marketing Director Frank Grunder recognizes the ISO credential carries potential competitive advantages. But he is quick to point out a much higher purpose for the company.

"This is a logical next step for us," says Frank. "We believe in accountability, integrity and responsibility. Achieving the ISO 14001 standard will demonstrate our efforts to minimize any potential environmental impact and make positive contributions in achieving our corporate goals. We know it is the right thing to do for our global clients, our employees and our communities." Frank adds that Alexander's is known for its commitment to continuous improvement. "This is another example of our efforts to remain a leader in our industry."

Keeping California Beautiful

Located in the world-famous San Francisco Bay Area, Thomas Transfer & Storage Co., Inc. (2006) is doing its part to keep California beautiful.

A comprehensive recycling program keeps reusable materials out of the waste stream. In addition to containers for paper materials, plastic, glass and metals placed strategically throughout the premises, each waste basket in the office features a small, attached bin for the few items that are not recyclable. A commercial baler compresses packing paper into dense blocks for use in other products. The company purchases paper made from recycled content whenever it can. Employees recycle all office equipment, printer cartridges, and most shop materials including oil, antifreeze, batteries and metals. They are even using an old bobtail box (straight truck enclosure) for shop storage after recently replacing the truck to comply with impending changes in California's emissions law.

"We've been committed to recycling for years," says President Candice Thomas Cambra. "We're always looking for ways to expand our efforts." Recently, the company began participating in a voluntary program through the local energy utility. A small amount added to the monthly bill helps fund environmental projects to absorb or reduce greenhouse gases.

"California is a highly regulated state," says Customer Service Director Jim Hanrahan, who, along with Mechanic Joel Cohen, oversees the company's environmental management programs. "We have good relationships with our local public safety agencies, fire department and water department. We work together to serve the interests of our community and environment – cooperation is good for everyone."

One important facet of this cooperation is a program to prevent pollution in storm runoff and ensure water quality in the San Francisco Bay. The Atlas agency monitors the integrity of its underground diesel and biodiesel tanks and uses a clarifier to separate oil and other contaminants from surface runoff. By keeping its wastewater free of harmful pollutants, the company carries certification from the Mountain View Public Safety Department as a "California Clean Bay Business."

green tree"George Thomas, our founder, was a great businessman, highly respected," says Jim. "He said, 'If you do the right thing, things will always work out for the best.' We believe in those words. And we live by them."




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