Allstate paper reduction strategy impacts the bottom line and builds internal partnerships

When Allstate Insurance Co. set out to reduce its environmental footprint, the company decided to approach sustainability from an efficiency perspective. By reducing its carbon footprint, Allstate could also increase its operational efficiencies and cut down on costs. To begin this process, Allstate took on a wide variety of tasks, including taking the necessary steps to make its buildings LEED certified, purchasing vehicles that had better gas mileage and revising the approval process for employee travel to cut down on unnecessary travel.

Recently, Allstate was looking for ways to bring sustainability to the employee level. For insurance companies, the biggest environmental impact is paper use, explained Craig Keller, Director, Public Social Responsibility at Allstate. From an employee and customer perspective, reducing paper use would lead to substantial cost savings for the company and give employees a cause to stand behind.

In 2009, Allstate set a goal to reduce office paper use by 25 percent in 2010. Employees exceeded this goal and achieved 41 percent paper reduction in corporate headquarters and more than 50 percent in field offices. To accomplish this, the Corporate Relations Department collaborated with its internal partners in the Procurement and IT departments, working together to determine current paper use levels and developing ways to reduce it over time. The IT Department identified the size of the printer fleet, which devices were preset for double-sided printing, and the company’s capabilities from a technological perspective. In conjunction with the Procurement Department, Keller and his team were able to determine the amount of paper being ordered, by location and department.

With figures in hand, Keller’s team set out on a mission to educate Allstate’s 30,000 employees using multiple communication channels. Usage and cost data was communicated to employees via the Allstate intranet, myDesktop. To inspire employees to action, rather than simply reporting figures and statistics Allstate got the message across with a photo of a person standing next to a stack of the 20 reams of paper used per employee each year. In addition to information on paper use, the company offered simple tips on how to cut down on printing and explained the cost differentials between different types of ink and other supplies, Keller said.

Allstate goes beyond the intranet and company-wide newsletters to reinforce its message. Employees’ screensavers were used to get the word out, displaying one-minute animated messages on paper use, its environmental impact and cost implications for the firm. The 7,000 Allstate Ambassadors also promote environmental issues through their newsletter, raising awareness of paper use reduction and encouraging employees to commit to the process. The Ambassadors are employees who champion the company and its good works in their communities.

With employees embracing the paper reduction initiative, Allstate has capitalized on the combined efforts and continually surpassed performance goals. The focus has shifted toward maintaining performance levels and keeping employees enthusiastic about the program.

Allstate has the scale to generate significant change from the customer side as well. The insurance company, which serves nearly 16 million households across the U.S., has transitioned from simply offering paperless solutions for customers to making it a priority. Customers can now engage with the company to meet their needs without using paper. They can go online to view and pay their bills and manage their policies, which usually involves the most paper. Allstate estimates that by the end of 2011 it saved 24 million pieces of paper from going out the door to customers. Beyond monetary savings, the impact on the environment is significant.

Keller remarked that the paper reduction initiative has helped to build a culture of caring at Allstate, strengthening interdepartmental connections. By building relationships with internal partners, the Corporate Responsibility team was able to leverage these connections to gain insight on paper use levels and monitor it across the company. “When there is a spike in paper usage, we follow up with a given department or office to see if they need additional support. If there is a downward trend, we ask them what they are doing and see if it is replicable across multiple locations,” Keller commented. Working together different departments can coordinate future orders, taking into account the interests and priorities of the company as a whole.

Keller suggested that CR departments try to implement similar initiatives by partnering with internal departments. Employees working in other functional areas can be a source of knowledge that improves understanding of organization capabilities and the proper mix of strategies necessary to create a positive impact. “As much as possible, use internal communications and employee advocate groups to spread awareness and generate enthusiasm,” Keller said. Allstate leveraged each of these resources to create sustainable change among employees and customers alike.