Aflac's green strategy: simple, low-cost steps add up

For those who see converting to a green facility as daunting or expensive, Aflac has five words: it's okay to start small.

Moving to greener operations need not be expensive or time-consuming projects. Often, a lot can be accomplished with a lot of little steps.

Just ask Pat Ryal, VP of technology services of Aflac, who has been leading her company's green initiatives. I had the opportunity to talk with Ryal as part of my exploration of the leading green data centers within the insurance industry, published in the May issue of Insurance Networking News.

Aflac opened a 161,000-square-foot energy-efficient IT center last year in Columbus, GA.  But that's only part of the story. For example, Aflac achieved some quick wins on simple paper reduction techniques – configuring printers for two-sided printing, and distributing reports to agents electronically.  Ryal states that at this point more than 62 percent of the company's internal reports are delivered electronically. "We scrutinize those on a quarterly basis to ensure that any of those that are printed are truly needed, and if not, we either eliminate them or direct them towards the online capability," she says. In addition, 99 percent of Aflac's 25,000 active agents now receive their statements electronically, she adds.

Not only is Aflac supporting greener operations, but the virtual conferences and social networking have also had a notable increase on staff productivity. “We have eight miles between our campuses. With the virtual meeting, we're able to share documents and teleconference," Ryal says. "We've grown to from 640 virtual meetings a month when we first implemented it, to almost 2,000 a month now. These participants used to get into their cars to travel to different locations for meetings. Just five people traveling back and forth between meetings on the campuses is a collective 100 miles.”

For those who see converting to a green facility as daunting or expensive, Ryal has five words: it's okay to start small. "Overall, it seems daunting when you first undertake it, and you think you have to do all these great and grand things, and invest a lot of money. We have found that's not the case," Ryal says.

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