Putting the ‘Green’ in Walgreens: A Major Store Chain Broadens Its Enviro Reach


Organization: Walgreens Timeframe: 2008 Walgreens, the nation's largest drugstore chain with fiscal 2007 sales of $53.8 billion, operates 6,237 stores in 49 states and Puerto Rico. Way before "green" was popular, when there wasn't much talk about saving the planet, Walgreens was already protecting the environment. For example, the company has worked with General Electric to develop energy- efficient lighting in its stores since 1968, and Walgreens has been a partner with the Environmental Protection Agency to conserve energy for more than 10 years. Over the past decade, employees in the company's facilities planning, distribution center, store operations and transportation divisions have developed dozens of other green initiatives to save costs and help the environment. Problem is, the company didn't toot it's own horn about it. So people both inside and outside of the company never realized how much "green" there is at Walgreens. Having learned its lesson, Walgreens is now doing more to publicize its environmental efforts, and the number of initiatives has increased. With pride in their progress, the company wants to shout out from its solar panel rooftops that Walgreens is greener than ever before. To prove it, here's a sample of seven--out of more than 100--environmental projects the company is working on. 1. Up-on-the-roof energy savings Look on the roofs of 17 Walgreens stores and two of its distribution centers and you'll find solar panels that harvest the sun's energy to power about 20% of each location's electricity needs. By the end of 2008, the company will have put solar panels on another 45 stores in Oregon and Hawaii. It is also evaluating the use of solar panels for several stores in Arizona. 2. Cool fridge savings It takes tons of energy to light store coolers, so in 2007, Walgreens introduced a light-emitting diode (LED) solution for its refrigerated display cases in all new stores. This energy-efficient LED system, which uses lower watt light bulbs, reduces the amount of energy used by a cool $1,500 per store per year. 3. Light from above Thanks to a 40-year relationship with General Electric, Walgreens is saving energy with high-efficiency, fluorescent ceiling lights and central lighting controls in more than 6,200 stores across the United States and Puerto Rico. By using these technologies, the company is lowering energy consumption by 63.4 million kilowatts, reducing carbon dioxide emissions by 109 million tons and saving about $5.7 million in energy costs a year. 4. Rewards of recycling The company loves the idea of recycling anything it can as long as it's cost-effective. Last year, Walgreens recycled more than 39,000 tons of cardboard and 422 tons of shrink- wrap. Together, this would save enough energy to power about 33,400 households. The company also recycles burned-out lightbulbs used in its stores and distribution centers to protect the environment from mercury, which is inside the bulbs and is extremely toxic to humans and animals. 5. Road to cleaner air We can all breathe easier knowing that Walgreen trucks and company cars use low-emission fuels. Right now, its entire fleet of 600 semi-trailers uses ultra-low sulfur diesel or soy-blended fuels--way ahead of the U.S. government's timetable to convert all fleets to low-emission fuels. This replaces more than a million gallons of fossil fuel gas with cleaner air-burning fuels. The company's fleet of cars, primarily used by district staff, includes 150 flexible-fuel vehicles giving drivers the option to fill up with E85--an ethanol blend. Walgreens is also replacing some of these cars with hybrids, which can be up to 25% more fuel-efficient than standard cars. 6. Penthouse greenery Plant-covered rooftops, known as "green roofs," absorb less of the sun's heat, keeping buildings cooler and saving energy. This May, the first Walgreens with a green roof will open in Chicago. The ground covering the company will use is a drought-tolerant, maintenance-free plant that will be contained in movable plastic trays. If all goes as planned, the company will create more green roofs. 7. Turn down the lights It's very rare to see a utility company pay you money. But that's what's happening to Walgreens in California, Florida, Illinois and Minnesota, where utilities reward the company for turning down the lights or air conditioning during peak use periods. These programs were created to prevent total blackouts in cities. For Walgreens, participation lowers its power bills and shows good corporate responsibility. PRN CONTACT: This article was written by Iris Iglarsh, manager of internal communications for Walgreens. It was excerpted from the PR News Going Green: Case Studies in Outstanding Green Business Practices, Volume 1. To order a copy, visit http://www.prnewsonline.com/store/. Into Greener Pastures Walgreens is developing a test store to meet top environmental standards.To take the company's green efforts in building construction to the next level, Walgreens is developing a test store in Mira Mesa, Calif., which will be the greenest Walgreens in the chain. This building will have some of the most proven energy-saving devices and systems including: Skylights to reduce dependency on electricity by using natural light Energy-efficient lighting and air conditioning Special plumbing fixtures to reduce water consumption Reduced irrigation to save water usage Use of coatings, finishes and cleaning products that are friendly to the environment More recycling of construction waste Designated parking for energy-efficient cars Bike racks and posted information about bike routes In addition to protecting the environment, Walgreens has been selected to participate in a pilot program for retailers with the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), a nonprofit group dedicated to green building practices. As the only drugstore chain among 70 retailers in the program, the company will help develop environmental standards for retail construction. Being part of the pilot program will also help Walgreens reach its goal to achieve a high rating from the USGBC's LEED (Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design) system. As the nationally accepted benchmark for the design, construction and operation of green buildings, LEED certifies that building structures meet or exceed a high level of environmental design and performance. Walgreens is hoping that its test store in Mira Mesa will get a good grade from LEED. What the company learns along the way will benefit their employees, customers and the environment. Ten Tips For Going Green 1. Embrace a holistic cultural commitment to being green; reject greenwashing as an option. 2. Educate your organization about a triple bottom line of people, planet and profits, and its impact (i.e. what it really means to be green). 3. Look for investors with similar values who think long term: Going green may involve higher up-front costs. 4. Hire vendors with the highest quality of green products and services who are socially responsible. 5. Create an operational road map that addresses the environment, social and economic issues. 6. Have a plan to enlist and inspire buy-in throughout your organization on your commitment to be green. 7. Write and share your corporate social responsibility statement. 8. Allocate time to execute--you will need it. 9. Get customer buy-in--involve them in some way. 10. And finally, market your plan and successes to fuel continued adoption. Be a leading example--share and publicize your successes with your industry, customers, employees, investors and peers. Source: Lydia Graham, president of Graham & Associates Inc.

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