3 Money-Saving Corporate Green Initiatives

By Adriano Pilloni | Energy, Sustainable Living, Urban Design

In recent years, sustainability has become a key element in the corporate decision making process. Indeed, as seen in many CSR (corporate social responsibility) documents, companies are strengthening their efforts to improve their social and environmental relationships through corporate green initiatives.

This is happening for many reasons, which can vary from the company’s awareness of their own behaviors to their efforts to meet rising consume demand for sustainability through marketing or “green washing” strategies.

Corporate Green Initiatives Case Studies

Apart from either the corporate conscience or marketing reasons, there is another great incentive pushing firms to go green: The shift to more sustainable practices can generate significant cost-savings, or green dividends, as evidenced by these three case studies.

1. Microsoft’s Smart Building Program

Commercial buildings account 18.6% of the total US energy consumption and are responsible for large greenhouse gas emissions. This impact can be significantly reduced by making buildings smarter.

In order to optimize its energy consumption and lower its environmental impact, Microsoft decided to launch its smart building program back in 2009. As reported by Accenture, the program started with an analysis of how the company – whose buildings accounts 40% of its footprint – and its partners could use technology to cut their energy consumption. The test phase has been performed on Microsoft’s campus; comprised of 118 buildings (1.38 million m2 of office space) and 30,000 units of mechanical equipment, with an average daily energy consumption of  2 million MWh and annual carbon emissions of 280,000 tons.

The data analysis provided opportunities for Microsoft’s smart building program to focus on these three main activities:

  • Fault detection and diagnosis: which quantifies the wasted energy from each identified fault in terms of dollars per year.
  • Alarm management: which, including a prioritization of the alarms, helps engineers to identify opportunities for efficiencies and cost savings.
  • Energy management: which optimizes the base load and the plug load energy consumption of the company.

These three solutions have helped engineers save a lot of time in inspections and significantly improved the energy efficiency of the company. Thanks to this program, Microsoft has saved millions of dollars on energy consumption and lowered its carbon footprint.

Example of fault detection and diagnosis, source Accenture

Illustrative example of fault detection and diagnosis output. Image via Accenture.

2. Bio-fuels Adoption by IATA Members

According to ATAG, the worldwide aviation industry is responsible for transporting 35% of goods (by value) and 40% of international tourism. In 2013, these practices produced 705 million tons of CO2 (2% of the global total). Therefore, the aviation industry, despite the progresses made during the past 20 years, has to work to reduce its emissions.

IATA (International Air Transport Association) recognizes the need to address the global challenge of climate change, providing ambitious targets to its members in order to mitigate CO2 emissions. Indeed, since 2005, IATA’s Green Teams have saved some 39 million tons of CO2 by advising airlines on fuel efficiency methods.

One of the most promising solutions used to pursues this goal – which include measures to reduce fuel inefficiencies and weight loads – is the adoption of alternative fuels that are sustainable and produce a smaller footprint. Among these, the most promising has been the Jatropha and Algae “green fuels”, as they have an high oil content and don’t generate a food vs. fuel competition.


Jatropha Cycle. Image via Kaluyala.

Between 2008 and 2011 IATA performed many flight test with blends containing bio-fuels and, since 2011, bio-fuel blends of up to 50% have been certified for commercial passenger flights.

This can have a terrific impact as, according to IATA, lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions from bio-fuels can be up to 80% lower than traditional fossil jet fuel emissions. In addition, these fuels can be more efficient and cheaper than traditional hydrocarbons, allowing aviation companies to go “green” while saving money.

3. Samsung’s Eco-Friendly Packaging on Mobile Devices

Over the last 10 years companies have begun to reduce the size of mobile device packaging in order to reduce their environmental impact. For example, Samsung has developed and expanded their its efforts in eco-friendly packaging for the Galaxy Series, reducing energy use and supporting the recycling of unused resources.

This has been the result of the company’s awareness of its responsibilities, as highlighted by JK Shin, President and Head of IT & Mobile Communications Division at Samsung, who said: “as smartphones become more popularized, the responsibility of companies on making eco-friendly products is also becoming greater”.

In addition, he endorses the initiative as a part of the company’s strategy: “by developing eco-friendly package and applying them to the Galaxy series, we will strengthen our role as an eco-friendly company.”

Thanks to this initiative, Samsung improved its reputation and by using recycled paper on the Galaxy 4s alone, it reduced approximately 1,000 tons of CO2 emissions or, in other words, protected 100,000 trees.


Samsung Recycled Box. Image via Phonearena.

Samsung’s re-packaging efforts over the last years, along with those of other companies, have been a great cost-cutting opportunity as well. Smaller-sized packaging, recycled materials and other “process innovations”, such as providing digital manuals, reduced production costs. Moreover, the smaller packaging made room for more devices that a company can hold in storage or ship in one truck. This has effectively lowered the per unit stocking and transportation costs, as well as the product footprint.

Samsung’s efforts have become a great case study example of the benefits of pursuing both economic and environmental sustainability.

About The Author

Adriano Pilloni
Adriano, 25 years old, is a Master Graduate in Environmental Economics and Development from Rome Three University (Italy). During his education he developed a deep knowledge on Economics and a keen interest on Economic Theory with particular regard to energy markets, sustainability, environmental and agricultural issues. He has been proactive during his university time doing many projects and being elected by the students as Advisor of the Economics Dept. of his University. With two other students he developed a project on Food Sustainability which has been selected in the top 30 of the international Barilla contest "BCFN YES! 2013". He did the 2014 European edition of Extreme Blue, IBM's premier internship program for both graduate and undergraduate students. Now he is working as Junior Power and Gas Analyst at GDF SUEZ Italy.