Seeking Sustainability Loyalty: Debbie Baxter of LoyaltyOne Talks CSR (Part 2 of 3)
By: Meirav Even-Har, Toronto
In this second installment of my conversation with Debbie Baxter, Chief Sustainability Officer at LoyaltyOne, we explore specific environmental and social initiatives. While it was hard to keep up with the numerous examples, the following are highlights.
For LoyaltyOne it is important to ensure its environmental operations are in check. The company's new Customer Care Centre in Mississauga Ontario, is certified LEED Gold, and features one of Canada's largest rooftop solar arrays, enabling it to participate in Ontario's Feed-In-Tariff program.
The company also holds an annual Environmental Fair throughout Canada. The Fair - a tradeshow for vendors and partners - includes about 40 vendors, such as office supplies and cleaning companies. "More than fifty percent of our staff will take the time to visit the event," says Debbie Baxter.
Environment meets health & wellness
While staff commuting by car contributes to LoyaltyOne's carbon footprint, it also relates to the time and stress related to spending extended periods of time behind the wheel. To assist, LoyaltyOne established its work from home program in 2006, enabling some of its staff to work permanently from home to eliminate commuting. Presently, 20% of staff falls into the work-from- home category.
Among the employees that must commute to work, a survey revealed most prefer public transit, but use cars for out of office meetings. In response, the company set up a fleet of eco-friendly vehicles. Several SMART cars, a Prius, and soon an electric car, are available to employees for external meetings or even to run errands. The program has been successful internally and is repeatedly cited as a leading example for progressive action in the business community.
Recently launched, Bixi Bikes are also incorporated into the "eco fleet." Keys and helmets are available to staff for use to ride to a meeting, run an errand or for pleasure. Baxter explains that beyond the environmental benefits, bicycles encourage wellness in the workplace. "We hope the program will make bike sharing a more permanent part of employees' work lives."
Strategic Community Investment
For LoyaltyOne, the success of a community investment program must have its roots with employees. If staff is encouraged to volunteer and give back to the community, choosing the right initiatives is key.
In the search for a strategic cause, the company assembled a cross-country committee of employees. The committee had a balanced representation from all departments including satellite offices. "We flew people into Toronto for in-person meetings to facilitate brainstorming and selection from a list of potential causes," Baxter describes. "It was important to incorporate the current charitable work from LoyaltyOne's different divisions such as AIR MILES to select a cause that has real impact and meaning." The committee's chosen cause is community building. She explains community building is about "reaching out and benefiting the communities where we work and live."
Volunteerism is important at LoyaltyOne. CommunityOne day occurs once per year when over 1400 associates throughout the country contribute to a number of causes. The process is democratic: employees in each region can choose from a list of potential causes or campaigns. LoyaltyOne also has a volunteerism policy that allows associates one day per year to volunteer their time with their personal charity of choice.
All initiatives roll up to a theme of community building. "We are providing the local interaction employees were seeking." When asked about measuring success Baxter explains that there is a focus on impact in dollars invested, employee time and sharing expertise.
A senior executive program works with the team of 100+ senior company leaders to encourage volunteerism based on interests and skills. "Tone at the top is very important. If staff see that their leadership team is giving back to the community then it sets a really good example for them to emulate." For Baxter it's about "living our values as a company."
This is Part 2 of a three-part series on LoyaltyOne's corporate responsibility initiatives, as part of an interview with Debbie BaxterChief Sustainability Officer. In the third and final segment, Ms. Baxter provides her insights into the ongoing benefits of CSR, as well as the future of corporate sustainability in Canada.
Read Part 1 of the series HERE
Image: Debbie Baxter, Sharon Wood CEO Kids Help Phone, and Bryan Pearson President & CEO LoyaltyOne (2011), courtesy of LoyaltyOne