People often think about Aflac and the duck. But if the company keeps up their eco-friendly ways, folks could soon be thinking Aflac and green instead.

Indeed, the Columbus, Ga.-based company, which insures more than 50 million people worldwide, implemented environmentally-friendly solutions long before shifting attitudes compelled many Fortune 500 businesses to go green. Aflac and green go back quite a few years.

In fact, the paperless insurance transaction was pioneered and introduced by Aflac in 1994.

To date, Aflac says that more than 90 percent of insurance applications are submitted electronically, while more than 80 percent of all accounts are paperless.

For the most recent year that statistics are made available by the company (2008), Aflac reduced their paper usage by nearly 43 million sheets. In a single year, Aflac claims to have saved over 5,000 trees, nearly 1.5 million gallons of water and 2,000 barrels of oil.

Two of Aflac’s buildings on its main Columbus, Ga. campus were awarded the symbolic “Energy Star” certification by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for helping protect the environment and exemplary energy efficiency strategies.

Aflac’s forward-thinking reduce, reuse, recycle goals include certifying at least 70 percent of their buildings as Energy Star Rated facilities by 2012. The company also expects to increase its recycling of waste material to at least 70 percent, also by 2012.

Two other environmental goals by that same year include increasing the percentage of marketing materials printed on paper certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) to at least 70 percent. Also, Aflac expects that they will use FSC-certified paper on at least 90 percent of all printed materials.

Aflac estimates that it saves, on a yearly basis, nearly 5 million dollars that otherwise would be spent on paper, postage, ink, photocopy toner, storage space, filing equipment and other ancillary costs associated with paper’s use.

According to research published by the Environmental Paper Network, indirect costs of paper can amount to 10 times the cost of the paper alone. 

Aflac’s yearly savings are likely to increase over the years as the company continues to reduce its paper consumption.

Purchasers at the company are encouraged to consider the full lifecycle costs of the products and services that the company’s operations require.

Aflac’s purchasers are encouraged to make their buying decisions based on a green philosophy, which Aflac coded in its SmartGreenSM procurement guidelines.

For all of its greening efforts, Aflac, last year, was placed by Newsweek on its list of the top 500 environmentally-conscious companies. Although Aflac was ranked in the middle of the pack (they were #234), its score for overall environmental impact placed it among the top 10 companies in the U.S.

In 2008, Aflac hosted its first Earth Day event. The company also hosts several smaller “green” activities, which include recycling information booths and material collection drives at its Georgia headquarters.

Aflac participates in Earth Hour, turning off non-essential lights and other electrical appliances to conserve energy. On a daily basis, the company also publishes “green reminders” and advice on its corporate Intranet to encourage employees to be good stewards of natural resources—both in the office and at home.

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