When it comes to Allstate and the environment, the insurance company has put the environment in good hands.

It may not seem like a natural interest for an insurance company. But, even though Allstate does not have manufacturing plants or sell physical products, the company still included environmental efforts as part of its overall social responsibility plans.

The insurance business is data-intensive and one area where Allstate put environmental concerns front-and-center was in the construction of its new data center in Rochelle, Illinois in 2009.

According to its 2009 annual social responsibility report, from which much of the material for this article was taken, the company installed state-of-the-art hardware and efficient software that allowed the cut the space and power used by its computers by half.

In addition, the roof of the data center was painted white so that the sun’s rays are reflected rather than absorbed as heat.

Also, a chilled water system uses heat generated by the computer system and combines it with outside air to keep office areas and equipment rooms at a proper temperature.

All of the outside office walls are made of glass and much of the concrete in the foundation comes from recycled materials. The landscaping requires very little maintenance because the plants are native to the region.

These environmental features helped the data center earn the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design Gold certification.

The efficiency of the technology has helped Allstate further reduce its costs by helping the company reduce the number of data centers from ten to two by the end of 2010. Allstate predicts that that reduction will translate to using three-quarters less electricity over the next decade.

The same year the data center came online, the company was able to have a real impact with electronic billing.

The push to electronic billing helped Allstate eliminate 41 million pieces of mail and avoid approximately 3,600 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions.

Also in 2009, Allstate was named to the Carbon Disclosure Leadership Index, a listing of companies that “displayed the most professional approach to corporate governance in response to climate change disclosure practices.”

Paper reduction

In 2008, Allstate began focusing on reducing the amount of paper it used in the course of business. The following year, the company initiated a campaign to encourage employees to print only when necessary, print double-sided when possible and recycle whenever possible.

In the first seven months of the campaign, Allstate decreased its company-wide office paper use by 21 percent.

Perhaps even more significantly, paper purchases at the home office campus were reduced by 40 percent.

Naturally, Allstate sends out a significant amount of mail each year. The company has begun initiatives to encourage customers to use electronic versions of paper bills or to use automatic deductions from checking or savings accounts.

Allstate reports that in 2009 three percent of all billing documents were sent electronically, an increase from 2007 when electronic bills accounted for just 1.5 percent of all billing documents.

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