Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Courier Makes Business Case for Being Green

by Erin Moriarty
Atlanta Business Chronicle
(Reprint from Article on June 21, 2007)

An Atlanta courier is trying an alternate route to business success.

Green Express is in the process of converting to hybrid electric cars as part of an overall transformation to become more environmentally friendly. The company bought four of the cars in January and will purchase two more this summer, eventually replacing all 10 cars in its fleet. The new Toyota Prius vehicles are getting about 50 miles per gallon compared to their previous vehicles, which got 20 to 25 miles per gallon, said Jay Holgate, managing partner of Green Express.

Its drivers travel about 2,500 miles per day, so gas mileage is extremely important. The company's bottom line is very vulnerable to fuel price fluctuations and the hybrid electric cars have proven to be a sound investment, Holgate said. "We wanted to do something different to get us away from being so dependent on oil," said Holgate.

The changes at Green Express are part of a growing trend of companies recognizing the potential benefits of becoming more environmentally sustainable.

"They want to reduce emissions and keep their consumption of fuel down so they can save money, reduce the risk of regulation and be responsive to the growing consumer demand for more environmentally friendly and socially responsible products and services," said Susan Graff, a principal at the consulting firm ERS Inc.

The U.S. market for environmentally friendly products and services -- ranging from industrial products to kitchen appliances -- is about $158 billion, according to an organization called Lifestyles of Health and Sustainability.

Graff, a former executive with the Environmental Protection Agency, has been helping companies like The Coca-Cola Co. (NYSE: KO) and Unilever Plc with environmental strategies for more than 10 years. She says environmental issues are gaining new clout in the corporate world as large companies like Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (NYSE: WMT) and Interface Inc. put pressure on their suppliers to become more environmentally sustainable.

"A company like Green Express will be well-positioned to take advantage of these large companies that have gone to giving preferential treatment to suppliers who have reduced their environmental footprint," Graff said.

Green Express changed its name from Georgia Couriers in January as part of its overall transformation, which included installing fluorescent light bulbs, using recycled products and making many other changes.

Some smaller firms are also showing their support for greener companies. Since Green Express rolled out its hybrid vehicles, the company has added 38 new clients who turned to the courier because of its green approach to doing business. Among them is architecture firm Tunnell-Spangler-Walsh & Associates.

"We liked the fact that they have an understanding of how their business impacts the environment and they have that as an ideological underpinning for their business model," said Christopher Leerssen, an associate architect with the Midtown-based Leerssen says he sees more companies gradually going green.

"People are naturally reluctant to change until they see other businesses proving that green [initiatives] are financially feasible and beneficial," Leerssen said.

Graff says companies should start by looking at their carbon footprint, which is a measure of the impact they have on the environment in terms of the amount of greenhouse gases produced. At the same time, they should also look at how much money they can save by reducing their carbon footprint.

"You have to have a business case," Graff said.
Green Express executives say that's exactly what they have discovered.
The cars will pay for themselves in about five months and will continue to save the company significantly on fuel costs, Holgate said.

"We are absolutely better off in the long run financially," Holgate said.
"We use a ton of fuel, but as prices go up you can't just keep passing the price increase on to customers," he said. "It's a huge expense for us."

Reach Moriarty at

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