Our approach to environmental management — including climate change, resource efficiency, and conservation — is set forth in our environmental statement. Because increasing environmental risks can have negative impacts on our business and stakeholders, we work to identify and manage those most pertinent to our industry. We are intentional about where and how we focus our efforts to make improvements that are sustainable and aligned with our values.
Addressing Climate Change
Protecting the environment is critical to the health and wellbeing of the people and communities we serve. Growing concerns around climate change have led us to evaluate opportunities to reduce GHG emissions. We have adopted several measures in response, such as upgrading to more energy efficient technology, increasing accessibility to electric charging stations, and moving toward LEED-certified and energy-efficient facilities.
Environmental lending and investments
Synovus had more than $165 million in solar energy loans outstanding as of year-end 2020, and renewable energy credits earned in the year totaled more than $12 million.
We have two primary areas of focus for energy management: the physical infrastructure of our offices and branches and the energy consumed by our technology and data centers.
Energy efficient infrastructure
Operational emissions related to buildings, including heating, cooling and lighting, account for 28% of all carbon emissions in the world.1 Synovus has approximately 300 branches and offices in the Southeast region of the United States with around 25% fitted with LED lighting and evaluated for other energy reduction changes. This transition has already yielded approximately $350,000 in annual savings across 56 buildings. Additionally, most buildings have automatic lighting fixtures to adapt to room activity and avoid excess energy use.
Synovus conducts periodic energy audits that include evaluation of opportunities to reduce energy consumption of our buildings. We have energy use targets based on ranges comparable to equivalent buildings in size and function. When consumption exceeds this range, we perform testing and root cause analysis to identify sources of excess use. While all buildings are weighted equally in our consideration of energy upgrades, adoption of energy efficient measures is easier and more economical during construction of new buildings. In 2019, 144,000 square feet qualified as LEED Gold and Silver. These sites include electric vehicle charging stations and parking lights fueled by solar panels.
Technology upgrades and transition to the cloud
We are working to reduce our energy footprint by upgrading our hardware technology, including deployment of 3,000 new laptops to replace more energy intensive desktop computers. Synovus works with a third-party recycling vendor to collect and properly recycle used electronic equipment.
We also have a digital transformation plan that benefits the environment while helping us save costs. By transitioning fully to the cloud, we reduce our reliance on computer data centers that operate using nonrenewable electricity sources.
Paper and Waste Management
Banking traditionally has been a paper-intensive industry. That is changing rapidly, as banks adopt electronic transactions and record keeping, make operational improvements away from paper, and transition customers to electronic statements.
We have made many incremental changes in our offices that add up over time. Recycling bins are widely distributed and team members are encouraged to actively recycle most individual waste. In break room and other common areas, we have transitioned mostly from using Styrofoam, including cups and containers for catering.
Several factors contributed to a reduction in paper use. Nearly all internal communications are exclusively electronic, with no printed collateral or supporting materials, and we have implemented additional digital channels to discourage the use of paper-based communication across the company. Default printer settings are for double-sided printing in black and white. Scanning documents to electronic formats, process improvements, and working-from-home have yielded a reduction of 9.56 million print impressions since 2019, and 38 million impressions since 2007. In 2020, that reduction was equivalent to 9,405 lbs. of CO2 emissions savings.
Used paper is shredded to protect private and confidential information and recycled through a third-party collection agency. Between October 2019 and October 2020, Synovus securely shredded and recycled more than 1.25 million pounds of paper. The graphic below depicts the distribution of environmental benefits as a result of shredding and recycling. The paper is taken to paper mills for pulping used in other supply chains, contributing to a more circular economy.
Our free checking, paperless initiative demonstrates our extended commitment to reducing paper use by disincentivizing customers to receive paper statements. Nearly 225,000 consumer and commercial accounts are paperless as of year-end 2020.
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