Interview with Mike Mannheimer, Cox Enterprises
VP of Supply Chain Services
& Chief Procurement Officer
Cox Conserves, USA
Cox Enterprises, one of America’s leading media companies (including Cox Newspapers,) and providers of automotive services, is making several moves to go green, beginning with the launch of Cox Conserves, a programme led by Mike Mannheimer, vice president of supply chain services and chief procurement officer.
The goal of Cox Conserves is to reduce its annual company-
Since 2000, Cox's Energy Management and Fleet Management departments have implemented energy-
Cox has already eliminated the production of 118,000 tons of greenhouse gases (GHG's). Its current "carbon footprint" is more than 832,000 tons of GHG's so a 20 percent goal translates into a reduction of an additional 166,000 tons of GHG's.
Cox Enterprises had 2006 revenues of US$ 13 billion and has more than 80,000 employees.
Major operating subsidiaries include Cox Communications, Inc. (cable television distribution, telephone, high-
IFRA: The Cox Conserves initiative was announced last year, but this environmental programme has more historical roots in the Cox group. How did it start?
Mannheimer: Back in 1993, we started to take actions to save energy in our various operations. We did it through measures to save electricity usage (lights, heating systems, air conditioning, choice of production equipment, recycling energy, etc.) and the motivation was mainly to save money at that time. There were no discussions about carbon footprint back then.
In 2006, under the direction of Jim Kennedy, chairman and CEO of Cox Enterprises, the group decided to adopt a more formal “green” programme and make our employees, their families and our customers aware and part of that environmental effort.
We came up with the name of Cox Conserves for that project. In order to set goals, we measured our carbon footprint. We measured it roughly (for example, not taking into account things like air travel, transportation to work for our employees, etc…). It was too difficult and too expensive to realise a full footprint audit. Then we looked at how much electricity, natural gas and fuel (for our fleet of vehicles) we were using for our activities.
We compared our energy consumption to the year 2000 to see the effect of all our different energy savings programmes between 2000 and 2006 and we calculated that we were reducing by 10 percent per year our carbon footprint compared to if we had not done anything.
IFRA: On top of reducing your carbon footprint by 10 percent per year, Cox Conserves has set a goal to reduce it by a further 20 percent in the next 10 years. Does that mean you are introducing more drastic measures or are we still talking about reducing the waste?
Mannheimer: I would not call it drastic, but this will certainly be more expensive. We have already saved millions of dollars with the energy saving programme we started over 10 years ago.
The return on investment from those earlier projects was better than the one we expect for the future, because what we will have to do will be more expensive and a little more difficult to do.
We still think that we can get an additional 10 percent out of some of the energy saving actions done in the past: buildings, plants and vehicles. So we have not finished with what we call the “low hanging fruit.”
Then we have to climb the tree even more. That is when you see the advantage of being a privately held company since we can take a longer-
IFRA: What do you mean by climbing even more?
Mannheimer: We recognise that we can not get that 20 percent additional carbon footprint reduction without exploring initiatives that harness green sources of energy like solar and wind power.
We have built solar installations on two of our properties in California and New Jersey. We are looking for places for wind installations and we have plans to build a wind farm that would generate around 10 percent of our total company’s needs.
The ROI calculations we have done on the wind farm are quite attractive; we need to find the right place to do it and get the budget approved (it is a US$ 50-
We have an advantage: my energy management group has grown from 1 person in the early ’90s to 19 people… that in itself reflects the will of the company. We have built strong in-
IFRA: Energy management is one part of the Cox Conserves programme, but what is also original are the measures you are taking in other areas, such as the management of your fleet of vehicles and the standards you have adopted for new buildings…
Mannheimer: We think there’s a premium you still have to pay for “green building,” but in our Cox Conserves budget we have money dedicated to what I would call “greening up” our buildings.
All our new buildings are following a new Cox standard that we have developed. Our new standards are a combination of LEED [Editor’s note: The Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design that provides a suite of standards for environmentally sustainable construction] and ENERGY STAR [Editor’s note: ENERGY STAR was introduced by the Environmental Protection Agency in 1992 as a voluntary, market-
We are not entirely adopting the LEED standards but we are definitely following those from ENERGY STAR. One of our recent new buildings is a television station in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and it will go for an LEED certification this year.
Around 98 percent of Cox's fleet of 15,000-
We have recently bought nine hybrid bucket trucks and two vans using regular gasoline but with hybrid conversion. They are still prototypes and expensive, so we could not change all our vehicles.
Another example is our three-
We also have a programme to encourage our employees to use public transportation or when possible to do teleworking. I personally think that it is a very good area to go after if you compare how much you have to pay versus how much you save as a company. We have big call centres in our Communications division that could work like that and some have already started.
IFRA: Are there measures that can specifically be applied to Cox’s newspapers?
Mannheimer: Newspapers are huge energy consumers for their production. We combine measures that are common for all our operations and use specific ideas such as changing drive motors for the presses, using soy-
IFRA: How is the legislation in U.S.?
Mannheimer: I don’t want to get too political but most of us think that the new government, whether it’s Democratic or Republican, will do a lot in the energy area. So next year will probably be a big year in that domain.
In the meantime, several states have created financial incentives: California is leading the way; New Jersey was the first state. For us, it is better to be green and make money than to be green and make less money.
The ROI is a factor, which is why we have focused on these states for our solar systems, etc.
IFRA: With a company that has 80,000 employees, how do you relay your actions?
Mannheimer: We do not want to do all this alone. We think that we can influence other companies, families, customers to become more environmentally friendly. We involve the communities in which we operate, and we do a lot of publicity around our projects, etc. We have websites …
We have created a Cox Environment Council with 30 vice president level representatives from all our divisions and corporate departments, and we use them as a sounding board for our ideas and to provide their ideas.
We also have recruited 275 Cox Conserves “Ambassadors” in our field operations that are volunteers to help implement better processes and ideas at local levels and report best practices to us.
This interview was conducted by Valérie Arnould, deputy editor of IFRA Magazine.
Page first published: 19.02.2008