Over the last several years, White Plains-based Heineken USA—which we named as one of the county’s most innovative businesses in 2013—has made strides to become a leader in sustainability. Its accomplishments include a 20-percent reduction in water consumption since 2008; a 1.7-percent reduction in its overall carbon footprint; and achieving Gold LEED certification at its White Plains headquarters, which utilizes natural and LED lighting to reduce energy consumption.
While the company itself will tout all those—and more—examples of going green, lost in all that, according to company officials, is the community engagement aspect of its sustainability efforts. At a panel discussion last Wednesday, several Heineken executives, along with White Plains Mayor Tom Roach and Jay Black, director of sustainability for Heineken landlord SL Green, discussed the topic.
“Sustainability is a pillar for employee engagement for the corporation,” said Jose Luis Velasquez, SVP of Heineken’s People Department. “We give our employees the opportunity to express the passion they have for engaging with the community and being socially responsible,” he continued, pointing to the company’s Day of Giving volunteer days. On one such day, last October, 80 employees helped renovate La Finca del Sur Community Garden in the Bronx.
Jaqueline Overton, engagement manager at Heineken USA, spoke about the company’s process for attaining Gold LEED certification at its White Plains HQ. While downsizing the office space (from two full floors to one and a half), employees weren’t too pleased with having their workspace cut by almost half. But Heineken involved employees in the process, right down to choosing their chairs. And, to reduce energy consumption, workstations were placed strategically, so that each had direct sunlight. “Because we involved employees in the process, they were able to assimilate very quickly,” Overton said. “And when they all realized they were going to have a window with a view, they were ecstatic.”
Another aspect of the community commitment to sustainability, Overton pointed out, is the White Plains office’s bike program. SL Green, the landlord, allowed the company to set up a bike rack that will allow employees to check bikes out, either for lunch or to commute to and from work, she explained. It’s a program also made possible, she said, because the City of White Plains, as part of its stride to be greener, implemented bike lanes. “White Plains made it very easy for us to create a bike program,” said Overton.
For its part, the City is happy to have Heineken call White Plains home. “I’m always proud when I hear the commercials, ‘Heineken USA, White Plains, New York,’” Mayor Roach said.