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EBSCO and Ipswich Leave Eco-Audience Green

January 18, 2013

You might think that a global publishing powerhouse like EBSCO, in choosing the tiny, tony, historic seaside community of Ipswich, Massachusetts as its home base, would need their headquarters examined.  In the case of EBSCO you’d be crazy wrong, because actually they’re crazy smart. Here’s how I found out.

EBSCO Publishing President Tim Collins

EBSCO Publishing President Tim Collins

At a recent North Shore Technology Council meeting, run by NSTC’s Sustainability SIG (that’s Special Interest Group, for you lay people), EBSCO CEO and founder Tim Collins and CFO Tom Wheeler spoke to an overflow crowd, all gathered for this rare opportunity (thanks, John Coulbourn) to be briefed on the back story on EBSCO’s widely reputed enviro-conscience.  The exec team regaled us with stories that brought us all to understand just how and why EBSCO is a darling of the digital publishing age, not to mention the Boston North Shore region and their host hometown.

A High-speed Fiber “Diet”

For openers, EBSCO is a case study in how a fiber optics buildout works wonders.  They engaged a telco provider to run high-speed fiber optic cable right to EBSCO’s century-old brick buildings that hug the meandering Ipswich River.  In so doing, they created a boon to the community, who also benefit from that high speed fiber optic Internet connectivity.

Talk about a good neighbor – but this is not a one-off; even EBSCO’s business model involves benefiting the community at large.  EBSCO Host, a leading document database, is free to the public, subsidized by leading university, hospital and corporate clients, who in turn benefit from recognition by a broad public audience.  Try it! (hint: click the logo below).

Sustainability at Work

EBSCO Host logoWhy did the NSTC Sustainability SIG seek to move its December 2012 monthly breakfast to EBSCO? In a word: reputation.  Aside from the convenient location for EBSCO’s executive team, consider the following.

The company has a sustainability streak that runs deep and wide.  LED lighting has replaced Sodium based lighting.  Climate controls are modern.  All EBSCO employees have free recycling bins in their office spaces and their homes, emblazoned with the EBSCO logo.  Imagine seeing the EBSCO logo on front lawns up and down Boston’s North Shore on your town’s Recycle day.  What a great community gift, and a nice nudge for PR and recruitment.

EBSCO has given away recyclable tote bags – 2 per employee at $1 apiece, exceeding $200 thousand over the years.  Incidentally, it came out of the Recruiting budget – once again a great PR and recruitment move, and a great morale booster and conservation act.

Best Commute: No Drive

EBSCO reimburses 75% of commuter rail passes for employees.  This started out of concern for inadequate parking spaces as the company grew, but the policy has been maintained since it is “greener” (less pollution per headcount) to ride the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) mass transit trains – not electric subway trains, mind you, but fully outfitted, locomotive-driven rail coach cars with cushy seats, wi-fi, and spectacular coastal views.  Additionally, it helps neutralize the commute cost issue for people who might have otherwise not considered Ipswich and opted for a dirty, noisy urban work destination.  Personally, I enjoy commuting by train from Boston to New York or northward. The ride is a perfect way to gear up for the day, sipping wi-fi and coffee, enjoying the mind-expanding scenic views, and to wind down on the return trip.

The subsidized train commute and inspired sustainability initiatives in place at EBSCO have proven financially worthwhile. EBSCO CFO Wheeler estimates that it is cheaper than the personnel turnover and agency fees that would otherwise occur if those incentives were not present. If you prefer to drive, though, note the electric car charging stations onsite.  EBSCO’s automobile fleet has swollen to over 50, almost all of which are hybrid fuel types in the U.S.

 Success Has Its Hiccups

If you’ve been paying attention, you’ll notice a common motivational thread:  employee happiness.  Many of these “green” ideas are employee-devised and encouraged by the executive suite.   Of course, progress has its hiccups.  One trial of alternative cafeteria dining utensils made from organic ingredients resulted in a humorous mishap, in which an employee inserted one of the organic-base spoons in a cup of soup only to have it disintegrate in seconds.  It seems the spoon was made from, among other things, potato.  Not a bad soup enhancement, but also not a hot-selling coffee flavoring – at least, not in Ipswich.  Fear not; here come more success stories.

EBSCO campus

 Green Inside and Out

“Green Zone” labels adorn paper sources in EBSCO’s offices – a gentle and effective reminder to conserve paper.  Waste paper has gone way down.  Save a tree, save a buck.  Nice habit.

Outdoors, you’ll find even more conservation initiatives at work.  The EBSCO campus’ peaceful riverside dining terrace is punctuated with rain barrels that capture roof runoff to irrigate the luscious tableside gardens.  Speaking of water, all EBSCO employees are issued a mug and a cup to re-use, replacing the need for bottled water (FYI most water bottles worldwide tragically end up in the trash – not the recycle process).

 Raving Fans

NSTC logoThe audience of NSTC members and guests had quick praise and more than a handful of personal anecdotes acknowledging EBSCO and Ipswich.   NSTC member Vera Struck‘s cable TV show “Getting Engaged” has aired segments focused on what she observes is Ipswich’s “quest” for sustainability.  Fellow member David Reibel pointed out Ipswich’s “I Care” citizen’s group, which is focused on finding even more environmentally sound civic and business opportunities.   Martha Farmer of NSTC’s companion biotech/cleantech incubator organization North Shore Innoventures pointed out the link between environmental stewardship, clean air, and the attendant reduction in health care expense that can be enjoyed by a clean community like Ipswich.

Kind of makes you think about moving to Ipswich, doesn’t it?   You could do worse.  Besides, you look good in green.  Whoever you are.  Just saying.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. January 27, 2013 4:07 pm

    This is interesting and inspiring in so many ways! Ebsco is showing all the reasons for being a Green company… #1 being bottom line business! Tim Collins is a true believer… he even drives a Volt!

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