At Sandy Spring Bank, we recognize that we all have a role to play in environmental sustainability and combatting climate change. We are focused on sustainable business practices that minimize our impact on the environment while also reducing the risks that climate change poses to our business.
Our sustainability efforts are focused on reducing paper use through digitalization, waste reduction and energy and resource efficiency in our facilities. We also contribute to environmental sustainability by financing clean energy and energy efficiency projects.
For more information on the risks posed by climate change to our business, see our Annual Report.
Embracing Digital Tools
We have upgraded our technology to reduce paper usage and our reliance on paper-intensive processes. These initiatives reduce our carbon footprint while making it easier for clients to do business with us.
In 2019, we implemented a new online mortgage application. Within one year, more than 60 percent of mortgage applications were created online. In 2020, we added an e-closing tool that allows mortgage borrowers to sign the majority of their closing packages electronically. This significantly reduces the size of the physical closing package and the time borrowers need to spend at closing. We are now exploring moving to full electronic closings.
By using digital applications, documents and communications to process and deliver nearly 5,500 loans under the U.S. Paycheck Protection Program, we eliminated the paper by-product of one year’s worth of lending activity. We are also managing the loan forgiveness application process exclusively through our digital platform.
We rolled out a new online account opening tool that enables clients to apply for, open and fund deposit accounts entirely online without printing and mailing paper forms.
Encouraging Clients to Go Paperless
We encourage clients to use online and mobile banking and to opt-in for electronic statements, not only for greater convenience but also to help them reduce their own environmental footprints. Prior to COVID-19, our branch associates used tablets to demonstrate the ease and benefits of online/mobile banking to clients. We periodically offer a $5 promotional check to be deposited via mobile for clients who sign up for online banking. We look forward to resuming this activity once the pandemic has passed and social distancing is no longer necessary.
Our shredding and recycling efforts keep our clients’ personal information safe while reducing waste. In 2020, we recycled an estimated 129 tons of paper, even as many of us worked from home during the COVID-19 pandemic and used less paper. In addition to recycling paper, we provide recycling bins to collect glass, plastic and other recyclables throughout our branches and offices.
We work with our suppliers to procure products from renewable sources, including recycled paper products, whenever possible.
In addition, by increasing our use of document imaging we are significantly reducing the amount of paper and ink we purchase. During 2020, we purchased approximately 36 percent less paper than in 2019, aided also by our remote work environment.
Reducing Energy and Resource Usage
We contribute to a sustainable environment through business practices that protect and conserve natural resources. Highlights of our efforts include:
We have installed energy-saving LED bulbs and fixtures throughout our facilities.
Water Consumption Programs:
New and renovated locations include water dispensing machines (which reduce use of plastic water bottles), faucets with motion sensors, and water-saving toilets.
Under our electricity supplier agreement for our Maryland and Washington, D.C., locations, we purchase renewable energy credits equal to 10 percent of our total annual usage. Each credit represents the environmental benefits of 1,000 kilowatt-hours of renewable energy that can be paired with electricity.
Energy Efficient Systems:
New and renovated locations include energy-saving, time-controlled HVAC systems and light fixtures with sensors that detect motion. We also evaluate HVAC systems in our new and renovated locations for energy-saving upgrades.
Other Waste Reducing Features:
New and renovated locations are evaluated for waste-reducing opportunities, such as the installation of wall-mounted hand dryers instead of paper towel dispensers.
Supporting Clean Energy and Energy Efficiency
We partner with Montgomery County Green Bank in Maryland to finance loans through their Commercial Loan for Energy Efficiency and Renewables (CLEER) financing program. Through the CLEER financing program, commercial, multi-family and industrial building owners, as well as commercial and industrial tenants, nonprofits and common ownership communities receive financing to complete clean energy or energy efficiency projects. In 2020, we also became a participating lender in DC Green Bank’s CLEER program.
Through 2020, we have financed $1.6 million in commercial and affordable housing projects through the CLEER program to help properties reduce their environmental footprint, gain operating cost benefits, create comfort and value for their residents, and help reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Collective energy savings for these properties is nearly $80,000 annually and represents a reduction of GHG emissions by 560 tons each year, equivalent to the total electricity used by 95 homes in the county in one year.