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Posted: March 01, 2010

2010 Sustainability Champion: Mariner Kemper, CEO UMB Financial Corp.

Engaging in 'green' practices good for business, CEO says

Mike Cote

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UMB CEO Mariner Kemper says one of the best things about winning the 2010 Sustainability Champion Award is that it gives him another platform to talk about sustainability.

"For me, it's very equally split between being good for business and being good for the planet," says Kemper, whose company's banking subsidiaries operate banking centers through Colorado, Missouri, Illinois, Oklahoma, Nebraska and Arizona.

"The planet doesn't get any bigger, and we add more people to it every year," he says. "People are living longer lives. If we don't ultimately start caring more, you can't argue that it has a negative impact on the lives of our kids and our grandkids."

The awards are a program of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment and the Colorado Environmental Partnership partnered, Connected Organizations for a Responsible Economy (CORE), and ColoradoBiz. The program is sponsored by PAETEC, a New York-based telecom company that delivers data and voice services in 84 metro markets including Denver.

UMB's sustainability efforts break up into four categories, Kemper says: internal practices, community outreach, associate engagement - and generating business through products and services.

"We developed green-oriented products, and we've given our associates a bunch of benefits tied to such things," says Kemper, including the full-cost of light rail and bus commuting for its Colorado employees.

Environment: Kemper has led UMB's efforts to ensure new branches and upgrades are completed using green practices. In 2007, UMB opened its first "green" building in Stapleton, which included a grass roof as part of its structural design. In 2008, UMB completed a carbon calculator for the company's entire footprint, which showed a 2 percent overall decrease in emissions from 2007. Since then UMB has opened two branches in Missouri and Kansas that are seeking certification for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) and has plans to seek LEED certification on two additional projects.

Economy: UMB's energy conservation measures have saved the company nearly $181,000 during 2009. Recycled toner and ink cartridges saved an additional $8,500 from May to November 2009.

Society: UMB has partnered with the Denver Botanic Gardens for a three-year agreement that supports the gardens' annual operating budget and a capital campaign that aims to enhance the gardens as a model of sustainability. The "Flourish" campaign is designed to enhance the gardens as a model of sustainability.

Innovation: The company created the UMB Eco Rewards credit card that allows consumers to earn double points on qualified "green" purchases. Points may be allocated as a donation to environmental organizations.

Education: Three years ago, Kemper helped led the creation of the UMB Green Team to work on initiatives to reduce greenhouse emissions. Employees compete monthly to see who can have the greatest impact.

"My associates are as excited about it as I am," Kemper says. "It's important work to care about the planet, to think past your nose, to think past the next quarter to think past the next year. It's meaningful work." 

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Mike Cote is the former editor of ColoradoBiz. E-mail him at mcote@cobizmag.com.

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