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Walgreens opens nation’s first net-zero energy store

BY Michael Johnsen

EVANSTON, Ill. — Sporting two wind turbines, nearly 850 solar panels and a geothermal system burrowed 550 ft. into the ground, Walgreens on Thursday celebrated the official opening of what the retailer believes to be the nation’s first net-zero energy retail store, anticipated to produce energy equal to or greater than it consumes.

“As we celebrate the grand opening, we begin a one-year effort to operate a retail store that will generate more energy than it consumes," said Mark Wagner, Walgreens president of operations and community management. "Using the best technologies available, we believe we can accomplish our goal of having the first net zero energy retail store in America,” he said. “Currently, we have facilities that utilize wind turbines, solar installations and geothermal technologies. This is the first time we are bringing all three of these technologies, and many more, together in one place. Our purpose as a company is to help people get, stay and live well, and that includes making our planet more livable by conserving resources and reducing pollution.” 

Illinois Governor Pat Quinn said, “I am proud that an Illinois-based corporation like Walgreens is taking the lead in the use of green technology, which will be a model for all retail operations across the country. The best energy sources are free, renewable and have little environmental impact — and that’s exactly what Walgreens is doing in Evanston.”

Walgreens plans to generate electricity and reduce its energy usage in the store by more than 50% through several technologies, including:

  • Nearly 850 rooftop solar panels, generating enough energy to power 30 Illinois homes for a year;
  • Two 35-ft.-tall wind turbines, using Lake Michigan breezes to generate enough power to offset annual greenhouse gas emissions from 2.2 passenger vehicles;
  • Geothermal energy obtained by drilling 550 feet into the ground below the store, where temperatures are more constant and can be tapped to heat or cool the store in winter and summer;
  • LED lighting and daylight harvesting;
  • Carbon dioxide refrigerant for heating, cooling and refrigeration equipment; and
  • Energy efficient building materials.

Engineering estimates — which can vary due to such factors as weather, store operations and systems performance — indicate that the store will use 200,000 kilowatt hours per year of electricity, while generating 220,000 kilowatt hours per year. 

“We are investing in a net-zero energy store so we can bring what we learn to our other stores and share what we learn with other companies," said Thomas Connolly, Walgreens VP facilities development. "Because we operate more than 8,000 stores, anything we do that reduces our carbon footprint can have a broad, positive impact on the nation’s environment.”

The store is seeking platinum certification through the U.S. Green Building Council LEED program, Net Zero Certification through the Living Building Challenge and has received GreenChill platinum certification through the U.S. EPA. GreenChill’s Store Certification Program was designed for supermarkets. This is the first time a GreenChill certification is being awarded to a small-format store, such as a convenience store or pharmacy.

The project is the latest of many green initiatives for the company. Walgreens currently operates two stores that have achieved a LEED certification level of gold; 150 stores utilizing solar power; a store in Oak Park, Ill., using geothermal energy; a distribution center in Waxahachie, Texas, that generates energy though the use of wind; and 400 locations with electric vehicle charging stations. Walgreens stores use 25 watt fluorescent lamps (lowest wattage in the industry), LED cooler and freezer lighting and energy management systems in more than 5,000 locations. In addition, 15 Walgreens distribution centers have achieved net zero waste, which means revenues from recycling exceed waste expense.

The Evanston location also showcases the new Walgreens “Well Experience” store format with features that include an enhanced, state-of-the-art pharmacy designed to encourage greater interaction between pharmacists and patients.

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SSM Health Care–St. Louis and Healthcare Clinic to launch patient-care collaboration in January

BY Michael Johnsen

ST. LOUIS — SSM Health Care–St. Louis and Healthcare Clinic at select Walgreens will launch a collaboration in January 2014 that will improve access to care and increase care coordination for patients, the companies announced Thursday.

With the collaboration, patients who currently see an SSM Health Care primary-care physician and visit a Healthcare Clinic at select Walgreens in the St. Louis region will benefit from enhanced information sharing between the two organizations. With patient consent, Healthcare Clinic nurse practitioners will be able to access information — such as allergies and medications — through sharing of an electronic health record going live later in 2014. SSM Health Care physicians will receive their patient’s discharge reports through this information sharing platform, so they are aware of the clinic visit and can provide any necessary follow-up care.

Healthcare Clinics are professional walk-in health centers located in more than 400 Walgreens drug stores across the country. Clinics are open seven days a week, including evenings and weekends, giving patients the option to access a variety of healthcare services at their convenience and without an appointment.

“SSM Health Care believes in building relationships with physicians and other providers that enhance our ability to improve our community’s health,” said Shane Peng, interim president of physician and ambulatory services, SSM Health Care. “Our affiliation with Healthcare Clinic at select Walgreens will improve patient access to coordinated, affordable, quality care.”

SSM Health Care also has more than 2,500 staff physicians, including more than 100 primary-care providers, who can manage care over time for people with chronic illnesses. The collaboration will give SSM Health Care physicians another treatment option to offer their patients for non-emergent and after-hours care that maintains coordination of care between providers.

“Given the challenges facing today’s healthcare system, Healthcare Clinic at select Walgreens is ideally positioned to provide greater patient access to quality, convenient and affordable care,” said Alan London, chief medical officer, Consumer Solutions Group, Walgreens. “The collaboration with SSM Health Care aims to improve coordination of care for patients throughout the St. Louis community.”

“This innovative collaboration with Walgreens enables SSM Health Care to expand our reach in the communities we serve,” said Gaurov Dayal, president healthcare delivery, finance and integration and EVP of SSM Health Care. “Health care across this country is undergoing significant transformation, and working in partnership with other likeminded organizations such as Walgreens is a critical element to becoming a leading provider of population-based health services.”

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Walgreens ups Sona Chawla to role of president of digital and chief marketing officer

BY Michael Johnsen

DEERFIELD, Ill. — Walgreens on Thursday announced the appointment of Sona Chawla, president of e-commerce, as president of digital and chief marketing officer. In this new role, Chawla will lead a newly created Digital and Marketing Division, establishing a unified and integrated digital, enterprise-wide marketing, and customer loyalty and insights group to advance Walgreens “Well Experience” strategy and vision to be the first choice in health and daily living in America and beyond, Walgreens stated. 

“Digital technology continues to drive major change in retail and health care, and Walgreens is moving full speed ahead to harness and combine digital, marketing innovations and customer loyalty and insights to give customers what they want, where and when they want it,” Greg Wasson, president and CEO said. “With Sona’s success in establishing Walgreens as a retail digital pioneer, her leadership of our combined digital and marketing efforts will continue to accelerate our Well Experience strategy to step out of the traditional drugstore format and create a truly differentiated experience for customers and patients.”

“Bringing our digital, marketing and consumer technology together and linking it with the powerful consumer data and insights we get through our Balance Rewards program and digital channels will further position Walgreens as a customer-driven brand,” Alex Gourlay, EVP and president of customer experience and daily living said. “With her experience and success in advancing Walgreens digital strategies and online customer experience, Sona is the perfect leader to accelerate our rapid evolution into omni-channel marketing and customer engagement.”

Walgreens also announced today that Graham Atkinson, SVP and chief marketing and customer experience officer, is retiring at the end of January 2014. Atkinson has been responsible for developing and leading Walgreens enterprise marketing and loyalty strategies, with a specific emphasis on customer experience. Atkinson led the successful and record-setting launch of Walgreens Balance Rewards customer loyalty program in 2012, now with more than 85 million members. 

“Graham has had an extraordinary impact on Walgreens during his three-year role with the company, and we are indebted to him for his vision, leadership and accomplishments,” Wasson said. “We asked Graham to join our team and take on a singular focus — to launch the most successful customer loyalty program in retail history — and he did just that. Beyond Balance Rewards, importantly, he also instilled customer-centric principles into our culture and took on the additional role of chief marketing officer in the past year to build and develop our corporate marketing function.”

Chawla, as president of digital and chief marketing officer, will lead the new Digital and Marketing Division that combines three existing groups — e-commerce, corporate marketing and customer loyalty and insights — that have significantly advanced Walgreens Well Experience strategy. These groups have built a strong corporate brand through an industry-leading web and mobile presence, the Balance Rewards loyalty program and customer segmentation and insights. Bringing these teams together will allow the company to leverage its combined talent, knowledge and assets to accelerate its omni-channel vision as part of Gourlay’s Customer Experience and Daily Living organization.

“Our goal is to optimize our marketing investments and mix to reach consumers where they are, as their use of digital media continues to escalate,” Chawla said. “This means more than just adding digital media to our marketing portfolio. We also will adopt a digital mindset throughout our marketing efforts.”

Chawla joined Walgreens in July 2008 as SVP  of e-commerce and was promoted to her current position in January 2011. Her team has been responsible for the company’s digital strategy and implementation to support the health and daily living businesses across the Walgreens portfolio of web sites, mobile and stores.

Prior to joining Walgreens, she was VP global online business at Dell from 2006 to 2008 and worked at Wells Fargo’s Internet Services Group from 2000 to 2006, where she held several roles and left the company as EVP online sales, service and marketing. Prior to Wells Fargo, Chawla worked for Andersen Consulting (now Accenture) from 1999 to 2000 and Mitchell Madison Group from 1994 to 1999. In 2012 Chawla was appointed to the board of directors of Express, a specialty retail apparel chain. She earned a bachelor of arts degree in mathematics and computer science from Wellesley College in 1990 and a master of science degree in management from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Sloan School of Management in 1994.

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