The Business Imperative to Tackle Sustainability Now

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By Cristian Barcan
Vice President of Sustainability and Industry Affairs, The Vinyl Institute
Executive Director, Vinyl Business and Sustainability Council

Proven support of sustainable development is the new business imperative. And it’s not just about being an environmentally responsible company, but also considering the social and economic impacts of your decisions on the communities in which you live and work and across your entire supply chain.

Indeed, a recent Unilever survey found that one-third of consumers today are making purchase decisions based on a company’s environmental and social impact. The company surveyed 20,000 adults across five countries, including the United States and United Kingdom.

Need more proof that you need to embed sustainability? It’s not just consumers asking. Stakeholders and financial markets are asking questions about a wide range of non-financial business drives (e.g., human rights, labor rights, anti-corruption) and looking for this information to be included in annual reports. Moreover, there is a growing list of exchanges that have adopted environmental, social and governance disclosure rules.

Companies must not only embrace the idea of sustainability, but also walk the walk.

Your sustainability journey starts with data.

When it comes to your business, you may think you know what people care about. You might have innovated on the factory floor to mitigate chemical emissions or invested in more sustainable product packaging. Perhaps you have a carpooling initiative or a telework policy to reduce your company’s transportation footprint. You’ve written the story on your blog, put out a press release and maybe even gotten some publicity for your efforts. All good. But what if people don’t care about your employees’ commuting habits but are really concerned about how much oil and gas you’re using shipping products to market?

You have to know what your key stakeholders really want.

Every business operates with a certain amount of anecdotal knowledge. To take your business down a truly sustainable pathway, you need to move from “how do you know” to “here’s how we know.” You need the proof points. You need to undertake a materiality assessment.

The importance of mapping hotspots.

A materiality study is a process for obtaining an overall snapshot of how your company or industry is doing in the environmental, social and economic spheres—and where it could do better. The aim of such a study is to identify the “hotspots,” changes (e.g., emissions, wastewater use) you can put in place quickly to have the biggest immediate payback.

Step 1 in a materiality assessment is to identify the major categories of importance to your company. Think of it as a spreadsheet with columns for the major steps in your supply chain and rows broken down by category. Step 2 is research. This research should start with a literature review to understand what has been published or said about you by your many stakeholders. As you do this, you can start to count the number of times that people focused on “emissions to air,” for example, versus “water use.” Following the literature review, it’s important to interview key internal and external stakeholders to get fresh insights into how different audiences perceive your business and to test your hotspot assumptions against the literature review and what others tell you does and does not matter to them.

Your materiality assessment will give you the data your company needs to make informed decisions about how to prioritize your sustainability efforts.

Led by the Vinyl Business and Sustainability Council (VBSC), the vinyl industry is undertaking its first materiality study. Because it’s an industry-wide initiative rather than a company-specific one, our materiality assessment will include information across nine distinct market segments. The VBSC is hoping to have preliminary results this fall and a clearer picture of our hotspots and where to focus next.

Women in Manufacturing: Confidence, Partnership and the Power of Perseverance

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By Aneesa Muthana, President and Owner of Pioneer Service, Inc.

It’s been said women have an uphill battle in this industry. That they need to work harder for less money, that the machining industry treats women unfairly.

I had it easy.

I had mentors—supportive parents who kick-started my interest in their trade and acted as role models. My father taught his trade to myself as well as my brothers. I watched my mother, who had no education and couldn’t speak English, find a job as a factory worker. Her work ethic won her respect, and she received raises without even asking for them.

As I grew older, my father preferred me in the front office, but I wouldn’t leave the shop. As a compromise, after I finished my daily office work, I could return to the machines. Dad knew this was the best deal he would get, so he put a speaker in the shop, and soon I was hurdling over bundles of metal to answer the phone.

So when people ask me how I was able to succeed as an outsider—a woman in manufacturing—it’s because I watched my mother defy convention not with words, but with work(wo)manship. When Dad, who I love dearly, tried to move me into a more traditional woman’s role, I chose compromise over defiance. Was it unfair? Probably. But if my mother could earn her coworkers’ confidence with nothing but sweat and quality, then I knew I was capable of doing the same.

Spoiler alert: The world is unfair. Fate does not discriminate. It does, however, reward tenacity.

The problem with the “oppressive male regime” narrative is twofold. First, it creates an adversarial relationship that gets in the way of partnership. Second, it makes women into victims, reinforcing the sentiment they are doomed to fail.

I mentor women in manufacturing not because they’re oppressed—many men are onboard with women in the workplace—but because the main ingredient in success is confidence and some women still lack it. Victimhood erodes confidence.

Fate came for me, as a young woman of 23, in the form of divorce. My uncle threw me a lifeline, offering me a position in his new small machining company. I was practiced in my field and had already spent years managing other businesses, so instead, I offered to share leadership of Pioneer Service. He agreed. Not because I was a woman, not because I was his blood, but because I had already proven capable and I was eager to prove myself.

Almost 25 years later, I am president and owner. I owe it to my parents and my uncle, who showed me that men are not the enemy. Treat them like an enemy, and they will respond like one. Show them what you can do instead, and most men—most people—are smart enough to see you as an asset.

Fate owes you nothing. Earn your place and let the results speak for themselves—the world will take notice.

Manufacturers Say the President Is Getting It Right on Regulations

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President Donald Trump and Congress are tackling regulations like we haven’t seen in generations, bringing expansion, hiring and more investment opportunities for manufacturers.

According to the latest Manufacturers’ Outlook Survey from the National Association of Manufacturers, 80 percent of manufacturers say the president’s actions on regulations are headed in the right direction, with more than half of respondents saying those actions will allow them to expand operations, increase investment and add more workers.

Manufacturers’ record-high optimism reported in the first quarter has carried into the second quarter of this year, marking the highest two-quarter average (91.4 percent) for manufacturing optimism in the survey’s 20-year history. In addition, 89.5 percent of respondents report a positive outlook for their company.

Read the full report here.

Timmons: Scott Garrett at the Ex-Im Bank Is a Bad Deal for America’s Manufacturers

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The U.S. Export-Import (Ex-Im) Bank has operated for decades with a mission to support U.S. jobs through exports. Back in April, President Donald Trump confirmed his support for the export credit agency. In 2015, a bipartisan supermajority in Congress voted to reauthorize the agency through 2019. Who would want to stand in opposition to this small federal agency with an outsized, tangible benefit for the U.S. economy? Unfortunately, a former congressman who has been nominated to lead the agency is just that person. Former Rep. Scott Garrett (R-NJ), the nominee to lead the Ex-Im Bank, has been a vocal and dogged opponent of the Ex-Im Bank.

National Association of Manufacturers President and CEO Jay Timmons, in an op-ed published today in The Wall Street Journal, outlined the negative impact for manufacturers if the Senate moves to confirm Garrett as the leader of the Ex-Im Bank.

As a congressman, Garrett built a record of votes and statements that sought to dismantle the Ex-Im Bank. He voted to close the agency at every opportunity and voted against a reauthorization bill in October 2015 that passed the House with overwhelming bipartisan support. Before the vote, he took to the House floor to mischaracterize the agency as a “fund for corporate welfare” and urge his colleagues to “keep the Export-Import Bank out of business.”

When he voted against the agency’s reauthorization again later in 2015, he issued a statement explaining that he opposed the bill because it would “resurrect the most shameless example of crony capitalism Washington has ever concocted—the Export-Import Bank.” Prior to the 2015 reauthorization, Garrett voted against the Ex-Im Bank reauthorization in 2012 that was strongly approved by both the House and Senate. Garrett’s opposition to the Ex-Im Bank has been consistent, vocal and aimed at undermining the agency’s credibility.

Ex-Im Bank Benefits U.S. Manufacturers, Workers and Taxpayers

  • American Workers and Their Families Benefit from the Ex-Im Bank: U.S. export sales supported by the Ex-Im Bank have directly supported 1.4 million jobs over the past seven years.
  • Small Businesses: In fiscal 2016, about 90 percent of Ex-Im’s transactions—more than 2,600 deals—directly supported small businesses. Tens of thousands of small business suppliers benefit from partnerships with large exporters that also utilize the Ex-Im Bank.
  • Taxpayers: The Ex-Im Bank has generated $7 billion for taxpayers in the past 20 years, mostly through fees collected from foreign customers. The agency is self-sustaining and covers its own operating costs. Eliminating the Ex-Im Bank would actually increase the U.S. deficit. The agency transferred $284 million in deficit-reducing receipts to the U.S. Treasury for fiscal 2016.


Garrett’s past statements are evidence of a fundamental misunderstanding of the Ex-Im Bank’s ability to level the playing field globally. In a competitive global landscape, the Ex-Im Bank is a much-needed counterweight to substantial foreign export financing. The agency recently reported that China continues to be the world’s largest provider of official export credit, providing more trade-related investment support than the rest of the world combined. Together, the BRICS countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) provided a combined total of more than $51 billion in medium- and long-term export credit in 2016—nearly half of the total official export credit provided worldwide. Last year, without a quorum for its board of directors, the Ex-Im Bank was able to authorize just $5 billion. While the agency’s board of directors has lacked the necessary quorum to approve certain deals, an estimated 40 deals worth more than $30 billion are stuck in the pipeline.

The Ex-Im Bank plays a targeted and critical role in securing and creating more American jobs. That is why the Ex-Im Bank needs a leader who will ensure the agency is able to function at its full potential and promote U.S. exports in the face of substantial competition from manufacturers overseas supported by very active export credit agencies. Manufacturers are losing out on opportunities every day that the vacancies on the Ex-Im Bank board of directors are left unfilled, but Garrett, who said “Congress should put the Export-Import Bank out of business” just two years ago, is simply not a credible leader for this agency.

Ecolab: A Business Model for Success

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If you want to hear how to run a company effectively, listen to Emilio Tenuta.

He is the vice president of corporate sustainability at Ecolab Inc., a St. Paul, Minnesota–based firm with 48,000 employees, $13 billion in annual sales and a record of being innovative and pro-environment—and long recognized as one of “the world’s most ethical companies.” Read More

Competing for Energy Efficiency in the Manufacturing Industry

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The U.S. industrial sector has been a longtime heavy energy consumer, accounting for one-third of the energy usage in the country. What’s more, the U.S. industrial sector has an annual energy bill of about $200 billion. While both of these statistics may seem startling, at Saint-Gobain, one of the world’s largest building materials companies and manufacturer of innovative material solutions, we believe these numbers present the opportunity for businesses to step up to the challenge to improve the energy efficiency of their manufacturing plants and facilities.

Already, more than 200 industrial partners representing close to 2,600 facilities in all 50 states have committed to the U.S. Department of Energy’s Better Plants Program to improve energy savings by 20 percent or more over the next 10 years. Our new president and CEO, Tom Kinisky, recently signed Saint-Gobain’s renewed pledge, allowing our company to further its energy-savings goals, increase the sustainability of our operations and reduce the overall carbon footprint of our manufacturing facilities.

Image by Saint-Gobain

While these pledges are nice to have, what’s most important is to consider the on-the-ground initiatives companies need to implement to help these goals become a reality. At Saint-Gobain, we believe a sense of competition among manufacturing plants and colleagues truly helps to move these goals forward. In 2016, our company’s Environmental, Health and Safety Department established the company’s Water, Waste and Energy (WWE) Program, which was recently recognized with a U.S. Department of Energy Better Practice Award. This program encourages more than 130 Saint-Gobain manufacturing sites to compete against each other to see which facility can best reduce its environmental impact by highlighting practical and effective solutions for increasing the sustainability of sites. At the end of the program, five sites are recognized with 20-pound championship-style belts and given the titles of “Waste Champion,” “Water Champion,” “Energy Champion,” “CO2 Champion” and “Overall Champion” to recognize their commitment to on-the-ground, effective energy-reduction solutions.

Image by Saint-Gobain

Through this program and by competing against their peers, Saint-Gobain manufacturing facilities across the country have been able to achieve substantial energy consumption reduction results. The program’s 2017 Energy Champion, Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics in Bristol, Rhode Island, took a systems approach to energy management resulting in a 45 percent energy intensity reduction over the past two years. The 2016 and 2017 CO2 Champion, CertainTeed Roofing in Oxford, North Carolina, invigorated its commitment to reducing energy and carbon dioxide emissions by forming a special committee of 24 members focused on working directly to reduce the site’s emissions. Through the efforts to upgrade heating elements on three of its main production lines, the plant was able to achieve a substantial reduction in natural gas usage. In addition, this year’s Water Champion, Saint-Gobain Quartz in Riverport, Kentucky, implemented the use of a cooling tower to achieve water savings and sealed a well that had been in use for years. The well water withdrawal was reduced from 131 million gallons in 2012 to zero gallons in 2015 and 2016.

Based on these percentages and statistics, it is clear that a sense of competition helps to spur outside-the-box thinking and improvements that are able to result in an overall positive impact for the company and its facilities as well as the planet. Let’s use this learning to encourage our employees and colleagues to compete for the greater good of the planet.

Manufacturers Respond to U.S. Department of Justice Decision in Microsoft v. U.S.

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National Association of Manufacturers Senior Vice President and General Counsel Linda Kelly issued the following statement in response to the U.S. Department of Justice decision in Microsoft v. U.S.:

“We are disappointed that the U.S. Department of Justice has decided to appeal the 2nd Circuits decision in Microsoft v. U.S. We think the court correctly decided that U.S. law does not permit an extension of warrants outside the United States. Ultimately, Congress can and should act to modernize the governing statutes in this area, which are decades-old. Law enforcement should be able to access digital information in a timely manner and protect individual liberty at the same time. This is achievable through adopting a modern, 21st-century framework like the proposed bipartisan International Communications Privacy Act.


2017 Manufacturing Summit: Manufacturing’s Moment!

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During the 2017 Manufacturing Summit, manufacturers of all sizes from across the country gathered in Washington, D.C., for a two-day event, to bring their shop floors to the nation’s capital and to meet with members of Congress and the administration to advance the policies critical to a robust manufacturing economy.

With hundreds of manufacturers in attendance and a leading lineup of speakers, National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) President and CEO Jay Timmons referred to the 2017 Manufacturing Summit as a Summit “like none other before itand characterized the moment as unique, calling it manufacturings moment!

Manufacturers heard from Vice President Mike Pence who kicked off the event and House Speaker Paul Ryan who delivered his first major speech on tax. The event closed out with remarks from Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta and House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, before manufacturers descended on Capitol Hill for their final day to highlight manufacturing’s top priorities.

Photos and a live stream of the events can be seen below.2017 Manufacturing Summit

ShopTalk Podcast: A Future for Veterans in Manufacturing

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Across the country, Americans are celebrating our veterans and the sacrifice of our military. Thousands of service men and women return home each month, looking to enter the workforce, and with manufacturers seeking to fill a large skills gap, there is a future in manufacturing for veterans.

In the latest ShopTalk podcast episode, NAM Senior Vice President of Communications Erin Streeter talks with retired Colonel John Buckley, military relations manager at Koch Industries, and Amy Thomas, senior director of programs and development at The Manufacturing Institute, about why veterans should consider a manufacturing career.

Top Three Ways to Inspire Female Students to Pursue a Career in Manufacturing

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By Melsha Winchester, Marketing Director, Bishop-Wisecarver Group, 2017 STEP Ahead Honoree

“Women are underrepresented in all manufacturing sectors,” according to the Untapped Resource study conducted by The Manufacturing Institute, an affiliate of the National Association of Manufacturers. There are many organizations focused on introducing and encouraging female students to pursue manufacturing careers, such as Women in Manufacturing, Association of Women in the Metal Industries and Automotive Women’s Alliance Foundation just to name a few. It is apparent that one of the best way to attract female students is to have women already working in manufacturing careers share the career opportunities available in the manufacturing industry. “By reaching out to mentor a girl or young woman, you can change her life and put everyone’s future in good hands,said Tabby Biddle in her article Why Mentoring Young Women and Girls Is Important.

Bishop-Wisecarver, a California-based manufacturer, can be included in organizations focused on inspiring female students to pursue rewarding careers in manufacturing. I recognize that as a woman in the manufacturing industry and the marketing director at Bishop-Wisecarver, I have a great opportunity and responsibility to show young girls why a career in manufacturing is rewarding and fulfilling.

I wanted to share the top three ways manufacturers can get female students excited about pursuing a career in manufacturing that I have learned at Bishop-Wisecarver:

  1. Host a Manufacturing Day℠ or Private Plant TourEvery October, Bishop-Wisecarver hosts Manufacturing Day for local students and FIRST® teams. Manufacturing Day is a celebration of modern manufacturing meant to inspire the next generation of manufacturers by having students tour their plants, ask questions and participate in hands-on activities. Our program at Bishop-Wisecarver also includes a career panel, where staff members talk about their careers in engineering, technology, sales, marketing and operations. Make sure that you include female staff members because young ladies will relate to women who are in roles thought mainly as “male roles.”
  2. Sponsor a Local FIRST TeamBishop-Wisecarver is proud to support two all-girls FIRST® teams for the 20162017 season. Our contribution helps students build skills in STEM to design extraordinary robots that compete in rigorous matches. STEM programs will help prepare students for careers in manufacturing.
  3. Support STEM-Based ProgramsDuring the year, Bishop-Wisecarver actively participates in local science fairs, engineering camps and summits. Our president, Pamela Kan, served as a mentor and panelist for female high school students in last year’s STEAM Summit organized by ASTRA. The support of these activities helps create opportunities for mentorship where female students can have a place to go when they have questions or need support.

As a recent recipient of the 2017 STEP Ahead Award, I had the opportunity to meet many women with rewarding careers in manufacturing. The discussions were riveting, and now I’m inspired to do more to reach young women to tell them why working for a manufacturing company is a great career choice. Learn more about the Institute’s STEP Ahead program here.