Sustainability is at the forefront of many business conversations, from the shop floor to the board room. Employees and leaders at all levels are identifying and engaging in solutions to make company products, systems and operations more climate-friendly while delivering strong sustainability options for customers.
For Ingersoll-Rand, a world leader in creating comfortable, sustainable and efficient environments, sustainability is core to our business strategy and the way we operate.
Ongoing conversation drives shared goals, accountability
Every year in January, we bring together representatives from more than 100 companies within our supply base. Attendees are from every region of the world and are, in large part, members of our Preferred Supplier List—a group of strategic partners that align with our expectations for quality, service, value and risk.
The purpose of our conference is to address opportunities to continuously improve our collaboration and strengthen our performance. We always include an element of business, social or environmental sustainability in our meetings. For example, last year, we organized a diverse supplier expo and educational sessions on how to engage successfully with a diverse supplier base.
In 2018, we broadened and deepened our focus on sustainability through learning and breakout sessions designed to further integrate sustainability into our operations and focus on the areas that matter most. We discussed responsible sourcing, circular economics and other supply chain initiatives like zero-waste pathways and increasing diversity and resilience.
Overall, we want our supply partners to understand the sustainability elements that are important to us and how we can create joint accountability for tracking, achieving and reporting breakthrough results.
Collective thinking results in sustainable solutions
We have a strong group of suppliers in every category who run the gamut from office supplies to highly engineered performance components for our products. We learn a lot from them, from sharing sustainability best practices to exchanging ideas on how we can improve areas from packaging to recycling. We also learn where our suppliers need help and how we can continue to partner and evolve to deliver sustainable, customer-driven solutions.
For example, one of our preferred supplier partners exhibited exemplary partnership with Ingersoll-Rand in creating resiliency and driving sustainability in 2017 and was awarded our annual Sustainability Award. When two major storms hit their facility in Puerto Rico in 2017, the supplier extended immediate and generous humanitarian support to their employees in their time of need.
Then, thanks to their effective crisis planning, they took extraordinary measures to resume operations immediately to 80 percent capacity and to 100 percent within three weeks. This is true resiliency. They worked closely with Ingersoll-Rand throughout the entire restoration process to ensure no customer production lines were affected.
We appreciate their like-mindedness in driving sustainable solutions even in the midst of unexpected challenging circumstances. As we continue to mature our business operating system for sustainability, we will continue to ask our suppliers to take a similar journey, whether it is tracking energy reduction or measuring environmental impacts through all phases of a product’s life cycle.
A commitment to sustainability is a factor in selecting our suppliers of the future. We need our suppliers to examine the entire value chain along with us to find the next set of productivity, efficiency and complexity reduction ideas to create a more sustainable supply chain.
Ultimately, through working together, we all agree that sustainability touches every aspect of our business, driving improvement, efficiencies and innovation. In today’s world, sustainability has to be more than just an ideal; it has to be a working part of the equation every day.
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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.
This guest blog post is authored by Rebecca Lucore, head of CSR and sustainability, Covestro LLC.
At Covestro, we think of ourselves as the “new-old company.”
Formerly Bayer MaterialScience, Covestro was “reborn” in the fall of 2015 as its own, independent entity. Being independent means we can chart our own course—one that’s fully embedding sustainability into the heart of our business strategy.
As an innovative producer of advanced materials, it’s true our products enable other industries to make more energy-efficient products. In fact, this past summer, our ultra-lightweight coatings, polycarbonate and polyurethanes propelled the groundbreaking Solar Impulse—the world’s first 100 percent solar-powered aircraft—to complete its historic flight around the world without using a single drop of fossil fuel.
Solar Impulse was a virtual flying laboratory for clean technologies and material innovations. The cockpit featured our adhesives and coatings, as well as our polyurethane foam, which provided the insulation that kept the pilot safe and comfortable in wide-ranging temperatures. This highly efficient insulating foam, which saves 70 times more energy than is used to make it, is now being used in modern refrigerators. The plane’s polycarbonate windshield was another real energy saver, which is why the auto industry uses it in cars and trucks, understanding that the lighter the weight, the more fuel efficient the vehicle.
We know the manufacturing process behind these materials requires a lot of energy, so we’re continuously developing processes and solutions that reduce our energy use and carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. Going forward, four-fifths of our research and development will be dedicated to delivering sustainable solutions through our products and processes, and these projects will be tied directly to the 17 Sustainable Development Goals established by the United Nations Global Compact, which we’ve signed on to.
But this isn’t just about the future. We’ve already made real progress. Read More
By Mariel McAllister, Director of Public Relations, Leigh Fibers, Inc.
Leigh Fibers, based in Wellford, S.C., is a nearly 100-year-old family-owned business that uses sustainable product engineering to create branded products and specialty fibers that provide unique solutions to specific problems. Sustainability is literally embedded in the fabric of what we do every day. It is what has allowed us to be in business for generations, providing high-value products to consumers and serving as a bedrock of the Wellford community.
The company’s strong commitment to providing sustainable products and solutions led to its acquisition of ICE Recycling in 2014. ICE reprocesses post-industrial polymers, cardboard, paper and metals for companies throughout the Southeast and Mid-Atlantic. With the acquisition of ICE, we are able to serve as a sustainability force-multiplier by helping our customers achieve their sustainability goals. The company provides full zero to landfill services or individual waste stream management utilizing both on-site waste-stream management as well as off-site reprocessing services. In late 2015, SmartVista, a third sister company was founded to aid in the company’s commitment to providing technical and sustainable solutions for a diverse range of industries.
While Leigh has been in business for nearly a century, there are still hurdles to overcome in the recycling market. Leigh strives to educate manufacturers around the world about their waste and the value it would serve to a diverse range of end users. The company drives value through the entire process to benefit the waste generator in addition to the end user. Since the decline in commodity prices over the past few years, Leigh Fibers and ICE Recycling have the unique challenge of educating end users of the benefits they gain from using recycled materials. For our customers who decide to use recycled materials, we help them limit their environmental footprint, while still offering a quality product.
Leigh and ICE have built a unique infrastructure for handling waste streams that includes initial segregation of the waste, size reduction, repurposing and consolidation. Not only is Leigh the largest textile recycler in North America, but the company is seen as a solution provider among their suppliers and customers. Leigh Fibers offers guidance to their suppliers regarding equipment, packaging and recycling solutions, while ICE Recycling offers a turn-key recycling solution for industrial facilities that want to generate value from their waste streams or those committed to being land fill free.
Leigh Fibers was built on a foundation of providing sustainable solutions and products, which has allowed the company to divert more than 700 million tons of textile waste and byproducts from landfills over the past century.
Happy Sustainability Month! In the next installment of the Shopfloor podcast series, the National Association of Manufacturers’ Greg Bertelsen and Christian Science Monitor’s Deputy Energy and Environment Editor Zack Colman discuss how sustainability is shaping the world, politically and through business. Sustainability drives manufacturers and, through innovation, creates endless opportunity.
This guest blog post is authored by Stewart Leeth, vice president of regulatory affairs and chief sustainability officer, Smithfield Foods, Inc.
Food production must increase significantly to feed our world’s growing population. To ensure nutritional security, protein production must also greatly increase, which will stretch natural resources, and, if not managed correctly, could cause environmental concerns. At Smithfield Foods, we have taken a leading role to develop sustainable operating practices to reduce our natural resource demand. These practices have been developed through our robust sustainability program, which is ingrained at every level of our vertically integrated business. Our sustainability program is organized by five pillars: Animal Care, Environment, Food Safety & Quality, Helping Communities and People. Each pillar is connected by the overarching concept of value creation for all our stakeholders.
Our sustainability program delivers on our promise to produce good food the right way while providing an organized platform to focus on key sustainability areas. Since our program’s creation more than a decade ago, we have set new goals each year that build upon previous achievements and continue to drive progress across each of our sustainability pillars. As a company with innovation ingrained in our DNA, the success of these sustainability projects are often furthered by original thinking and unprecedented techniques, such as creating a new market for grain sorghum and finding industry-leading solutions to manure management.
Speaking of innovation, two years ago, Walmart tasked all suppliers with grain operations to discover new methods for reducing fertilizer runoff that can lead to air and water quality degradation. Building on Smithfield’s commitment to the environment, we eagerly accepted the challenge and joined the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) to create a more sustainable grain supply chain. Through this unlikely collaboration, we developed a program to work hand-in-hand with grain farmers and foster on-farm conservation practices. We now offer grain farmers free agronomy advice and educational resources while motivating them to adopt fertilizer optimization practices. Although we are still in the early years of this program, we foresee a bright future. Many of our grain farmers have already drastically reduced fertilizer losses while saving money and improving crop yields. This strategy is also a huge potential cost savings for our company, as we can grow more grain locally and reduce transportation costs.
As we reached our one-year anniversary with EDF, we earned a best-in-class recognition at Walmart’s 2014 Sustainability Expo. Last year, more than 100,000 acres of land in the Southeast United States benefited from our fertilizer optimization practices, and we expect more than 450,000 acres of American farmlands will benefit as the program continues to expand. As a result of this program, we are on track to meet our 2018 goal to source at least 75 percent of grain from farms that use efficient fertilizer and soil health practices.
Our sustainability program continues to improve Smithfield’s overall performance and financial stability. This creates substantial value for our stakeholders and drives efficiency throughout our supply chain. Since 2004, our environmental programs alone have saved our operations more than $580 million. Together, with other industry members and manufacturers, unlikely collaborations and innovative programs will help answer food production and environmental questions for the next generation.
This guest blog post is authored by Rob Zimmerman, director of marketing, projects, specifications & sustainability for Kohler Company.
Since 2008, Kohler has worked to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and waste to landfill with a goal of reaching “net zero” (with offsets) by 2035. This has become a springboard for innovation throughout the company.
We use Life Cycle Inventory (LCI), a product modeling tool, to evaluate a product’s lifetime environmental impact. LCIs look at supplier operations, Kohler operations, consumer use and end-of-life.
Because up to 80 percent of a product’s lifetime environmental impact is locked in during early stage development, we incorporate Design for Environment (DfE) principles in each phase of new product development.
These principles help us take a step back and evaluate the environmental impact of a product from raw material extraction through manufacturing, packaging, use and to its ultimate end via recycling, repurposing or disposal. Our recently released Highline 1.0 is the result of 10 years of performance evaluations, design tweaks and discovery. Kohler engineers discovered a way to more precisely target the flow of water into the bowl so that only one gallon of water is needed per flush. Relatively small design adjustments to the tank, bowl and trapway have reduced water use by 38 percent compared to a traditional 1.6 gallon per flush toilet. We’ve also found opportunities to improve manufacturing sustainability in unexpected places.
In an LCI evaluation at our Reynosa, Mexico, facility, we discovered a way to reduce GHG emissions. In Reynosa, it’s common for daytime temperatures to reach 100 degrees Fahrenheit during the four-month warm season. When the facility’s electric cooling units were due for replacement, associates explored more sustainable options and learned the area has the world’s largest reservoir of natural gas.
The team seized the opportunity to replace electric air conditioners with natural gas cooling units. As a result, the Reynosa facility increased energy efficiency and is saving millions of pounds in GHG emissions annually, while also making the facility more comfortable for employees.
In another example, Kohler cast-iron engineers saved 6,200 tons of iron from being melted each year. In production of one of our most popular bath tubs, molten iron is poured through “sprues” into the mold. Excess iron remains in the sprues, cools and solidifies. This excess iron is punched out to release the finished bathtub from the line. Our equipment required large sprues and, therefore, a large amount of extra iron, to function properly. The unused iron was eventually reused, but substantial energy was used in re-melting it.
Cast-iron engineers upgraded to new equipment that could function with sprues 20 pounds smaller than the original. This saves 80 pounds of iron per bathtub. Overall, the upgrade reduced iron-melting requirements by more than 13 percent, energy use for the transfer of molten iron by 20 percent and losses due to cracked bathtubs by nearly 50 percent.
These are just a few examples of how we’re making manufacturing changes that reduce our company’s environmental impact from product design to the end of the product’s useful life.