Posted tagged ‘Shaw Industries’

Manufacturers remain bullish on sustainability but need more clarity on climate regulation

May 1, 2009

US manufacturers who participated in our Sustainable Manufacturing Summit this week are bullish on sustainability and are continuing to invest in green strategies despite the economic downturn. What’s missing for companies is clarity on the timing and substance of carbon regulation. Certainty over a national cap-and-trade system is necessary for manufacturers to make projections of carbon costs over time and develop long-term sustainability plans.

Attendees gathered at Chicago’s Navy Pier for this second annual event looking at best practices in sustainable manufacturing. Participants were a combination of technical professionals (engineers, facility/energy managers, EHS) and strategic sustainability executives (vice presidents, CEOs, directors) all looking for news they could use. Industry was clearly excited to get together and exchange ideas.  Right now sustainability professionals are  being bombarded with environmental news and some find it a challenge to filter information – and do their jobs.

The session on carbon regulation provided some clarity on Climate Bill and mandatory GHG reporting. Experts estimated a December timing for the Climate Bill (before Copenhagen) and a October/November timing for final GHG reporting rules with companies expected to report 2010 emissions in 2011. Manufacturers were also advised to contact their state energy departments about federal funds flowing for energy efficiency projects included in the stimulus package.

But as with any social or economic revolution, the real change in sustainable manufacturing is coming from the companies that are voluntarily investing in broad sustainability plans during this recession. Sustainability experts from Herman Miller and Shaw Industries talked about the importance of their CEOs’ commitment to sustainability and that they are continuing to broaden their green strategies despite the economy.

Industry is excited about the opportunities for energy efficiency projects and renewables investment coming from climate regulation and new technologies. One manufacturer discussed setting up separate capital funds to pay for energy efficiency projects so that they don’t have to compete with other projects for investment.

Despite the positive outlook for sustainable production, attendees also identified common sustainability hurdles including employee motivation, regulatory uncertainty and budgetary constraints. Ken Alston, CEO of MBDC, suggested the need for a fundamental change in corporate mindset for some companies. “There is a fundamental paradigm shift that has to change from where we are going from being less bad to being more good,” he said. Letitia Webster of the North Face also brought up the need for a more systemic, holistic approach to sustainability planning – which is the basis of our ASA series and our Seattle event.

Overall it was exciting to hear how enthusiastic manufacturers are about continuing to push for new levels of sustainable production and to share best practices. The timing seems right for companies to develop the green strategies that will deliver long-term profitability. “I am bullish on sustainability – I think the time is now,” said Ira Feldman, President and Senior Counsel for Greentrack Strategies. “I want to congratulate the Green Power people for bundling these sustainability events under the Action for a Sustainable America banner.”


Can global manufacturers move to zero-waste?

March 26, 2009

We recently spoke to Ken Alston, CEO of McDonough Braungart Design Chemistry (MBDC),on the challenges manufacturers face in becoming sustainable and moving to zero waste. Here is an excerpt from that interview. Ken will be joined by Herman Miller and Shaw Industries at our Sustainable Manufacturing Summit in Chicago next month to provide an interactive session on Cradle to Cradle design.

kenalston2What are some recent examples of manufacturers that have moved from eco-efficient to eco-effective production?

Shaw Industries, a Berkshire Hathaway Company, made the ground-breaking decision several years ago to design an environmentally-intelligent carpet tile with the same cost and performance as standard carpet tiles. As the leading flooring provider to the commercial market, Shaw began its product development work internally and then hired MBDC to review its intended product formulation and concepts for product recovery from a Cradle to Cradle(SM) perspective.

Shaw and MBDC assessed and optimized the Eco Solution Q fiber, EcoWorx backing and additives for human health, environmental health. The companies also found ways to make the product fully and perpetually recyclable. With these final steps, Shaw realized the goal of finding a cost and quality standard equivalent to standard carpet tiles while at the same time leading the industry in design, color and recyclability — all benefits for Shaw’s customers.

Herman Miller’s “journey to sustainability” is a great model of how one company’s comprehensive long-term commitment to sustaining their industry, has led to the integration of ecologically intelligent design and business practices. Herman Miller’s senior staff challenged MBDC to design a blueprint for integrating Cradle to Cradle(SM) design into the company’s product development system.

Working closely with Herman Miller’s DFE team, MBDC developed a tool to transfer assessment findings from the Cradle to Cradle process into data that could then be used directly by Herman Miller for material selection and product design. The assessment system also served a few different functions: it analyzed and scored materials for their human and environmental health effects, recyclability, percentage of recycled content and/or use of renewable resources; and it evaluated the disassembly potential of product design. The tool was designed to help engineers score and improve the attributes of each design iteration.

What are some of the challenges and opportunities for large, global manufacturers looking to transition to cradle to cradle design?

One of the most significant challenges is in implementing preferred ingredient chemistry into material selection and product design, since the research of preferred formulations is still a nascent effort. MBDC, its clients, their suppliers and other partners are working to change that reality, expanding the measures of what is a “sustainable product” and actualizing that vision.

In addition to improving product design, there also is the need to develop infrastructure and systems for recycling products and materials following their useful life into subsequent product generations – realizing the goal of closing material loops.

Another challenge is helping a company or industry move beyond the quarterly view to envision longer-term benefits. Since the Cradle to Cradle(SM) espouses a broader view and new way of implementing sustainable design, there often needs to be initial investment and leveraging change in the status quo, which can be hard to engage. Often what helps is the long-term view by CEOs, PR/marketing staff, government relations or other client staff who acknowledge the value of proactive sustainability improvement.

What do you hope to gain from participating in the Sustainable Manufacturing Summit?

We look forward to exchanging ideas with participants, demonstrating the value of the Cradle to Cradle(SM) framework for tangible sustainable design enhancements, and connecting with company representatives whom we can assist in their own efforts to transform and “eliminate the concept of waste.”