Greenlight on Change
Making a business more eco-friendly has little to do with the company’s size or its pocketbook.
“When people think about sustainability, they often think: ‘we need to be a big company with a big budget,’” said Pam Barker, assistant general counsel and executive director of environmental health and product safety for Appleton Papers Inc., in Appleton, Wis. “That’s not true. Any company can do this, if they want to.”
Though it doesn’t take a stack of cash or an army of employees to begin brainstorming, it does take time and commitment. But, most importantly, the road to sustainability actually is paved with a CEO’s good intentions. Or, that’s what worked for Appleton.
The development of a sustainability plan, which Appleton recently completed, was initiated by its chief executive. Barker noted that support puts a company on the right track and then patience and planning help everything else fall into place. “It needs to be driven from the top [then] down,” Barker expressed. “First, it’s the time and effort and then the money comes later. But you have to get your ideas together before you can begin implementing anything.”
She went on to say her company recognized environmental regulations are coming in the future so Appleton decided to be proactive. Barker encouraged other companies to do the same.
Before Appleton could put pen to paper for its plan, Barker said it started by observing its competition and other industries to see what moves they made to adjust their environmental policies and procedures. She explained that looking at industries outside the paper sector, such as the food and beverage industry, is helpful because “some other industries are ahead of the paper industry in the sustainability area.”
Companies interested in developing a plan will find it advantageous to peruse the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Climate Leaders, which is an EPA industry-government partnership that works with companies to develop comprehensive climate change strategies. Participants commit to reducing their impact on the global environment by completing a corporate-wide inventory of their greenhouse gas emissions based on a quality management system, setting aggressive reduction goals, and annually reporting their progress to EPA, according to the EPA. The program aims to help companies create a credible record of their accomplishments and receive EPA recognition as corporate environmental leaders.
Barker added this is an extremely helpful source of information because many companies don’t compile a lot of data about their footprints since there are no mandatory regulations.
“Benchmarking really helped us determine what companies were doing and what was working,” she explained. “It is a good way to get ideas. It gives you an indication as to how long things take.”
Once a company begins researching what other companies are doing, Barker said many will begin to notice that they already may be doing things to reduce their carbon footprints. During the process, Appleton ended up compiling a five-page list of things it was already doing that were good for the environment. For instance, the company already had been using recycled content in paper and had been making other moves to reduce its energy consumption.
“After you know where you are at, it is much easier to see where you want to be,” Barker asserted.
After the research, it’s time to start talking. Barker recommended meeting with or talking to environmental organizations, as well as, nonprofits and trade organizations. She continued, environmental consultants often will come in at no charge to help a company brainstorm if they think they may be hired in the future.
Hanging out with experts also can be beneficial. Barker said she picked up a lot of valuable information at seminars. “You get to hear from key leaders and CEOs from other companies,” she stated. “You hear about their pitfalls and what they went through to find what projects worked for them.
“The most important thing to remember is that everything takes longer than expected. It’s not going to happen overnight, but it is well worth doing.”
For more information, visit www.naturallyncrpaper.com.