Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Grassroots Sustainability

The following article is excerpted from BDO Solutions, a publication of BDO USA , LLC; an accounting, tax, audit and consulting services company (formerly SS&G).


When Americhem’s manufacturing facility in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, earned the prestigious ISO 14001 certification for environmental management, it was a huge victory for a company that is already committed to conducting business with respect for the environment. But some of the company’s employees wanted to take sustainability efforts even further.

“They were very enthusiastic, and they brought up even more ideas to our quality manager at the plant,” says Scott Blanchard, corporate marketing and communications manager at the global leader in color concentrates, additive concentrates and specialty dispersions.

The ideas that came rolling in included cardboard and universal waste recycling, practices that have now been incorporated into Americhem’s daily operations.

The ISO certification is only the latest example of innovative sustainability thinking at Americhem, where a company principle is to “be a proactive steward of the environment.” While it’s not always easy, Americhem is constantly looking for ways to sustain the environment.

Finding recycling solutions
When the company tried to recycle its plastic scrap at the Cuyahoga Falls plant, just like at its other facilities, it faced a big hurdle. While the company’s other facilities used single streams of plastic, the Ohio plant had a diverse mix of polymers, making the process a bit more challenging.

“The recycling facilities want a dedicated stream of plastic because it’s an easier process, but we found one that would take our mix,” says Blanchard. It was just one more obstacle to being environmentally responsible that the company successfully overcame.

Saving water with efficient processes
Recent gains at Americhem have made as much sense economically as environmentally. For instance, one of the company’s boldest processing initiatives in sustainability involves the introduction of solution dyeing of synthetic fibers.

The traditional method is to apply liquid dyes to white yarn after the fibers are made. However, this process uses a huge amount of water that is now polluted. It’s estimated that the industry uses as much as 99 million gallons of water globally every year just to dye yarn.

In contrast, solution dyeing is a process by which colorant is added to the fiber as it’s being spun. No water is used at this stage, and very little is used in the overall process. In fact, estimates are that solution dyeing uses about 1 percent of the water used in the old process. There’s also significant energy conservation with solution dyeing, lowering production costs while saving natural resources.

Reducing electricity
Lighting improvements at several Americhem facilities were another smart business move. By replacing the metal halide lighting fixtures with high-efficiency fluorescents, the immediate result was a 56 percent reduction in electricity usage and reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. As a bonus, the new fixtures increased lighting levels by 40 percent for a safer workplace.

Practicing smart business
Far from being a cost burden, sustainable practices are actually turning a profit in unforeseen ways. For example, the company’s cardboard and polymer waste, which once posed a high landfill cost, has been diverted for sale to recyclers.

“We believe progressive environmental practices are good for the environment, as well as good for business,” said Americhem CEO Rick Juve in a recent company newsletter. “Ultimately, it reduces cost, increases profit through the supply chain and protects the environment for the future.”

Smart business practices are leading to smart individual practices, as well. “Our people told us that our environmental management certification made them think of all the things they could do to increase sustainability around their own homes,” says Blanchard.

Sustainability is just good business sense — and a value for generations to come.

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