Environmental Stewardship & Manufacturing

Since we just celebrated Earth Day, we decided to be festive and write about something that is very important for the Earth and manufacturing, environmental stewardship! While there are many obvious benefits to environmental stewardship (i.e. protecting the environment, conserving natural resources, etc.), there are some that may surprise you.  Contrary to popular belief, environmental stewardship practices can actually improve the bottom line for businesses. According to Entreprenuer.com, “Deep green businesses outperform less green businesses on nearly every dimension we tested, including revenue growth, product profitability and as a real source of competitive advantage.”

Here are three major ways environmental stewardship can benefit a company:

  1. Innovation. This one is pretty simple. Environmental stewardship can lead to some very innovative technology.  Innovative technology can lead to a reduction in production costs.   New technology can also create a new revenue source for companies.
  2. Consumer Cost Savings. There are two ways to define bottom-line value, a reduction in costs or an increase in market share.  Although some types of environmental stewardship can potentially increase cost, it is important to look beyond that to the likelihood of customer savings. Doug Kramer, president and CEO of Lapolla industries located in Texas stated, “When our company sought to make our spray foam products more eco-conscious, we collaborated with raw material suppliers to innovate through technology. This allowed us to achieve the new thresholds while also achieving a net cost savings for our customers. Although the technology cost was 10 percent more than our previous generation of products, the net savings to our customers was approximately 10 percent, achieved through a pick-up of 20 percent in added efficiency.”
  3. Improved Image. As the largest generation in the history of America, there are over 80 million millennials in America with over $200 billion in annual buying power. Studies show that they are also very brand loyal. So, it is very important to appeal to millennials. How do you appeal to millennials? Environmental stewardship.  Millennials are also known as the “green generation,” and for good reason.  Studies show that over 75% of millennials are willing to pay more for a product that was made by an environmentally responsible company over a cheaper product that wasn’t.


Does it seem a bit contradictory to you to talk about manufacturing and environmental stewardship at the same time? Well, we’re hear to tell you, it’s absolutely not! A lot of the time, manufacturers get a bad rap when it comes to the environment, but those stereotypes are very outdated. Right here in Southwest Virginia many manufacturers already implement incredibly impressive environmental stewardship practices. In our many tours of manufacturing companies across southwest Virginia, we have witnessed companies going out of their way to be good to the environment, beyond just what is required of them. Before these tours, we never knew manufacturers cared so much!

For the past three years, SVAM has awarded companies at its annual Manufacturers’ Appreciation and Awards Dinner (MAAD) for going above and beyond in the categories of Environmental Stewardship. Here is a little information about each of our winners:

  1. Tadano Mantis, Richlands, VA, 2016 MAAD Environmental Stewardship Award Recipient.  Tadano Mantis was the first company to have implemented the imbrium manufactured Jellyfish Filter.  This filter is an engineered storm water quality treatment technology featuring pretreatment and membrane filtration in a compact stand-alone treatment system that removes a high level and wide variety of storm water pollutants. This filter removes floatables, trash, oil, debris, TSS, fine silt-sized particles, and a high percentage of particulate-bound pollutant. The implementation of the Jellyfish filter was a way to ensure that pollutants were not introduced into the Clinch River by this company. They paved the way for a new way of removing pollutants and the discharges in water. No one before them has implemented this sort of technology. The expert plan also managed and permitted habitat conservation for the endangered mussels in the Clinch River. A win-win situation for the environment.
  2. Universal Fibers, Bristol, VA, 2015 MAAD Environmental Stewardship Award Recipient. Universal Fibers initiated an “Impact Reduction” plan in 2014. The project influenced Universal associates to think about impacts at home and outside the workplace in their personal, everyday choices. It influenced new product development. Refresh 75™ was formulated to be the floor covering industry’s leading sustainable fiber. The “75” stands for % recycled content.While Universal Fibers has pioneered the recycling of nylon feedstocks in fiber making, there are several other key aspects of environmental stewardship.  Universal Fibers developed a 5 “vector” environmental strategy. Several specific initiatives began while this measurement and certification process was occurring. Notably, Universal Fibers saw significant water consumption reduction within its Bristol, VA Color Compounding department. Among other key individual initiatives, production waste and plant waste [landfill] reduction were led by Universal associates. Goals were set, plans drawn and executed, and results audited by Green Circle Certified.
  3. General Dynamics, Marion, VA, 2014 MAAD Environmental Stewardship Award Recipient. Over 80 percent of the waste material the company generates is recycled. This was made possible by developing a partnership with a regional recycling company and evaluating the remaining waste products that were being landfilled.  In addition to making recommendations to enhance the existing program, the recycling company has placed equipment onsite at their expense to aid in the additional recycling. The result: a simple, easy to administer program with no additional cost to Bristol Compressors. They also vastly reduced the amount of cardboard they use in packaging; this has resulted in an estimated reduction of over 390,000 pounds of wood pallets annually.  General Dynamics wastewater pretreatment operation also led to a significant reduction in oil usage by the company as well; this was good for the environment, and reduced their costs.

Psst! Are you a manufacturer who goes above and beyond for the environment? Be sure to nominate your company for this award for our 2017 Appreciation Dinner. In September you will be able to find a link to this award nomination form on our website (www.swvam.org).
So, there are many competitive advantages and benefits of environmental sustainability and stewardship.  A study conducted by the American Bar Association states, “Commonly cited improvements include enhanced corporate reputation, better employee retention and engagement, cost effectiveness, risk avoidance and mitigation, innovation, market expansion and greater access to capital.”  Environmental stewardship is truly a win-win; it’s good for the environment and studies show it’s just as good for your wallet!!  








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