It's Not Easy Being Clean

Sustainability Will Happen When We All Learn a New Economic Calculus

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The U.S. industrial sector is the number one consumer of energy in the nation. All four major economic sectors recorded tremendous growth in their use of energy, yet the industrial sector used the largest share of total energy.

He added that top-level management buy-in was critical to energy-optimization project success, and that it was necessary to make it a company priority, establish structure and committees, identify key personnel at each level of management and establish an energy mission—that is, integrate energy into overall company strategies. Then, establish objectives for energy accounting and data requirements, and develop a plan to heighten communication and make energy a visible priority.

After that, Zimmermann said, select partners with experience, set leadership priorities and move forward to study and audit energy usage. Once you have completed the audit, you can prioritize the energy saving projects you want to complete, and then get to work.

Changing the Lightbulbs

Sometimes, it really can be that simple—if changing the bulbs at 300 facilities is simple. Osram Sylvania (www.sylvania.com) and its parent company, Siemens Automation AG, (www.siemens.com) have partnered to design different energy-efficient lighting technologies, as well as state-wide recycling programs to reduce the amount of carbon emission produced in the process automation industry. These programs and green practices allow Osram Sylvania and its participating customers to reduce the amount of glass, metal, mercury and fluorescent substances used in Osram Sylvania's lighting products. 

One company currently benefiting from Osram Sylvania's green products, such as the Quicktronic family of ballast and lighting controls—the T12, T8, T2 and T4 fluorescent lamps—is Norfolk Southern Corp. (www.nscorp.com/nscportal/nscorp), the Virginia-based rail transportation company.

Norfolk's primary goal was to become sustainable throughout its processes, and with Osram Sylvania's help, it retrofitted more than 300 of its locations, and is anticipating an annual energy savings of 50 million kWh and an annual CO2 emission reduction of approximately 76 million pounds.

Sustainability—Trend or Fad?

Sustainability right now seems like a fad, but it isn't. Currently, sustainability programs are taking over corporate goals, and everyone wants to accomplish sustainable practices for their own reasons.

"Three to four years ago when people started talking about sustainability they would just shrug it off," says Walker. "Many thought sustainability was just a fad."

The process industries today are seeing an increase in the number of employees that are hired to perform sustainability-related jobs, and these companies annually publish corporate responsibility reports.

Corporate human-resources departments also play an important role in making sure green initiatives are part of business plans. Employees want to work for environmentally responsible corporations, and businesses want to hold a strong sustainability performance because they use this to attract new talent.

Financial officials know that when carbon trading comes along, this will be a costly process for corporations. In order to reduce energy costs, reduce emissions and remain profitable, industry must find ways to make money. Trading emission credits could be the way to go.

Growing government pressures and tougher environmental and safety policies act as regulators pushing sustainability initiatives as the norm, as the economic calculus widens yet again.

Marketing also plays a role in setting sustainability practices as a trend. Consumers today demand green products and stockholders are putting pressure on manufacturers to deliver and meet popular demands, while operating in a sustainable fashion, and with a lower carbon footprint. As Kermit the Frog used to sing, "It isn't easy being green."

However, 10 years from now, sustainable practice will be woven into daily operations, and running a green plant will be the only way to remain in business and profitable. 

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