Beyond Command and Control

EPA's National Environmental Performance Track aims to motivate and reward top environmental performers

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One such employee is Madison Chemical chemist Marjorie Hare, says George. Awhile back, Hare became concerned about a certain chemical compound ," a potential endocrine disruptor ," listed as an ingredient in some of the surfactants the company used. "She evaluated new suppliers of the raw materials, got substitute surfactants, reformulated 35 of our products, eliminated every endocrine disruptor, improved the performance of the product and reduced the price," he notes. "We got an award for that."

Since 1997, Madison Chemical reduced biological oxygen demand (BOD) discharges to water by 45 percent through improved inventory control and slashed solid waste by 47 percent through recycling, better purchasing practices and installation of a permitted incinerator for certain types of nonrecyclable paper.

With 180 employees, Waukegan, Ill.-based Akzo Nobel Aerospace Coatings Inc. is another small, but mighty, charter Performance Track member. The facility, part of the Dutch company Akzo Nobel, manufacturers specialty paints, coatings and resins for the aerospace industry.

Hugh A. Flack Jr., director of health, safety, environment and quality systems for Akzo Nobel Aerospace Coatings' Waukegan plant, says the facility has always been "very proactive" in the environmental, health and safety areas. It has been actively involved in the citizens advisory group for the Waukegan Harbor since the early 1990s and is an ISO 14001-certified facility.

"We had planned to go toward an ISO 14001 program and, at the time, we did not think we'd do third-party certification, but instead self-assess against that standard," says Flack. "But we had started off in Illinois with a group called the Multistate Working Group [on Environmental Management Systems]. The Performance Track was a nice extension to that because they do highlight the ISO 14001 as a standard." The facility ultimately did decide to seek third-party certification of its EMS, adds Flack, a step that helped with Performance Track.

The Waukegan plant, since 1998, reduced its electrical use by 3.6 percent simply by closing off unused areas and shutting down power to them. In addition, facility employees cut hazardous waste by 28 percent by improving controls over waste disposal practices.

Of course, the chemical industry's top performers are not limited to small facilities. E.I. du Pont de Nemours and Co.'s (DuPont) Spruance Plant in Richmond, Va. ," DuPont's most "populous" plant, with some 2,500 employees ," has some bragging rights, too.

The Spruance plant, which essentially consists of six businesses manufacturing advanced fiber systems, films and nonwovens, is a recipient of the Virginia Governor's award for environmental excellence. Robert L. Dunn, the facility's community and environmental affairs manager, served as a mentor for Businesses for the Bay ," a Chesapeake Bay program. The site also is a member of the Habitat Recognition program and is an Exemplary Environmental Enterprise (E3) under Virginia's Environmental Excellence program.

According to Dunn, the Spruance plant reduced air emissions by 71 percent since 1987 ," while increasing production by more than 40 percent during the same time. Efforts involved leak detection improvements, training, equipment reliability improvements, the elimination of two lab solvents and other actions. The site also significantly reduced water use for cooling.

"Most all of what we've done has not had a significant cost impact," stresses Dunn, "because the objective is to take all the ingredients and turn them into product so you don't have any waste."

Noticing that the Performance Track performance criteria mirrored the actions it was already taking company-wide, New Brunswick, N.J.-based Johnson & Johnson ," a major manufacturer of health care products for the consumer, pharmaceutical and professional markets ," entered all 51 of its U.S. facilities into the program's application process. EPA subsequently selected all of the sites as charter program members.

 

Indiana Governor Frank O'Bannon (left) presents a pollution prevention award to Madison Chemical President Dick Goodman (center) and Technical Director Steve Hale.

Johnson & Johnson has a long history of environmental goal setting, explains Vivian Pai, the company's executive director for worldwide environmental affairs. In 1990, Johnson & Johnson developed a set of pollution prevention goals for all of its facilities across the globe. Those goals were exceeded and essentially put to rest in 2000, she says. To promote continuous improvement, therefore, the company developed a new set of objectives, referred to as its "next-generation" goals.

"It was at that time that the Performance Track came around," notes Pai. "Our mantra is beyond compliance,' so [the decision to apply for membership] was a no-brainer for us."

All Johnson & Johnson facilities are required to put into place an EMS such as ISO 14001, says Pai. "Not only that, our next-generation goals go one step further," she says. "Not only are all of our sites expected to have an EMS like ISO, they're also required to take that one step further and get third-party certification."

Since 1997 alone, Johnson & Johnson has cut energy consumption by 12 percent through improved management practices. It also has reduced packaging material use by 25 percent.

Committed to the future

Performance Track participants must do much more than document exemplary environmental achievements of the past. They also must commit to continuous environmental improvement ," setting concrete goals to be achieved within a specific timeframe.

On its Performance Track application, Madison Chemical committed to 32 percent and 34 percent reductions, respectively, in BOD discharges and solid waste. The company will use a combination of better inventory control, enhanced manufacturing processes, smarter purchasing and other actions to meet these objectives. However, admits George, the goals pose significant challenges.

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