In 2007 SKF AB (IW 1000/445) reached a significant milestone that was a century in the making—its 100th anniversary. By virtue of longevity alone, the Gothenburg, Sweden-based manufacturer can rightly be called a sustainable enterprise.

However, its ties to sustainability—in all its definitions—go much deeper. Indeed, the very first product manufactured by the then-fledgling firm in 1907 was the ball bearing, and SKF remains a major bearings manufacturer today. It's a product, the company notes, that reduces friction and thus reduces energy use. Sustainable by its very nature.

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Today, sustainability remains core to SKF, a global manufacturer that now supplies not only bearings, but also seals, mechatronics, lubrication systems and services across some 40 customer segments. "Sustainability is a guiding light for us," said CEO Tom Johnstone during an August visit to Northeast Ohio.

Johnstone was in the Cleveland suburb of Highland Heights for the grand opening of the fourth SKF Solution Factory in North America and one of 19 around the globe. In keeping with SKF's sustainability efforts, the Cleveland site is pursuing LEED certification. Among the sustainability measures installed at the site is a 2,500-gallon cistern that will collect rain water and has the potential to meet all of the site's grey (non-potable) water needs.

While in Cleveland, Johnstone and other SKF leaders shared with customers, employees and invited guests the role of the SKF Solution Factory as well as the current and future pursuits of SKF. Johnstone also spoke with IndustryWeek about how sustainability will help SKF succeed during the company's second century.