The Green $ide Of Green

Dec. 21, 2004
Environmental sustainability has reached a new strategic level in manufacturing because it is increasingly tied to lowered costs and/or innovative products.

In the environmental movement's half-century war on terror, large corporations that make things traditionally have been the Saddam Husseins of the world. They dumped poisons into waterways and dirt into the air; sucked the earth of limited, valuable resources; and created mountains of eternal solid waste. They often lied about these acts or tried to hide them. These days, however, Enemy No. 1 is turning into an important ally. Manufacturing has elevated environmental responsibility to the strategic level in part because of the mainstreaming of environmentalism but also because with advances in globalization and technology, being green can bring in more green. "In every business review meeting you will find at ITT Industries, there is consideration and time dedicated to environmental issues," says Usha Wright, vice president/associate general counsel and director of Environment Safety and Health. "It's like any other equal business issue." While activists often say globalization is bad for the earth for a variety of reasons, the ping-ponging of goods and services among countries actually has put pressure on manufacturers like the $5.6 billion ITT Industries Inc. to become more globally responsible. For instance, at ITT products are manufactured to environmental standards that usually exceed local requirements because it makes sense economically to produce things that are acceptable in all markets -- and therefore are manufactured consistently to the highest standard. Additionally, the White Plains, N.Y.-based diversified manufacturer is designing its products to be acceptable in the future. "We design products not only to meet today's standards -- because that's an easy one; that's a platform from which we work -- but looking forward 15 years from now, 20 years from now -- that our products out in the market will comply with our knowledge base at that time. That is an initiative that our CEO has put forward." One of the ways ITT designs for the future is by tracking new developments in materials. Indeed, advances in nanotechnology and industrial biotechnology are making it easier for manufacturers to be green. (See more on industrial biotechnology in the August issue of IndustryWeek.) As Wright says, being green makes sense for any manufacturer that wants to survive and thrive. "When the drivers are environmental, they invariable end up driving efficiency, reducing costs, creating value and contributing in other ways to our bottom line," she says. Read the following examples of manufacturers in a variety of sectors that have benefited from strategic efforts to be more environmentally responsible.

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