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A Rewarding Journey

Dec. 8, 2005
Each step makes life better for our business and for the communities we call home.

Sustainable manufacturing is a journey. It's also a cause that touches every corner of a business. The beauty is that a sustainable approach -- social benefit, environmental responsibility and economic performance -- creates a cycle of improvement. Progress in one area almost inevitably enhances the others.

Johnson Controls Inc. has traveled far since our founding in 1885. This year, as we complete our third corporate sustainability report using the Global Reporting Initiative, we see both how far we have come and how much road still lies ahead. Here are some lessons we have learned on the way about sustainable manufacturing:

John M. Barth, chairman and CEO, Johnson Controls Inc.Start with values. We formalized our values in 1985 but have lived by them for more than 120 years. These values -- integrity, customer satisfaction, employee diversity and involvement, improvement and innovation, safety and the environment -- are the cornerstones that ground and support our sustainable manufacturing efforts. They apply across the company at more than 500 locations in more than 50 countries.

Build systems. As surely as we can design quality into production processes, so too can we design in sustainability. Our Corporate Health, Environmental and Safety System tracks regulatory compliance, waste, and work-related injuries so that we can spot trends and improve.

Our systems approach also looks at reducing environmental impact through the lifecycle of products. We analyze raw materials to eliminate hazardous substances from products, follow Design for Environment principles, monitor waste to find opportunities for reduction and recycle aggressively.

Additionally, through the collection and monitoring of utility bills, we help customers accurately and cost-effectively track greenhouse gas emissions. This holds promise for sharply improving the way multinational corporations collect data on these emissions.

Johnson Controls Inc.
At A Glance
Act globally. We must collaborate across borders and throughout the extended organization, which includes the supply chain. We expect suppliers not just to deliver our quality requirements but also to mirror our ethical and social and environmental standards. For example, contracts require suppliers to earn international environmental and safety certifications.

Foster diversity. Diversity makes our business and our communities stronger. In six years, Johnson Controls has more than quadrupled purchases from diverse vendors. In 2003 we joined the Billion Dollar Roundtable of companies that annually spend more than $1 billion with minority- and women-owned businesses. In turn, we encourage and help our suppliers to buy from diverse firms.

Aim high. Automotive battery recycling in the United States today approaches the ideal. Johnson Controls helped build a reverse distribution collection infrastructure and worked with other industries, retailers and consumers to promote battery recycling. The recycling rate for battery lead now exceeds 93%, far higher than for any other commodity. Our own battery plants reclaim 99.99% of lead for reuse -- and even recycle the plastic battery cases.

Improve continuously. Disciplines such as Six Sigma and lean manufacturing enhance product quality and drive out waste. Our own Best Business Practices initiative helps us translate improvements at one plant to other similar plants worldwide. Case in point: Our North American automotive seating plants adopted more efficient fabric cutting methods from seating plants in Europe -- saving $4 million annually and eliminating many thousands of pounds of fabric scrap.

Learn from the best. It is our privilege to learn from other top companies and excellent corporate citizens. Many are our customers. Others are associates in groups such as the Global Environmental Management Initiative, the Business Roundtable's Climate RESOLVE and the U.S. EPA Climate Leaders.

Sustainable manufacturing is a journey that never ends: Each step ahead reveals new ways to improve. But it's rewarding to see each step make life a little better for our business and for the communities we call home.

Related Essays

Sustaining The Future: How companies manage resources today determines what is to come tomorrow.
Good Corporate Citizens Sustain Companies, by Bruce Hertzke, chairman and CEO, Winnebago Industries Inc.

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