Partnering for profit and planet: Suppliers Partnership for the Environment meets at DENSO
By Robert Norris | (firstname.lastname@example.org)
As 70,000 people prepared to enjoy the environs of Maryville during the Foothills Fall Festival, a much smaller group was sharing ideas to ensure the environment stays livable and inviting.
Not just in Blount County, but across the United States and around the world.
About 50 representatives of Suppliers Partnership for the Environment (http://www.supplierspartnership.org) met Thursday at DENSO Manufacturing Tennessee Inc. for their quarterly forum.
This is the first time the association, established in 2002, has convened in the South.
“It’s an honor to welcome some of the nation’s top automotive companies and EPA officials,” said DMTN President Van Saka, “as we work together to address the auto industry’s common goal to improve the environment while increasing efficiency and value for the driving public.”
SP, as Suppliers Partnership is called, is a self-sustaining trade association that provides a forum for small, mid-sized and large automotive and vehicle suppliers to work with OEMs (original equipment companies, DENSO among them) to learn from each other and share environmental best practices.
The association works in collaboration with the Environmental Protection Agency, which helps provide members with topics for special projects, information, approaches and tools. The partnership also works with the E3 Initiative: Economy-Energy-Environment (http://www.e3.gov) , an effort created jointly by several federal agencies.
In their own words, representatives of two founding members of SP explained the purpose: John Bradburn, senior environmental engineer with General Motors, and Matthew Bogoshian, of the Environmental Protection Agency, where he is senior policy counsel for the Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention.
Bradburn: “The focus of this group is more pollution prevention, waste minimization we call it. It’s more up front, preregulation — or aside from that, increasing our efficiencies, keeping materials in their use-phase, looking at various technologies within the supply base — the OEMs, working with EPA and others to save money, to make money, to reduce waste, to recycle, repurpose, reuse.
“Again, all through looking at byproducts. How do one company’s byproducts become other companies’ inputs into their processes? How can a company utilize our resources in the best possible way? Really, that’s the focus here. We look at utilizing green chemistry principles. And there’s lots to talk about and a lot that we share, best practices, lessons learned.”
Bogoshian: “I think it’s been clear over the last couple of decades that you can make a lot of money by being smart around the environment. That’s happened at the highest corporate levels and down into the factories and facilities across America. Now we need to penetrate it deeper and have this continuous improvement go forward. That’s, I think, a principle change. How to get that message out? There’s no one way. That’s where these public-private partnerships really come into play. What we’ve tried to do at the federal level, from the president on down with all these federal agencies, is to try to get all of those folks who are in silos doing their own activity together in one package, and then go down to the community level to the businesses and to give them whatever tools that we have to help them move farther faster.
“That’s a formula for success, and we’re building success. To try to bring Americans together. This is the kind of spot where we can really build teamwork for this next generation to run smarter manufacturing — making things smarter in America.”
Bradburn: “We do share these lessons on a global basis. We’ve got 103 (GM) plants that are landfill-free across the world, many in the United States. DENSO, in fact, has done a wonderful job working within the Suppliers Partnership for the Environment — specifically, doing many projects.
“I’ll give you an example. One of their locations in Michigan had some materials and byproducts that we were able to recycle with another Supplier Partnership member. It was a challenging material, but they accommodated that. The DENSO team has done a wonderful job working within SP, and we appreciate that very much.”
Bogoshian: (Speaking of DENSO’s EcoPark at its Maryville facilities) “That gets to the third prong, the triple bottom line. Which is making profit, but doing it in a way that is good for the planet and is good for people.
“The three P’s is the way I remember it: profit, people and planet. So that’s an example of a company that’s making money, doing it in a way that reduces their waste, and also promotes citizenship, outdoor activities — those kinds of things that are good for the community.
“There’s folks on Wall Street with whom we engage that are looking at how companies deal with their environmental footprint as a proxy for sound management. It’s good on the merits in terms of reducing costs and all of that, but it’s also a proxy for how well that company is managed.”
Bradburn: “Right. A company really is doing a good job if they extend their activities beyond their walls, reaching out to the community, doing some of the things DENSO’s doing — working with people with challenges, all of those stewardship things regarding habitat, wildlife, community outreach, working with kids in schools, river sampling. All those sort of things really make a company stronger.
“So, it’s much, much beyond operating within those four walls and bringing those profits. Yes, you’ve got to do that. You’ve got to be profitable. But you’ve got to reach out as well in your community. That is what sustainability is about.”