Sustainability is good business

Posted: April 22, 2013

By Don Lewis

When I meet with customers, vendors, or leaders of other organizations, I am often asked a great question: How much work is involved in earning a reputation as a "sustainable" company?

They ask me because they know SCA is a global leader in sustainability practices. This takes a serious commitment, and the best results come from organizations where sustainability efforts are both top-down and bottom-up.

Here's what I mean. Top-down is the organization taking the lead on creating a vision with its sustainability ambitions. Do you want to be the greenest company in your community or among your competitors? Do you want to earn sustainability certifications or distinctions? Do you want to get your feet wet and do just enough to start the process?

Companies that want to forge ahead should have a vision and measurable goals - increasing internal recycling or decreasing energy use, for instance.

The bottom-up piece is perhaps the "secret sauce" to bringing green actions to life. We've learned that employees like working for a company with a strong sustainability commitment. New employees become interested in us for the same reason. Encouraging employees to bring sustainability ideas to the table not only can make your organization greener, but it also builds morale and company pride.

Recently at our Bowling Green, Ky., facility, an employee team wanted to ensure that none of the waste from our operations went to a landfill. So it created a plan, and started small - building up employee recycling practices. Then it found a local business to buy the manufacturing waste from making one of our products and use it to make things like lawn chairs. Today, that site is known as a "zero waste to landfill" operation - all because employees had a passion for making it happen.

One great way to expand your sustainability work is to bring in a partner. Our region has many nonprofit organizations and programs with a sustainability focus. Consider partnering with them. They not only offer established programs; they can offer great advice.

Philadelphia's Greenworks program, for example, includes more than 160 initiatives to make the city a better place to live and work. Last year, SCA partnered with the city to introduce a composting/recycling program for outdoor events. The waste/recycling/compost bins have already been used at the Philadelphia Marathon, the Mummers Parade, and the 5K Run for Clean Air. These bins will divert about 2.5 million pounds of waste a year from our region's landfills.

In the workplace, great strides are being made to build, outfit, and maintain environmentally sustainable facilities. LEED-certified facilities, such as SCA's office in the Cira Centre, are increasing in prevalence nationwide. Use of renewable energy - natural resources such as sunlight, wind, rain, tides, and geothermal heat - is on the rise. Community Energy Inc., for example, is supplying solar power through Keystone Solar to organizations such as the Philadelphia Phillies, Drexel University, and SCA. The 14 new wind turbines and 11,000 solar panels installed at the Eagles' Lincoln Financial Field are up and running. On sunny days when the stadium is not in use, the power created will go back into the grid.

Celebrate Earth Day by joining in some way to better our environment. Practice sustainability in your organization with a combination of top-down and bottom-up approaches, and your efforts now will set the stage for a greener future.

Don Lewis is president of SCA Americas. E-mail him at

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