Four New North businesses are among the nine statewide winners of the 2011 Business Friend of the Environment Awards.
Presented on May 12 by the Wisconsin Environmental Working Group, an affiliate of the Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce, these awards spotlight Wisconsin companies that are leaders in three categories: pollution prevention, innovative technology and environmental stewardship.
“WMC started these awards back in 1990 for three reasons,” says Kurt R. Bauer, who became WMC president and CEO in March. “We wanted to recognize businesses for their efforts in protecting the environment, to make the public aware of what businesses are doing, and to showcase best practices that other companies can emulate.”
From the New North, Fox River Fiber, Green Bay Coated Products, Briess Industries and Menasha Corporation were all honored this year.
Fox River Fiber, De Pere
Fox River Fiber is the small business honored in the pollution prevention category.
Established in 1992 as a green field project, Fox River Fiber is an independent de-ink mill. It manufactures post-consumer wet lap pulp for customers in the paper industry; its business is reintroducing wastepaper back into the market.
So, by its very nature, Fox River Fiber “walks the talk” of protecting the environment. Its process has diverted 2.3 million tons of wastepaper from landfills, which means 22 million trees have been saved. It has also made significant reductions in energy and water usage, as well as freight reduction.
From 2004 through 2010, the company reduced the average mileage wastepaper traveled to its production facility by 31 percent.
Green Bay Coated Products, Green Bay
Winning the award for large business in the pollution prevention category is Green Bay Coated Products, a division of Green Bay Packaging, Inc. GBCPD manufactures a wide selection of pressure-sensitive materials.
Its “Green Team,” formed in 2009, has identified waste streams that could be recycled, outlets to take those materials, processes for segregation and equipment to improve efficiency. These improvements reduced the quantity of material going to the landfill by more than 50 percent.
Among other improvements, GBCPD is working with another area company to process sludge generated by its wastewater treatment system into an alternative solid fuel for waste-to-energy recovery.
“We’ve put a lot of effort into sustainability efforts, especially within the past couple of years,” says Jay Jagodinski, safety and environmental manager at Green Bay Coated. “This award highlights those efforts for our customers, but it especially shows our employees the significance of their work. Our culture has changed, and we have seen the results.”
Briess Industries, Inc., Chilton
Briess Industries, Inc., provides specialty malts to the beer and craft distilling industries, and specialty industrial ingredients to the food and beverage industries. It was honored as the medium-sized business winner in environmental stewardship.
The company started its “Green With Briess” initiative in 2005, which resulted in capital improvements and innovative redesign of systems and processes.
By 2010, it had reduced energy consumption and emissions the equivalent of 288 fewer trips being driven around the earth, which resulted in substantial cost savings.
“We heard about the competition and knew we had a good story to tell,” says Gordon Lane, Briess’ president and chief operating officer since 2002. “It’s another way to show our customers that we, as a supplier, are doing everything we can.” Lane cited heat recovery, sourcing of raw materials locally and providing by-products to local megafarms to feed cattle as other important efforts.
Menasha Corporation, Neenah
The large-firm honoree for environmental stewardship is Menasha Corporation, a niche-based packaging, logistics and marketing services company. While it has practiced sustainability efforts throughout its 150-year history, it re-dedicated itself to making the world a better place in 2010 by adopting Sustainability as one of its four overarching corporate strategies. (See “Taking sustainability seriously,” Insight on Business, April 2011.)
Menasha helps its customers make informed decisions about packaging options through its patented Environmental Sustainability Calculator®. That shows cost differences, as well as environmental trade-offs.
Internally, Menasha has improved its corrugation process, created ways to minimize ink going to the landfill, replaced lighting and installed a heat recovery system. The most visible sign of its commitment is the installation of five 20-watt wind turbines at its Neenah office along Highway 41.
In addition, it has announced its 20/20 Vision – a commitment to reducing carbon emissions, water consumption and solid waste by 20 percent relative to current levels by the year 2020.
Overall, WMC’s Bauer is impressed by what he sees.
“I’ve only been in my position a short time, but it’s amazing to me the lengths businesses go to save both money and the environment. People need to see examples of what businesses are doing, and that’s what we’re trying to do with these awards.”