The Green Masters program, developed by the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the Wisconsin Sustainable Business Council, is designed to recognize sustainability leaders and encourage continuous improvement. Companies accepted into the program can see how they compare to almost 200 other companies in Wisconsin.
The New North region has a particularly strong presence in the Green Masters Program, especially among manufacturers. Of the 71 manufacturers currently participating in the program, 21 percent are in the New North region. Of those, fewer than half were recognized as Green Masters in 2014 (meaning that they scored within the top 20 percent of the program), an extraordinarily high percentage of excellence.
In the program, companies can also see specifically how their performance compares to the overall performance of their industry, giving them the chance to clearly identify areas of strength and opportunities for improvement. An element of competition is thus incorporated into the program. The top 20 percent of participants are recognized at the Wisconsin Sustainable Business Council Conference each December. Because this percentage is recalculated annually, the bar for success is being constantly pushed upward.
The 2014 Green Masters of the New North region are Appleton Coated, Appvion Inc., cei (Coating Excellence International), Green Bay Packaging, JBS Green Bay, KI (Krueger International), Menasha Corporation and ThedaCare. Each of these has taken innovative steps to push their organization to the next level of sustainability leadership.
Appleton Coated and KI, for example, have focused on making it easier for their customers to make environmentally responsible choices. Appleton Coated has done so by increasing its offering of printing papers made with high levels of post-consumer recovered fiber. It added 69 new SKUs made with this recycled material, but eliminated the pricing differential between these new products and the original products. In essence, it is pushing customers towards sustainability while at the same time furthering its own sustainability goals. In the same vain, KI has made its products easier to repair, disassemble and recycle at the end of their life cycle. Customers now have a better product with a longer life cycle, and are able to make the choice to recycle when the furniture can no longer be reused or recycled.
Menasha Corporation in Neenah, on the other hand, made strides towards employee involvement rather than customer involvement. For the second year in a row, Menasha engaged its employees in a Cool Choices sustainability challenge. This entailed employees all across North America forming teams to compete in a game that encouraged environmentally sustainable choices, both at home and at work, within a six-week time frame. The benefits of implementing this game into day-to-day business operations are numerous. It sparks culture change in a way that is fun, competitive and effective. Employees start taking ownership of their own day-to-day sustainability, reducing their waste, turning off their electronics, and using alternative methods of transportation to come to work each day. This kind of engagement also leads employees to bring to the table new ideas in sustainability that otherwise never would have been considered. In many cases, these same employees will be the ones to push for these ideas and see them through to the end.
Finally, Appvion, JBS Green Bay, cei and Green Bay Packaging all used third-party certifications to move forward with their sustainability goals. Appvion is one of the few paper companies that have an ISO 14001 Environmental Management System for its headquarters, research laboratories and manufacturing locations. ISO 14001 sets criteria for an Environmental Management System, and maps a framework that organizations can follow to improve resource efficiency, reduce waste and drive down costs. JBS also is ISO 14001 certified and has recently implemented the ISO 50001 Energy Management Standard. At cei, the volume of ink waste generated has been reduced by 15 percent over the past two years as part of its Sustainable Green Printer certification, and Green Bay Packaging not only has five different fiber certifications, but also has won countless awards for its sustainability excellence.
The Green Masters program is a free resource designed specifically to help companies understand their sustainability progress, and help them along their journey to improvement. It is unique in that it gives participants the perspective of how they stack up against other businesses across the state, so they can know where to look for the easy wins, and who to look to for true breakthroughs and innovation. The Green Masters Program pushes businesses to lead the way on the challenge of sustainability, and gives them recognition for their leadership in doing so. For more information on how your company can participate, visit www.wisconsinsustainability.com/green-masters.
Alana McKeever has been the program director of the Wisconsin Sustainable Business Council’s Green Masters Program since September 2014. She is also completing her work toward a degree in entrepreneurship from UW-Madison.