More than 1,000 environmental and sustainability professionals are gathered in Denver for the 2017 Environmental Leader Conference and Energy Management Summit.
Speakers for the opening general session included:
- Doug Pontsler, vice president, operations sustainability and EHS at Owens Corning
- William Gill, vice president, environmental affairs at Smithfield Foods
- Denise Naguib, vice president, sustainability and supplier diversity at Marriott International
- Moderator: Jerry Tinianow, chief sustainability officer for the city of Denver
Jerry – Denver is trying to meet its 2020 sustainability goals. In Denver we practice sustainability to make sure our resources are available to everyone now and in the future.
Doug, tell us about Owens Corning, including where sustainability resides in your organizational chart and how your company is pursuing this integrated approach that goes beyond traditional compliance.
Doug: You might remember the Pink Panther insulation, but we have two other businesses as well: roofing and composites. We’re at about $6 billion in sales and 16,000 employees, in 25 countries. I report to the chief sustainability officer, who reports to our CEO. We like to think the sustainability department at Owens Corning is made up of 16,000 people.
We have a long legacy of focus on energy costs. Long before we were talking about sustainability as a topic, we were focused on energy reduction. We have two energy managers in our business.
Small things do matter. Each year we spend millions on what we call “no cost, low cost.” Each year our teams find ways to save energy for the next year. It’s everything from the replacement of equipment to insulation to a focus on water. Another example is a 250-megawatt purchase of two windfarms, which services about 60% of our U.S. electric demand.
Denise: We have 675,000 employees around the world. We don’t own most of our assets, though. We operate assets on behalf of our owners. My peers are the heads of food and beverage and other departments across the operations groups. Sustainability embeds itself in operations. We have to influence the company from the top down to include sustainability. One of our biggest projects right now is our deal with Starwood and getting everyone on the same page. It’s a wide portfolio of sustainability and global impact goals.
Bill: Smithfield Foods is all things pork. We run about $15 billion in sales with close to 50,000 employees. We’re primarily in the U.S. and we have 460 hog farms. For sustainability, we looked at several pillars: animal, safety, community, etc. For each of these pillars we look for a standard for the pillar. We put together a team of subject matter experts and implement the standard across the company. We have a chief sustainability officer, who I report to. He makes sure the pillars don’t become siloed.
We look at value creation across all these pillars.
Our tagline is “good food responsibly.” We call ROI “responsibility, operational excellence and innovation.” It translates sustainability to everyone in our company.
Because we operate a lot of hog farms, we have a lot of manure. We’ve partnered with tech providers and utility experts and we have a manure farm in Utah that actually creates electricity from manure.
And we are always looking at energy efficiency projects.
Jerry: The Trump administration has brought in new personnel and changes. How has this affected your organization?
Denise: We are going to continue doing what we had planned to do as a part of our integration with Starwood. Our constituencies have not changed. Our guests still have expectations of us. Our business partners still have expectations of us. Our meetings and events clients still have expectations of us.
There is still in the U.S. a heightened focus on the environment and sustainability, whether or not the U.S. is a part of the Paris Agreement. From a competitive perspective, our hospitality group is working on a set of sustainability goals. We are not changing our approach based on the situation at hand.
Bill: I would agree with Denise. The impact of new administration has been minimal. We are pursuing initiatives that have been good for our company. The company says we’re marching forward. Maybe now is a time to put a little more money in them and heighten them.
Doug: Our sustainability measures have been of great importance no matter who’s in office. We’re going to continue to work on these. We’re motivated by what this means to our company, our employees and the people around us.
Jerry: Your companies all operate in the international arena. How have you had to adjust your sustainability initiatives to the cultures in which you operate?
Bill: We do encounter a little regulatory and cultural differences in other countries but I think our initiatives pair well with the countries in which we operate. I think we see some differences in the way we implement. In Mexico, utilities and electricity are not very reliable. There we have more opportunities to use the biogas as a source of energy.
Doug: About half of our company is outside the U.S. and one of the biggest areas of concentration is China and India for us. One of the things that makes a difference for our company is the leadership at the top, who has a common message and a common focus that transcends around the world and it makes it a lot easier. We start talking about Owens Corning as a sustainable enterprise. We raise our level of sensitivity when we communicate in India and China. We have great engagement from our team around the world.
Denise: We have global goals and continent-based goals. For responsible sourcing our goals are going to be much more challenging for our Middle East and Africa team. And another country will need to make up the difference.
We have brand standards. As a brand, you set standards. We have a universal approach to sustainability. We’re working on embedding in-room recycling across the globe. But that varies drastically across regions. What we focus on is what can the hotels do?