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Meeting Offers Tips on Managing What You've Measured

Professionals in the sustainability space are fond of the adage, “You can’t manage what you don’t measure.”

But how do you turn this data into an actionable plan that will generate a larger profit margin for your company?

A panel of executives representing corporate heavyweights Johnson Controls, Eaton, and IBM weighed in on their approaches to turning data into better environmental performance in a webcast presented Wednesday by, “By the Numbers: Greening Your Business Operations.” The webcast is the first in a series to be presented by and sponsored by IBM.

As environmental thinking has moved up the corporate food chain, it’s evolved from “greening up” to becoming much more strategic, said Executive Editor Joel Makower, the webcast moderator.

“With that growth in importance has come a need for more rigorous tools and techniques for measuring and managing a company’s resource inputs, as well as its outputs of both products and non-products, the latter of which is also referred to as waste,” Makower said. “It's been the lack of such tools and techniques that has kept most companies from tapping all of the profitable opportunities available to them as they seek to address and improve their environmental performance.”

That need for tools is only going to grow as stakeholders demand more transparency, he said. One approach is Lean Six Sigma, a marriage of Lean and Six Sigma principles that is being applied to operational waste, energy, water and greenhouse gas emissions in IBM's  Green Sigma consulting service, launched in August 2008. Last month, IBM unveiled the Green Sigma Coalition, a partnership of nearly a dozen companies that aim to provide an end-to-end solution for businesses that want to reduce their environmental footprint. Partners include Honeywell Building Solutions, Johnson Controls, Eaton, Cisco and SAP, among others.

The Green Sigma carbon management dashbaord

IBM used Green Six Sigma’s structured methodology to look at its silicon wafer waste stream, which yielded impressive results with dual financial and environmental benefits, said Larry Raymond, International Supply Chain Leader of IBM’s Green Initiatives.

The company turned this toxic waste stream into a revenue stream at its Dublin, Ireland facility. IBM previously sent damaged silicon wafers to hazardous waste landfills, but some employees discovered that scratching off the intellectual property left wafers that could be reused in the construction of solar panels.  

“Instead of having to pay for the landfill and pollute the environment, what they end up doing is finding a market,” Raymond said. “This is what has been done for the last year or so and we sell waste materials we otherwise would have had to put in the landfill. “We help the environment by having a low-cost method of building solar panels and we make a little bit of money at the same time.”

The economic downturn has made energy efficiency more attractive, according to Clay Nesler, a panelist and vice president of global energy and sustainability of Johnson Controls. “With capital scarce, it became obvious we needed to use more continuous improvement using the Lean Six Sigma processes,” he said.

That led to activities such as “energy hunts,” where teams of employees search for additional efficiency opportunities in Johnson Controls plants. The process, which was woven into a Lean Six Sigma methodology, identifies, measures and controls the hunts' savings, which ran into the millions.

In addition to Raymond of IBM and Nesler of Johnson Controls, panelists included Dave Lubowe, vice president and global partner of strategy and change and IBM, and Joe Wolfsberger, senior vice president of environment, health and safety at Eaton Corp.

The webcast can be accessed here free of charge through Oct. 22.

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