The Green Issue
Jun 2, 2010 10:16 AM, By Cynthia Wisehart
What does it mean for AV?
Walking the Talk
Not everyone in AV is behind the green curve. Christie Digital’s four-year path is a case study in the rippling effect of greening a business. Not only has the company been honored for its green practices, this year it was named one of the Best Employers for New Canadians by the editors of Mediacorp. Green is not merely an add-on initiative but an integrated philosophy of efficiency and employee engagement; it has come to influence everything from R&D investment to summer Fridays (free ice cream for everyone to offset the thermostat setting).
Christie President and COO Gerry Remers says the seeds of green transformation came from the culture of its parent company, Ushio, which is in the top 5 percent of companies in Japan’s Nikkei Environmental Management Survey and from a key environmental event in Europe—the bold and sweeping Restriction of Hazardous Substances (RoHS) Directive, which went into effect in the summer of 2006. In business terms, RoHS was effectively an overnight ban on six vital electronics manufacturing substances including lead, mercury, and cadmium. RoHS proved that swift and dramatic change was possible, and Remers says that once Christie started down the environmental awareness path, the company never looked back.
“I understand that some may see a dichotomy in the fact that we make a product that consumes 6kW of power and then talk about being a green company,” Remers says. But, he explains, the picture is more sophisticated than that. Digital projectors are a big improvement environmentally over celluloid ones, and like many products in AV, constant technological advancements have produced significant gains in lumens per watt—a trend that will only continue as LED light sources continue to mature. More importantly, Christie’s environmental strategy demonstrates how much can be accomplished in a manufacturing setting, regardless of the product or byproducts of the business. It’s a three-dimensional equation, a new way of looking at business, cost, and value to the customer and the company’s employees and community.
In 1998, Christie’s Peter Pekurar started building the company’s quality management system, so it was a logical step for him to develop and integrate an environmental management system starting in 2006. His admittedly awkward title, senior manager of integrated management systems, reflects just how interdependent environmental management, quality, and business now are at Christie.
“We started internally in our use of materials, recycling, energy use, and emissions,” he explains, “because it was the best way to raise awareness, so every individual would think in terms of green in everything they do.”
“We’re an engineering company, and engineers tend to be well-educated; they’re very concerned about working for a good company stands for corporate responsibility. You have to walk the talk,” Remers says. Internal policies included a four-day week for up to 180 floor workers, green parking, a sophisticated recycling program, less paper, less travel, and continuous education and awareness about efficiency and waste.
The starting point, Pekurar says, was the ISO 14000 standard and its environmental aspect list. “It’s like a risk-based analysis of where you as a company touch the environment and have an opportunity to negatively impact the environment,” Pekurar says. “Our aspect list is 100 lines long. We apply a risk, value, and frequency, and come up with a rating for each aspect. The list allows you to distinguish between significant aspects—in our case, the regulations we had to comply with, recycling, and emissions. You also designate normal aspects for the things that are lower-impact and so lower-priority. Dollars do not come into it, but if you do a good job on addressing these aspects, the organization becomes more functional and efficient, and therefore more profitable. We realized benefits and savings that we didn’t intend.”
Both the Kitchener, Ontario, and Cypress, Calif., facilities are ISO 14000, and Remers and Pekurar say that basic culture became the foundation for more green innovation and outreach. That translates into manufacturing and R&D.
“You want to ensure that the products use recyclable parts, ensure they’re efficient,” Remers says. “You want to track your supply chain for efficiency and waste reduction. Your product is hopefully brighter than competitors’, so you want your optical systems as efficient as possible. You want lean development. We should never be air freighting, especially things that weigh 800lbs., but we do, so we look at our planning process to reduce that. Efficiency and green are part of the same coin.”
“It’s very expensive to handle waste, so it’s important to make as little of it as possible,” Pekurar says. “You develop an awareness of what constitutes waste, both on the input and the output side. Everything in the stream should be adding value to the customer—that’s why environmental management and quality management work together, because that allows you to add value in a way that minimizes environmental load and cost. Going green should not be costing you money. It should be saving your customers money.” Good green is profitable.
But make no mistake; going green is like many other business strategies. Initially it is an investment, especially in education. And Pekurar spends significant time reinvesting in educating the larger communities—both his local business community and the AV community. He sits on the committee that is developing the ANSI energy management standard for the effective use of energy in AV installation.
Both Pekurar and Remers are also active in the movement toward third-party verification of product claims, much as Energy Star is doing. “Version 2 of the ISO 21118 projector spec is quite exciting,” Pekurar says, because it moves away from what has largely been voluntary claims and self-declaration.
“It’s important for companies to understand this is not going away; it is not a fad,” Pekurar says. “Our entire economy is based on using and recycling resources.
“It’s also important to understand that this is about developing a culture, making it fun,” Pekurar says. “In terms of marketing it to our employees, it was one of the most successful programs we’ve ever done. In fact, part of the program has been educational events that help employees think about healthy homes and energy-efficient lifestyles that reach beyond work.”
“It’s not our intention to lead the green charge to create a brand or a green aura,” Remers says. “It’s based on values and doing the right thing. It’s fundamental that we should not be wasteful and we should be on a path of continuous improvement. And engineers like elegant solutions—an efficient, elegant supply chain, efficient design, efficient circuit boards. There is a strong tie between aesthetics and efficiency.
“Going green, if you want to call it that, is part of the overall running of a business. Corporate responsibility proves the viability and sustainability of your business.”
Going Green Resources
- Green to Gold: How Smart Companies Use Environmental Strategy to Innovate, Create Value, and Build Competitive Advantage,By Daniel C. Esty and Andrew S. Winston
- Cool Companies: How the Best Businesses Boost Profits and Productivity by Cutting Greenhouse-Gas Emissions, By Joseph J. Romm
- Sustainable Value: How the World’s Leading Companies Are Doing Well by Doing Good, By Chris Laszlo
- The Sustainability Advantage: Seven Business Case Benefits of a Triple Bottom Line, By Bob Willard
- Cradle To Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things, By William McDonough and Michael Braungart
Check out InfoComm’s Green AV Special Interest Group (SIG), part of InfoComm’s members-only social networking community, at infocomm.org. Updates on the sustainability rating system will be available here, as well as other green AV related information and opportunities.
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