BUSINESS MANAGEMENT: Company Gains from Waste Loss

SC Johnson Wax, Racine, Wis., is proving that with a strong environmental foundation, a company can build a waste reduction and recycling program that stands the test of time, as well as boosts the bottom line.

Creating a balance between industry and the environment began early in the company. This attitude was promoted nearly 70 years ago in the 1920s by H.F. Johnson Sr., son of the company founder. So it is perhaps natural, if not inevitable, that the family-owned and operated company commissioned three buildings from one of the most influential architects of the 20th Century, Frank Lloyd Wright.

From the soaring dendriform columns floating like lily pads on the ceiling of its administration building, to the tree-like cantilever trusses supporting the company's research and development tower, SC Johnson's corporate architecture speaks as much about the company's environmental awareness as it does of the brilliance of Wright's designs - that a place of business, a floor wax company, also is part of the environment, not detached from it.

In 1990 and again in 1995, SC Johnson set five-year goals and began reducing the effects of its business on the environment. The company's Goal 2000 program also was designed for the same reason.

In the past decade, waste cutting measures at SC Johnson have improved the "eco-efficiency" of operations, preventing and reducing pollution and waste. For example, in 1998 to 1999, the third year of the company's current five-year environmental goals, 29 percent of the consumer products SC Johnson launched in North American and Europe had less of an environmental impact than earlier products.

In manufacturing, combined waste and emissions as a ratio to production decreased 2 percent from 1995, continuing the downward trend that saw an almost 50 percent reduction from 1990 to 1995.

Since 1992, the company has cut more than 420 million pounds of waste from products and processes equaling a cost savings of $125 million. With eco-efficient targets, SC Johnson has driven less waste and lower-cost thinking into its businesses.

For example, redesigning the Glade Carpet & Room deodorizer packaging in 1997 reduced material use by 420,000 pounds for an annual cost savings of $1 million. Increased use of recycled content and light weight containers also reduced the company's virgin packaging ratio. Now, both new and existing products incorporate environmentally responsible materials (and fewer of them) to reduce waste and conserve resources.

SC Johnson also has introduced lower-impact products and processes to the marketplace. Reusable Glade Candle Scents with refills are a good example - the technology provides a low volatile organic compound (VOC) refillable air freshener that reduces packaging waste.

"Non-traditional" product delivery forms also are an important focus, according to the company. RAID Flea Trap, a non-insecticidal flea control device, not only kill fleas without insecticide, it also is refillable and reusable. The redesigned flea trap uses 25 percent less plastic with 25 percent recycled material creating a 40 percent per unit cost reduction.

Reducing and eliminating waste while improving energy efficiency at manufacturing facilities also has required innovative approaches. For instance, since 1994, the company's Waxdale manufacturing facility in Racine has sent residual shave gel waste, which previously was solidified and landfilled, to Sturgeon Bay, Wis., for use as an alternate energy source.

Since 1990, SC Johnson has increased its recycled content in packaging to more than one third. Made with at least 25 percent recycled steel, the company's steel cans are used to package many of the company's furniture care, air care and insect control products.

In addition, recycling programs exist at all of SC Johnson's facilities worldwide. To date, the company's North American manufacturing and office facilities have achieved a 90 percent miscellaneous waste recycling rate, while Europe has a 50 percent plus recycling rate. SC Johnson's Mexico facility also works with local schools in a community-wide "reduce, reuse, recycle" program. And the company's Waxdale manufacturing facility has joined with Goodwill Industries of Southeastern Wisconsin to recycle cardboard, plastic, office paper and metal.

But SC Johnson's commitment to the environment extends beyond its building walls. The company is pro-active in numerous community-based environmental programs to protect the planet and its resources.

For example, Shanghai Johnson sponsored China's first Youth Forum on the Environment and Sustainable Development.

Company-sponsored educational initiatives also have helped to teach U.S. high school students about the effects of their daily decisions on physical, social and economic environments.

Yet despite these efforts, SC Johnson recognizes the limitations of eco-efficiency as a business strategy. Consequently, it continues to look for additional ways to reduce waste, environmental risk and costs.