Connecting the Dots- Green is Really Good for Business

Green is good for business. At last year’s Green is Good for Business Conference held in Columbia, attendees heard Sonoco Products Chairman and CEO Harris DeLoach proclaim exactly that. DeLoach talked about “sustainability and the bottom line” and “how sustainability has become ingrained in Sonoco’s entrepreneurial processes” and how he believes sustainability provides Sonoco’s best opportunities for business growth.

It was an eye-opening presentation for many in the audience who did not realize how much big businesses, like Sonoco, have embraced sustainability.

Among its current initiatives, Sonoco is developing a $75 million biomass cogeneration system in Hartsville. The boiler system will use regional wood waste for fuel to produce steam and green energy. When it becomes operational in late 2013, the system is expected not only to reduce energy costs and greenhouse gas emissions, but also to save about $14 million a year in operating costs.

At the same conference, executives from Boeing, which was building the now-open North Charleston plant, discussed their company’s approach to sustainability. That plant is powered by 100% green energy. As part of the construction, SCE&G installed a 2.6-megawatt solar power system covering 10 acres of the roof of the 14-acre building. Solar energy is augmented by power from SCE&G’s North Charleston biomass generator.

At this year’s Green is Good for Business conference scheduled for Sept. 18 at the Columbia Metropolitan Convention Center, attendees will hear another amazing South Carolina green business story.

Josef Kerscher, president of BMW Manufacturing Co. in Greer, will keynote the conference. Since coming to South Carolina in 1992, BMW has set the standard for sustainable business practices.

Among the plant’s initiatives:

  • About half of the Greer facility’s energy comes from methane generated from a nearby landfill, creating a savings of about $5 million a year.
  • A new process reduced by 30% the amount of energy needed to paint cars at the plant.
  • Lead-acid battery forklifts were replaced by zero-emissions hydrogen-powered machines saving not only the time required to change out batteries, about 20 minutes versus 3 minutes for hydrogen fueling, but also eliminating disposal of the old batteries.
  • Lighting fixtures on the production floor and in parking areas were replaced by LEDs and other more efficient systems.
  • The Zentrum Museum was fitted with solar panels to power the entire 24,000-square-foot facility.

Not too many  years ago if you mentioned to a business that it should consider going green, you’d more than likely get a roll of the eyes and a “how much is this going to cost me” look. Green business was associated with tree-huggers and wacko environmentalists. That has clearly changed. Green or sustainable business practices are now just the way to do business. Rather than costing money, they are now viewed as either ways to save money or in some cases make money by converting former waste streams to revenue streams, and by many as just the right thing to do.

Companies either headquartered in South Carolina or doing substantial business here are leading the way. Sonoco, Boeing and BMW all have been part of the Dow Jones Sustainability Indexes of global leaders in economic performance, environmental stewardship and social responsibility.

According to one study, 269 S.C. firms are in the clean energy business, employing about 17,000 people generating $726 million in annual gross revenue. Recycling in the state is now a $6.5 billion business.

The annual Green is Good for Business Conference, put on by the city of Columbia’s Climate Protection Action Campaign, or CPAC, along with a host of partners and sponsors, including the Greater Columbia Chamber of Commerce, is a chance to find out about some of those best practices.

Since its beginning in 2007, the conference has truly become a statewide event.

This year’s conference also will feature Catherine Templeton, director of the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control, and Jon Johnston, from Region 4 of the Environmental Protection Agency, speaking on “The Future of Environmental Regulation.”

Other presentations will include:

  • Success through Sustainability: SC Green Business Success Stories
  • How Recycling Really Works
  • Sustainable Development: Making the Business Case
  • Saving Energy is Smart Business
  • Sustainability as a Business Strategy

In addition, the conference also features a Green Business Expo.

For more information about the conference or to register, go to:  http://www.coccpac.com.

C. Grant Jackson is senior vice president/community development at the Greater Columbia Chamber of Commerce. He can be reached at (803) 733-2513 or at gjackson@columbiachamber.com.

 

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