Newell Rubbermaid strives for excellence in environmental sustainability

In 2011, Newell Rubbermaid developed an environmental sustainability program designed to measure progress toward its goals to reduce water and energy usage, lower emissions and increase recycling across the company. The Environmental Sustainability Excellence (ESX) program, as it is now called, allows Newell Rubbermaid’s facilities to systematically assess the environmental impacts associated with production and upstream supply chain activities. Balaji Jayaseelan, Newell Rubbermaid’s Program Manager of Environmental Sustainability, recently shared some insights into the development of the ESX program and its impact on the company’s sustainability efforts.

Can you tell us about how you’ve used the ESX program to establish metrics and track and report progress?

At Newell Rubbermaid, as a result of our ESX program, we have the ability to compare figures between facilities and aggregate by business segment, geography or functional capability (e.g. compare injection molding machines across two facilities). Our framework is based on the ISO14001 management system and Lean/Six Sigma tool kits. We are still in the early stages of deployment. We have implemented our ESX program as a pilot at two of our facilities, and we will implement it in five more facilities in 2013. The initiation of the program starts with a gap analysis and training, and is followed by an eco-efficiency assessment where we identify opportunities along with leadership at each facility pertaining to energy, waste, materials and water. As we identify opportunities, projects are designed and executed using our operational excellence framework. The facilities and the Newell Rubbermaid Global Sustainability team are equally accountable to improve scores moving forward. A self-follow-up assessment is done at the end of year one and a third-party assessment is conducted at the end of year two.

Our ESX methodology allows for our manufacturing facilities to report against consistent metrics set by our Global Sustainability team, including energy, water and waste usage. Our manufacturing facilities report results to the Global Sustainability team on a quarterly basis.

What does it mean, for Newell Rubbermaid, to be eco-efficient? How did this concept develop?

As a global marketer of consumer and commercial products that touch the lives of millions of people around the world every day, Newell Rubbermaid is uniquely positioned to help create a more sustainable world. Our focus on being a responsible steward of the environment enables consumers to fulfill their aspirations to live and work more sustainably. To surpass mere incremental improvements and achieve significant environmental gains requires both product and process innovation. To that end, our environmental sustainability strategy implements a holistic, centrally-led governance and management approach that focuses on developing internal, cross-functional networks and programs in two key areas: operations and supply chain, and products and packaging. Today at Newell Rubbermaid, we're designing products and optimizing business processes to minimize inputs and impacts on the environment. Our commitment to high levels of environmental performance in the design, manufacture, marketing and distribution of products conserves resources and reduces unwelcome impacts.

Can you tell us about the Newell Rubbermaid Product Environmental Sustainability Calculator?

The product calculator was designed by our Global Sustainability team in collaboration with Environmental Resources Management, UK division, to make lifecycle impact decisions easier for our users. It is an Excel-based screening tool to measure and compare environmental impacts of products from materials to end of lifecycle. Our primary audience is our product designers/innovation teams and brand managers, as we seek to aid their decision making to better understand the impacts of their choices across the value chain. It has been deployed across our businesses, including with two of our most well-known brands, Rubbermaid (e.g. water bottles, Reveal Mop) and Paper Mate (e.g. recycled pens, biodegradable pens, etc.).

How do you determine annual environmental goals?

We look at potential opportunities, opportunities for focus (where resources are available), and benchmarking against other companies’ long-term goals. We review goals with all appropriate departments before committing. We establish long-term (3-plus years), medium- term (1-3 years) and short-term (less than a year) goals for the company.

A large effort is placed on educating employees through Newell Rubbermaid’s Energy University. How has this impacted your sustainability efforts and what has been the response from employees?

Our annual Energy University has boosted knowledge and understanding about important energy reduction practices among employees throughout Newell Rubbermaid. It allows us to standardize practices and to take advantage of energy cost-saving opportunities that will result in faster product implementation and lower capital costs. We’ve found this to be a useful forum to share simple and effective methods keeping employees up on the latest energy efficiency practices. Our results have exceeded our expectations. We’ve seen tremendous success in both employee response and participation.

What are some best practices or lessons learned that you could share?

  • Focus on data mining, acquisition and analytics, especially from the operational side of the business. At Newell Rubbermaid we rely on data for all day-to-day decision making.
  • Engage product development early on to discuss potential environmental improvement opportunities in the product innovation process. Decisions made during the design and ideation stage can minimize more than 50 percent of environmental impacts of any given product.

Develop an effective employee engagement program – if sustainability doesn’t matter to every employee, the impact will be minimal for the overall corporation.