If you knew there was an easy, inexpensive way to shrink your carbon footprint, would you do it? That’s what Springs Window Fashions, makers of Bali and Graber blinds and shades, is helping customers do with window treatments.
Tom Rodgers heads up the Green Team at SWF. Kind of sounds like the Superfriends of green living, doesn’t it? But that’s really what they call themselves; they’re a team of managers workings towards real solutions for everything from cleaner, more efficient manufacturing to helping their outside sales representatives use less fuel. SWF’s Green by Nature campaign focuses on continual examination and upgrades to eco-manufacturing practices, surpassing government standards of eco-building every year, and providing affordable, eco-friendly products to consumers.
After reading about all of the great things SWF is doing to help the environment, I had to find out the intimate details from the man himself, Tom Rodgers. I hope you’ll find what he had to say as remarkable as I did.
Springs Window Fashions has been committed to protecting the environment since before it was trendy. Why is this so important?
Part of our company culture is to provide a best experience for our Customers as well as our Associates – this extends naturally to the communities in which we live and work. This also makes good business sense. Everything has a cost – emissions, disposal, and utilities. A major part of our Green program has been to minimize or eliminate these costs – by definition much of this effort also reduces our carbon footprint. The alternative is not a pretty picture – exposure to costly clean ups, expensive remediation issues, non-productive efforts battling federal/state/local authorities on emissions. We would rather work in a proactive and positive relationship with all of these constituents where we all bring ideas to the table and work together to move forward rather than get stalled in conflict.
You head up The Green Team. What exactly is The Green Team, and why have one?
The Green Team is a cross-functional group of managers that touch each area of the company. Our Green Team is in place to make sure we continue to move forward on our journey to reduce our impact on the environment. This team can help collect / prioritize employee ideas, make sure environmental concerns are evaluated on existing projects, get input from external experts.
What is your background, and what inspired you to take on this program?
I was originally an engineer – went back to school later in my career and get my MBA in Marketing. I’ve worked for manufacturing companies my entire career (over 20 years) and been involved in products, design, development, marketing, building new factories, and improving existing ones. In our planning process, we look at lots of trend information. We saw Green really getting traction – crossing all of our customers and channels. We knew we needed to develop our position / program and we saw that we had the opportunity to be first in our industry, so we pressed forward. I asked / was asked to lead this effort for the company because I’m in charge of bringing new ideas into the company; usually these are product focused. We expanded the definition to include this strategic initiative. It has really taken off for us.
What kinds of programs are in place to ensure that these high standards you’ve set are met?
We set a solid foundation by having our entire company audited. We hired one of the nation’s leading engineering firms and they audited us to the International Green House Gas protocol. This provided us with a clear picture of where we stood and also gave us pointers as to where to go. This data is revisited annually to track progress. We also check off recommendations from the audit as they get implemented.
How are the materials used in your window treatments eco-friendly?
Typical ways include:recycled content (aluminum, plastics, steel), the ability to be recycled, renewable content (bamboo, jute, etc.). Because we are vertically integrated (we make our own components) we recycle on-site. Packaging is a big component of our products. We have a packaging engineering department that is constantly evaluating new materials and testing new ideas. Any time we can remove even ounces from a package it saves twice – once on decreased use of materials, once on reduced fuel consumption due to less weight.
SWF was recently audited to The Greenhouse Gas Protocol by URS Corporation. What does that mean?
We hired URS to audit our company to a give us a feel for where we stood, lay a foundation of data, and give us recommendations to move forward. Their engineers came on site and performed detailed investigations (all the way down to the lawnmowers in the tool shed!). They also audited our utility bills for 10 years and all documentation to state / local authorities on emissions. The gave us a VERY detailed analysis and report – the good news is there were no major findings. They also pointed out a list of priorities for improvement to help us reduce our carbon footprint.
SWF also belongs to a number of organizations that support green building. What are some of those organizations?
Built Home – member, also product certifications
of our products have fabrics that are certified by GreenGuard and
Star – they do not certify window coverings, but they do recognize
companies for energy conservation efforts
Based on your experience, how has The Green Team made a difference?
We get feedback from our customers. Our products continue to grow in popularity with consumers. We believe a unique part of our messaging and advantage is our Green story – no one else in the industry even comes close. The internal momentum that this program has generated has added even more fuel to our fire. Associates continue to come up with new and innovative ways to save energy, reduce material usage, eliminate waste – we’ve really struck a nerve with both the competitive nature in people, and the desire to create a better environment.