Teknion Proves Sustainability Can Equal Profitability

After a potential customer toured Teknion’s plant facilities and two weeks later declared, “don’t bother responding to our RFP”, company officials moved quickly to circle the corporate wagons in order to assess how the company could secure future business.

That lost customer was CH2M Hill, the engineering behemoth, headquartered in Denver, Colorado, and the issue that brought Teknion to a tipping point in its corporate culture was environmental compliance and sustainability directives (or lack of them).

Five years later, Teknion, the designer and manufacturer of office furniture systems headquartered in Toronto, Canada, won the prestigious ‘Corporate Competitiveness Award’ at the 2007 GLOBE Awards based on ‘a proven record of environmental stewardship’.

What happened at Teknion, how did this company and its employees come to embrace the gospel of sustainability so that it ‘transformed our culture’ according to CEO David Feldberg?

The answer, as promulgated throughout Teknion’s literature, its website and in presentations given by senior managers, is short and sweet: small steps lead to resonant change. “Small, seemingly modest acts can cause major shifts in behavior”. This ‘Butterfly Effect’, as first described by meteorologist Edward Lorenz, demonstrates that simple events can have complex results.

Teknion transformed the drubbing incurred by CH2M Hill into soul searching and action. Speaking to a group of business leaders that met recently in Denver, Scott Deugo, Senior VP of Design, Marketing and Sustainable Development at Teknion stated that CH2M Hill “had asked us questions that we could not answer such as ‘what are your energy reduction strategies'”.

Deugo was empowered by senior management to develop the response that could lead to environmental awareness and responsibility at Teknion. A GreenWorks team of 40 employees, representing all facets of job types from the shop floor to senior executives, was hand-picked by Deugo for their personal commitment to recycling and other projects.

Selecting the GreenWorks team was a critical component to the success of the program as the members had double duty as evangelists that would carry the message of sustainability throughout the company.

During the next five years Teknion would: receive ISO 14001 certification for all facilities; implement the Environmental Management System (EMS) specified by ISO 14001; align products to the guidelines set by LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design); promote the accreditation of LEED certified professionals on staff; and establish environmental priorities in the company charter.

Teknion achieved tremendous cost savings through the adoption of programs that reduced waste to landfill by 56%, decreased the volume of water utilized in the manufacturing process and reused materials to create other usable products.

And not only did the corporate culture change and flex to account for the new drive towards a sustainable design and manufacturing environment, but an accounting epiphany occurred along the way: the cost of utilities was variable, not fixed, and Teknion drove a silver stake into the heart of its own pattern of energy consumption.

The Teknion case study was part of an ongoing series of programs by the Denver based sustainability organization CORE (Connected Organizations for a Responsible Economy), and the Canadian Consulate in Denver.

CORE also hosts the 3rd Annual Sustainable Opportunities Summit, February 27-29, 2008, to be held in Denver at the Sheraton Four Points and will feature speakers such as: Ray Lane, Managing Partner at Kleiner, Perkins, Caufield  amp; Byers; Sally Wilson, Global Director of Environmental Strategy at CB Richard Ellis; and back by popular demand for the second year, University of Colorado at Boulder alum Bill Reinert, National Manager of Alternative Fuel Vehicles for Toyota Motor Vehicles, USA. Check out the Summit website for more information: http://sosummit.org/home/content/view/12/26/ .

Sustainability is quite a difficult task when matters concern business and for this, The Teknion has to be applauded for taking such drastic steps for the benefit of business structures and the CORE Summit only served to fulfill their purpose where specific care was given to rfp response help as a significant point to include for generating profits.

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