Innovating and manufacturing sustainable products provide better value to our customers by minimizing harmful materials, reducing or eliminating waste at the job site and decreasing installation-related injuries and illnesses. This gives Southwire a competitive advantage.
Product responsibility drives much of Southwire’s innovation, and many of the innovations that we brought to market in 2015 align with our product responsibility objectives to:
- Prioritize sustainable attributes, including safety, in products and packaging;
- Minimize or eliminate the use of materials with negative health impacts; and
- Reuse materials at the end of a product’s useful life.
Prioritizing Sustainable Attributes
Southwire set a goal to incorporate sustainability principles, such as reusability, into at least 65 percent of all new research and development (R&D) projects by year-end 2016. When designing new products, we consider our six sustainability criteria; every division has a development team tasked with integrating these sustainability criteria into our new products. During development, we test the products’ sustainability and capacity for responsible performance at our world-class Cofer Technology Center. Additional personnel from our environmental, legal and sourcing departments scrutinize various aspects of the product prior to public release.
Our SIMpull Feeder Management System™ exemplifies Southwire’s focus on product responsibility. This system combines the best products and services in the SIMpull Solutions product and service portfolio to help contractors improve safety and efficiency on the job site while also reducing many forms of waste, including packaging. It served as the foundation for further innovation, specifically our new SIMpull REEL™ Maneuverable Payoff System, which can improve safety when moving, setting up and paying off feeder cable reels inside buildings or structures. This innovation revolutionizes the job site by allowing one person on flat surfaces to safely move a reel that weighs up to 6,000 pounds without the need for pallet jacks or other equipment. All of our reels utilize a single, tear-off protective plastic package with a rip-chip system. The rip-chip offers a safer, more efficient means to remove the plastic cover, eliminating the need for electricians to use knives or other sharp tools.
We brought several other notable products to market in 2015 that exemplify our commitment to product responsibility: the Maintenance PRO™ Smart Multimeter and MC-PCS Duo™ Power and Control/Signal Cable. The Smart Multimeter can predict issues in the field before they occur. Because a large number of malfunctions occur during dangerous emergency conditions, this innovation has the potential to reduce occupational injuries among contractors. MC-PCS Duo™ cable was specifically designed for use with energy efficient LED lighting. This product combines power conductors and 0-10 volt dimming control conductors into one cable, reducing labor and installation costs. MC-PCS Duo™ cable also features circuit identification printed directly on the armor, eliminating any confusion about the cable construction under the armor.
Minimizing Materials with Negative Health Impacts
While the majority of Southwire’s business is in North America, we do provide products to offshore customers and serve customers that sell into overseas markets. Therefore, we monitor market trends and requirements globally. To maximize our potential customer base, reduce inventory and be ever-better stewards of the environment, we are working with our suppliers to eliminate chemicals of concern identified in European Union REACH (Registration, Evaluation, Authorization and Restriction of Chemicals) regulation and the European Union directive for the Restriction of Hazardous Substances (RoHS).
We plan to develop insulating compound alternatives to better manage the content of our products in response to our customers’ perception of the end user effects. We continue to increase in-house formulation and compounding capability and invest in the necessary equipment needed to meet this goal.
Reusing Materials at End of Life
The Southwire Tools and Assembled Products Division participates in Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) programs across North America. These programs seek to identify environmental costs and impacts that arise throughout a product’s life-cycle. Together with this program, we developed products and packaging more compatibly designed for collection and recycling. The Product Care Association, call2recycle.org and several other organizations collaborate with us to help manage the life-cycles of retail tools, lighting, timer, packaging and lawn and garden products.
Building on our EPR program experience, we plan to launch internal compliance with the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment Directive (WEEE), a European end-of-life regulation. WEEE encourages the collection, treatment, recycling and recovery of electrical and electronic equipment waste. This falls in line with our longstanding tradition of going beyond regulatory requirements. The WEEE Directive will primarily influence our Tools and Assembled Products Division’s operations.
For utilities ordering materials with wood or steel reels, we established a return program. Through this program, customers have 12 months to return the reel for credit, creating an opportunity for shared financial and environmental benefits between Southwire and our customers. After the customer returns the reels, we refurbish them through a partnering vendor and ship them with new product. To see this program’s performance, see G4-EN28 below. In 2014, we launched an internal team to develop end-of-life processing programs for key customers by year-end 2016. Their objective is to expand recycling and like-kind exchange programs. Possibilities include copper and aluminum recycling and programs to take back wire and cable scraps.
Our senior vice presidents of research and development and sustainability, safety and environmental ensure that product responsibility continually progresses. They update our chief executive officer every two months on the status of our current goals. We assess our product responsibility by taking into account consumer feedback and satisfaction, as well as sales performance. We also publish progress on our sustainability goals every quarter.
To ensure the quality, integrity and transparency of our product responsibility, we committed to producing EPDs for 25 products in key markets by year-end 2018. These declarations will help our customers understand the environmental impacts of our products.
|Year||Percent of projects incorporating sustainability principles (Goal: 65%)|
|2014||52% of spend; 51% of projects|
|2015||46% of projects; 80% of spend|
|Year||Recyclable Reel Program (Energy Division): Recyclable Wooden & Steel Reels Returned*|
*Includes units recycled through our reel supply partner