WHY MANAGING IT MATTERS
As a materials-intensive business, Southwire has a significant environmental footprint. With a finite supply of natural resources, Southwire must work to minimize the amount of raw materials used to limit exposure to potential raw materials shortages and/or increasing prices of core inputs. Internally, Southwire manages this topic through product design, manufacturing operations and customer service centers. We also work with suppliers to integrate recycled material inputs and with customers and end users to maximize material reuse at the end of products’ useful lives.
Southwire takes pride in continually improving the value our products deliver to customers. We know that value is about delivering more; we design our products to be safer for users—both during installation and for the people who work and live in the finished buildings—better for our planet and more cost-effective for our customers. Further, Southwire works diligently to ensure our materials and products meet stringent regulatory requirements from Europe and California.
Product responsibility drives much of Southwire’s innovation, and many of the innovations that we brought to market in 2017 align with our product responsibility objectives to:
- Prioritize sustainable attributes, including recycled materials and minimizing content, 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.
Our executive leaders of research and development (R&D), sustainability, EHS and quality ensure that product responsibility continually progresses. They update our chief executive officer every quarter on the status of our current goals.
Southwire has explicit policies covering materials management, including purchasing guidelines to limit the use of products that have environmental regulatory concerns. New Material Request Instructions detail what requestors must do to approve a new material, including submitting a Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) for review and approval by safety and environmental coordinators and by the Inventory Records Manager (IRM). If the material passes the approval process, the IRM will establish a stock number for the material in SAP.
Streamlining Products and Packaging
Southwire aims to minimize the amount of packaging our products require. Our SIMpull Solutions® require zero spools and no added lubricant, eliminating waste at the job site. We also eliminated rigid plastic clamshell packaging for our timers, garden lighting, automotive and hand-held lighting product categories, and we continue to look at other product categories for packaging reduction opportunities.
Minimizing Materials with Negative Health Impacts
Our customers are actively focused on their products’ chemical content and increasingly expect Southwire to minimize harmful chemicals used in our products. While most of Southwire’s business is in North America, we provide products to offshore customers and serve customers that sell to overseas markets; therefore, we monitor market trends and requirements globally. To maximize our potential customer base, reduce inventory and be true environmental stewards, we are working with our suppliers to eliminate chemicals of concern identified by the European Union’s REACH (Registration, Evaluation, Authorization and Restriction of Chemicals) regulation and Restriction of Hazardous Substances (ROHS) directive.
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 & Assembled Products Business Unit 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 these programs, our Tools & Assembled Products Business unit developed products and packaging more compatibly designed for collection and recycling.
The Product Care Association and call2recycle.org collaborate with us to help manage the life-cycles of retail tools, lighting, timers, packaging and lawn and garden products. Éco Entreprises Québec (EEQ), including other programs under the Canadian Stewardship Services Alliances (CSSA), helps us with the recovery and recycling of our packaging materials in Canada.
To expand upon 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 & Assembled Products operations.
For utilities ordering materials with steel or wood reels, we established a return program that allows reels to be refurbished through a partnering vendor and shipped with new product. 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. However, as freight costs have increased significantly in the past few years, the economics of returning reels from long distances for recycling have led to fewer returned reels. Additionally, several customers on the industrial side requested new reels, limiting our ability to utilize recycled reels at our Starkville, Mississippi, facility. We are currently reviewing ways we can reengage these customers in this program.
Recyclable Wooden & Steel Reels Returned*
Recyclable Reels Returned (Percentage of Total Wooden & Steel Reels Shipped)**
Beyond reclaiming Southwire’s wooden and steel reels, we have an established electronics recycling program in Carrollton, where we partner with Keep Carroll Beautiful and invite local community members to drop off e-waste at periodic collection events. We plan to expand this program in 2018 and have selected Florence, Ala., and Bremen, Ind., as the pilot locations.
To ensure the quality, integrity and transparency of our product responsibility, we committed to producing environmental product declarations (EPDs) for 25 products in key markets by year-end 2018. This effort is on hold as we review other potential environmental and/or health product declarations (HPDs) that may be more in line with customer needs. Our renewed focus may reduce the overall number of EPDs/HPDs and concentrate them in the United States Green Building Council (USGBC) Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED) and Living Building Challenge Standard, Green Building Market sector.
We will assess our product responsibility performance through consumer feedback and satisfaction, as well as sales results.