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Monroe Litho wins Environmental Innovations Thought Leader Award

Published on June 6, 2011

Steve Whittaker VP of Sustainability at Monroe Litho talks overviews some of the 56 sustainability initiatives that led them to win the Thought Leader award at the 3rd annual Environmental Innovation Awards.

Richard Romano: Hi, this is Richard Romano; I’m Managing Editor of WhatTheyThink’s Going Green Blog, and we’re here in Atlanta, Georgia for the Third Annual Environmental Innovation Awards. And we’re talking to Steve Whittaker, who is the VP of Quality control and Sustainability for Monroe Litho, based in Rochester, New York, who is this year’s fought leader. So congratulations on being chosen Fought Leader.

Steve Whittaker: Thank you Richard.

Richard: Now if you could just tell us a little bit about the history of the company; where you’re located, how long you’ve been around, what kinds of work you do and that kind of thing.

Steve: Monroe Litho is a downtown; Rochester, New York based company. We’ve been in business since 1945, and currently we have kind of a historic facility in downtown Rochester, New York; we employee 60 people. We operate two full shifts throughout our whole factory and serve clientele in northeastern United States as in Washington D.C., New York City, and throughout New York State.

Richard: Now according to your application, you have no less than 56 different sustainability initiatives at Monroe Litho. Actually, we won’t have time to go through all 56 of them here, but what are some of the top two or three that have had the most impact on the company?

Steve: Well, we’ll talk a little bit about one that we did last year, which was a Sic Sigma initiative as well as a LEAN project that dealt with a purchasing function. And we very often may not regard the purchasing function or the supply chain function as part of a LEAN sustainability initiative; however, we were able to modify our supply base as in our primary paper supplier, and we actually eliminated 72,000 pounds of CO2 emissions into the environment. That was a wonderful project on the environmental side. There was also substantial cost reduction in what we were able to achieve as a result of that.

Last year, we also reduced our VOC chemical solutions internally in the factory by something on the order of 28.8 percent by changing and modifying the way that we use chemicals in the Press Room.

We’ve also been monitoring and managing very, very carefully the amount of paper we recover and we recycle. And last year, that was actually something on the order of about a million and a quarter pounds.

We’re also a test site for a printing manufacturer wherein we print sheets for printability and other properties that are being exampled by the manufacturer.

You know, in all of our stuff, Richard, in all of our products that we have underway are all handled with a data management team that’s part of our SGP team actually. And all of the data that we publish throughout Sustainability Initiative Summary, which is distributed to our employees, our suppliers, our stakeholders, our service providers, this is all auditable. And that is the first SGP Printer in the United States outside of the beta test group. That’s just been a powerful, powerful initiative for us to get a lot of these projects started and a lot of these projects going. 

Richard: Where we some of the challenges that you had to overcome to pursue some of these initiatives?

Steve: Well I think it was our employees getting used to the idea that we were going to change something. And I’ll give you another example of another project. Last year, we put a padlock on a 40 cubic yard dumpster and the prior year, it had been to the landfill perhaps several times, and the year before that, perhaps five times and the year before that perhaps seven or eight times. And employees were a little bit miffed that we would put a padlock on a 40 cubic yard dumpster and walk away and say, we’re going to have to learn how to recycle all the things that normally went to the landfill. And that we did, and actually we had a lot of fun doing it. And today one of the things that we do is we use QR code on some of our printed literature and have clients take a look at the padlock that’s locked on the side of this 40 cubic yard dumpster. It’s kind of a fun thing.

We’ve had a great, great time. We’ve spend a lot of time with suppliers, we’ve spent a lot of time with customers getting their feedback, a lot of our ideas come from our employees. We have a very, very high energy sustainability team that also talks about integrating into this whole thing a lot of elements about the environmental health and sustainability issues. For example, in 2008, we were named one of the sixteen safest workplaces in America. And as a point of fact, in the last five years we’ve worked 700,000 hours in our factory with only three reportable OSHA incidences. So we spend a lot of time training.

We spend a lot of time listening to employees, we spend a lot of time capturing new ideas, we partner with suppliers, and our supply chain of sub contractors and suppliers just to learn new things. And by the way, the program presented this afternoon was absolutely terminus and I hope perhaps ten new ideas to walk away from here with.

Richard: Oh great. So now, Monroe Litho is 100 percent wind-powered.

Steve: That’s correct.

Richard: So how was… is that decision made and what was sort of the process and what are some of the challenges you had to overcome in getting that installed?

Steve: Well the first one was to find out how we went about doing it; the second one was to analyze and to capture the costs that were involved with that. And then the third one was obviously to figure out how that would tie in with our SGP Initiative as we began to become more sustainable. Actually, after we examined it and found out the cost differential, it was really not a difficult decision to make.

We were one of the early commercial printers across the country that actually became 100 percent wind-powered. And that’s purchased through Renewable Energy Credits; our power is generated in another part of the country and delivered to us through the normal electricity delivery mechanism.

Richard: So now, you were one of the first, if not the first, SGP Certified printer. What have you found some of the benefits of that certification?

Steve: Well, let’s clarify that. The original SGP team worked with a beta test site group of perhaps four or five commercial printers. We were the first commercial printer outside of the beta test group to become certified. And what it allowed us to do in the development of the program which was just absolutely powerful; we were able to establish a structure, a discipline, and some repeatability to the whole issue of organizing, developing, managing, and controlling sustainability projects in the environment. And to get everybody in our organization and our supply chain and our other stakeholders involved. And you’ve read some of the sustainability initiative summary items; it’s just been very, very powerful.

It’s helped us build a brand image that’s very, very unique and as we tighten up our environment and our work team as everybody else has had to in the current economic situation. My peers in the company, that my job is to provide our sales people with a Champaign bottle that has a cork on top of it. And my job is to allow them to walk into a client’s office and take the cork off and keep fresh bubbles in the bottle with new ideas and with innovations that continue to make us unique and special and different in the eyes of our clientele.

Richard: Great. Well thank you very much and congratulations again.

Steve: Thank you very much.  

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