When you think of words like recycling, environmental impact, and sustainability, Nebraska is probably not the first thought that comes to mind, but that’s where I was born, and it’s also the birth place of Arbor Day, the precursor to Earth Day. Arbor Day’s message of environmental stewardship is 146 years old. From a very early age, I learned the importance of protecting, preserving and enhancing our plant as I planted a tree every year. It’s part of my DNA, and throughout my career, I have passionately rallied the companies I have worked for to prioritize environmental sustainability.

What I’ve realized over the years and what I have advocated is that sustainability just makes good business sense. “Green is green” is a phrase I often use, because when you take steps to save energy, you save money. It improves employee productivity. At our Queretaro facility in Mexico, where we switched to energy efficient lighting, we saw just that. We used less energy, which means we saw significant savings in our electric bill – energy consumption was reduced by 31 percent, which equated to $14,000 in savings for the first eight months since the lighting had been changed. We also saw the positive impact this had on our employees’ productivity. The new lighting decreased visual fatigue for operators, which resulted in better visual inspections and improved quality output.     

As a society, we know—that thanks to innovation and technology—we have other options for harnessing electricity that can move us away from coal-powered energy. At our HARMAN Connected Services facility in Bangalore, we switched to a power purchase agreement to become 80 percent solar-based, which equates to 2.5M lbs of coal not being burned. Recent utility deregulation in Mexico is allowing HARMAN to review its power supply options across three locations. As part of our long-term commitment, we are now exploring solar and wind as viable options for energy sources in Mexico. And in Suzhou, China, a new facility includes a dining center utilizing a natural-lighting system, which means no electricity is being used during the day, and wind-solar hybrid light poles have been installed outdoors.

Through innovative new packaging design, we have reduced the amount of material consumed and ultimately disposed, and the decrease in materials equates to cost savings to produce a product.

Recycling programs are in place across HARMAN facilities worldwide, and our employees continue to take it further. In our Novi, MI, facility, a composting program for food waste that benefits local farms was recently introduced. In multiple locations, disposable plastic is being eliminated from dining centers and breakrooms, and employees are using glasses and reusable water containers instead, which eliminates waste and the cost of purchasing disposable products.

In short, small efforts add up to big impacts. From planting trees and switching to energy lighting to evaluating the packaging of our products and recycling our waste, it’s not just common sense, it’s about dollars and cents, about compliance, it’s about competitiveness.

By David Slump, Executive Vice President of Operations at HARMAN