One Company’s Progress in Achieving “Eco-Effectiveness” – A Look Behind Herman Miller

23 06 2007

An interesting interview conducted by GreenBiz.com with Paul Murray, Director of Environmental Health and Safety for Herman Miller, sheds light on the vision and commitment required to innovate by pursuing a sustainable business strategy.

“Our first ‘Big Hairy Audacious Goal’ was set in 1990. We wanted to get to zero landfill by 1995.

I often ask the question: “Do you have a zero-landfill home?” The answer is “No.” Why then would Herman Miller shoot for something, knowing that you’re not going to get there anytime soon? Because of technology, we were sending 41 million pounds of waste to the landfill in 1990. By 1994 we had reduced it to 21 million pounds. In 1995, our zero-landfill goal hadn’t been met. But it was still the right thing to do and our efforts were saving an incredible amount of money.

Our Environmental Steering Committee reviewed our progress and upped the ante to aim for zero footprint by the year 2020. You’ll probably never get to zero footprint but it’s still an admirable goal. Our zero footprint isn’t only 100 percent renewable energy, but also 100 percent landfill-free, hazardous wastes-free and air and water emissions-free. To achieve this, we’ll need to design better products. So our goal set is huge. For a company our size, we believe our Perfect Vision 2020 Initiative is the significantly right thing to do.”

“The right way isn’t always the easy way.

A good example is our Design for the Environment (DfE) team where we approach our suppliers and ask them to remove any harmful chemicals in their products. It’s called Cradle to Cradle protocol. It took thousands of man-hours to secure an offline database documenting every chemical and material used in every Herman Miller product. Was it easy? No. But the result is we’re going to have greener products for the future.”

Read the full story here.

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