The Cutting Edge of Environmental Management

At Weyerhaeuser, a commitment to environmental management sprouted at the top with the CEO and spread until its roots were planted deep in every employee. Sara Schreiner Kendall cultivates the company's efforts.

The journey to being a responsible corporate citizen began 100 years ago at Weyerhaeuser, and there's no end in sight. The Washington-based forest products giant is committed to having all operations capable of certification to the ISO 14001 environmental management system standard by 2005.

It's a lofty goal, admits Sara Schreiner Kendall, vice president of environment, health and safety (EHS) for the company, but one she is confident the company will meet.

Weyerhaeuser selected ISO 14001, a voluntary, international environmental management standard, because it is best suited to the company's large-scale forestry and manufacturing units in the United States, Canada and the Southern Hemisphere. ISO 14001 requires proactive management and total employee involvement, similar to the ISO 9000 quality management system standard. The management component, a strong commitment to environmental management, is already in place.

"Weyerhaeuser has five core company values," she says. "One of them says we support the communities where we do business - citizenship. Basically, it means we hold in high value our ethical and environmental responsibilities."

The company takes great pride in its annual Citizenship Report, which showcases its commitment to employee safety, environmental management and community involvement by detailing environmental and business practices and their impact on stakeholders. Stakeholders are defined by the company as customers, employees and residents in the communities where Weyerhaeuser does business.

The most recent Citizenship Report, like others before it, contains a message from Steven Rogel, chairman, president and chief executive officer of Weyerhaeuser. "In addition to operating profitably, [our] commitment includes responsible environmental performance, ethical business practices, beneficial community activities and enlightened employee relations - all underscored by our commitment to the safety of our employees and service to our customers," Rogel asserts.

Weyerhaeuser adopted its first environmental policy in 1971, the first company in its industry do so, Schreiner Kendall says. Basically, the environmental policy says that Weyerhaeuser employees at all levels will:

  • Comply with applicable laws and regulations, and
  • Continuously improve environmental performance wherever the company does business.

There are copies of the company's environmental policy posted at every facility, and the company's commitment to proactive environmental management is referenced in the text of many messages sent internally and externally.

"Weyerhaeuser was one of the first forest products companies that started planting trees," Schreiner Kendall reveals. "It is not only in our best interest because we are in the forest products business, but from a personal standpoint; I want timberlands available not just for my children, but for my children's children."

Why Do It?

At Weyerhaeuser, success isn't solely measured by the number in the profit column. There isn't just one (financial) bottom line to measure, Schreiner Kendall says. There is a triple bottom line, according to her, which includes social responsibility, proactive environmental management and financial success. To be a successful company by its own definition, Weyerhaeuser must be environmentally responsible.

"It is important not to lose sight of the commitments to environmental management and social responsibility," Schreiner Kendall notes. "They are linked to financial performance, and only by being a success financially are we able to afford [proactive] environmental management."

In its simplest form, Weyerhaeuser's governing structure can be viewed as a pyramid, with the vision for the entire company - to be the best forest products company in the world - at the top. The pyramid (see Figure 1) includes company values, policies, standards and guidelines, and processes and procedures.

Members of the senior management team determine where and how their different divisions and areas of responsibility fit into the company structure. Schreiner Kendall says her department "examined the values of the company and looked at how we could implement programs, policies and company standards" that incorporated environmental management.

They knew that environmental efforts at Weyerhaeuser are focused on three goals: practicing sustainable forestry, reducing pollution and conserving natural resources. The next step was to create an environmental management system to help the company achieve those goals.

Development of the EMS

Certification of forestry and forest products has become an important issue for the forest products industry. Weyerhaeuser customers increasingly are seeking independent verification that the products they purchase come from sustainable managed forests and are produced in an environmentally responsible way.

Weyerhaeuser noted this and, in 1997, solidified its commitment to environmental management by creating and adopting an environmental management system (EMS). The EMS is exactly what the name states: a systematic approach to implementing and managing the company's environmental policy in all aspects of its business. The EMS combines policy, planning, implementation, continuous improvement and management review into one system of reliable, documented processes.

Although the company did not set financial targets for the EMS, Schreiner Kendall says she's confident the approach will help Weyerhaeuser identify environmental opportunities and reduce environmental impacts.

Having a set process to handle environmental management at Weyerhaeuser is vitally important, Schreiner Kendall says, because many, if not most, employees carry out daily activities that have potential environmental impacts.

The EMS starts and ends with employees. As part of their initial training, they are given a code of conduct and are obligated to know and understand the company's commitment to environmental management. They are obligated to perform their jobs with environmental management in mind at all times.

The second level of training establishes a general awareness of the EMS (policies, planning, etc.). This stage of training is also function-specific: Employees are educated about any significant environmental impact their jobs produce and the standard operating procedures for their jobs. It introduces employees to what Tom Mosher, the environmental specialist at Weyerhaeuser's Grayling, Mich., oriented strand board facility, calls the "Plan-Do-Check-Act Cycle."

"The planning stage includes creating environmental objectives and targets, work goals and management practices," Mosher says. "The 'do' stage includes operator controls, standard operating procedures, communication with em- ployees, training and implementation of processes to help us meet our targets and goals."

For example, an employee who works in the operation that dries wood flakes is trained in standard operating procedures for his job and shown how to make sure air emissions equipment is operating correctly. He is educated about specific inspection procedures related to regulatory permits for air emissions and is told who to contact in case of a malfunction in the equipment. He is also taught the short-term action to deal with the malfunction, how to fill out the paperwork in the event of a malfunction, and how to document the occurrence and what measures were taken to keep it from happening again.

Checks include regular monitoring and self-assessments, measurements against where the company or operating unit is and where it wants to be in terms of environmental compliance and auditing. The "act" phase includes corrective action and management review. Once review and corrective action are completed, the process begins again. The process takes about a year, Mosher says.

ISO 14001 and Beyond

Unfortunately, it's not uncommon for a company to have an EMS or safety program that looks excellent on paper and even has strong support at the corporate level, but which falls short once it reaches outlying facilities. That's not true at Weyerhaeuser, Mosher says. He was instrumental in the Grayling facility's recent certification to ISO 14001.

Mosher says that when the company decided to adopt the EMS, each operating unit - timberlands, pulp and paper, and wood products - identified a pilot mill to implement the EMS and undergo the ISO 14001 certification process. Once certified, participants in the pilot projects would share their experiences - good and bad - with the other facilities in their operating unit.

(All company timberlands operations will be certified to ISO 14001 by 2003. Schreiner Kendall says that other operations, such as manufacturing units, will be capable of meeting the ISO 14001 criteria by 2005, but not all will go through the actual third-party certification process.)

One of the first steps the members of the pilot group took, Mosher remembers, was an examination of other companies that successfully achieved certification or that had exceptional environmental management systems in place.

They quickly realized that they did not need to benchmark against another wood products company. The goal of ISO 14001 is to create a universal environmental management program that can be applied to many business models. In addition, the company wanted an EMS that could be used by all of its operating units, whether they plant trees or manufacture paper. In early 2000, participants in the program decided to benchmark against Ford Motor Co.'s EMS template and adapt it to wood products.

The first part of the template took the group through the step-by-step process of creating an EMS on paper. The next level was to create a manual - a written document - that would bring the EMS to life and included some 15 procedures that standardized compliance with the EMS. These procedures included the seemingly redundant - creating a procedure on how to format procedures - as well as ones to manage document control, follow up on corrective or preventative action, conduct management reviews, handle internal and external communication, and conduct EMS audits.

The next step undertaken by Mosher and a cross-functional team, chosen from all areas and job functions at the Grayling facility, was to identify the activities that take place at that operation, their environmental impact and how that impact can be minimized.

For example, one activity at the facility is the drying of wood flakes. That creates air emissions. They examined engineering controls and process improvements to reduce air emissions. Another example comes from the wood yard, where mobile equipment such as trucks and lift trucks are used. These operations kick up a lot of dust, an environmental impact. The group developed procedures for minimizing dust.

Not all activities examined by the group had negative impacts. One activity performed by the Grayling facility is the reuse of process water. This minimizes fresh-water usage, which has a positive environmental impact.

Once all the activities and their environmental impact were examined, the team conducted a straightforward risk analysis. "We looked at each operation that could have an environmental impact - either through a spill or some other way - and examined the likelihood that it would happen and the environmental impact if it did," Mosher remembers. "We also examined whether the environmental impact was related to regulatory compliance, local interest or a core company value."

The next step was to establish objectives and create targets and goals. While doing this, the team needed to adhere to core company values, respect the views of the community, comply with regulations and meet financial goals.

"The idea was to come up with measurable goals and set targets ... who's doing what by when," Mosher says, "and to create a plan to reach that target." For example, a goal at the facility is to reduce the use of fossil fuel in the dryers.

"The target is to reduce fossil fuel use by 20 percent by the end of the third quarter of this year," Mosher says. The solution, as worked out by a cross-functional team that includes employees who work in the drying operations, is to use wood dust, a byproduct of Grayling operations, to fuel burners for the drying process.

The first step - Mosher's responsibility - is to get a permit from the state to install burners that use wood dust as fuel. The second step is to install the burners. The third step is to evaluate the effectiveness of the wood dust burners against the target: Do they reduce fossil fuel use by at least 20 percent?

Dotting the I's

Implementation of the EMS, Mosher says, focuses on four things: training employees, communication with employees and the community at large, operational controls and performance measures.

"We need to be able to demonstrate that all the required elements are in place, that all the T's are crossed and the I's dotted," he says. "We have to demonstrate which controls do what to which operations and that we do what we say we're going to do."

Mosher compares an EMS to a storefront: "Without working on implementation, you walk through the door and there are 2-by-4s propping it up. It has to be really ingrained in the institution to be successful."

Mosher says an important focus of the EMS is fostering ownership among employees. "If you don't build ownership, it's not Weyerhaeuser's EMS or the employees' EMS. It's the environmental guy's management system, and that won't work," he comments.

Employees know what's expected of them through the company environmental policy, through corporate training and communication (remember, messages about proactive environmental management are included in much of the corporation's communication with employees and the outside world), and by including employees in the process of developing sections of the EMS such as lists of activities and environmental impacts.

Measuring Success

The traditional way to measure success is to examine the results.

Mosher judges the success of the EMS by watching employees. "On a day-to-day basis, employees act with a better understanding of the need to clean up after themselves, to report spills, to reduce environmental impact," he notes.

As for hard data, environmental performance at each operation is tracked through self-assessments, environmental-process reviews and compliance audits. The data collected is used to judge the facility's adherence to the EMS and its compliance with ISO 14001 standards. It is used to evaluate environmental performance, regulatory reporting and recordkeeping.

The compliance audits are usually carried out by auditors from the corporate EHS office and EHS professionals from similar Weyerhaeuser facilities in other parts of the country or world.

"We have auditors from East Coast facilities traveling to West Coast facilities and from Canadian facilities to U.S. facilities," Schreiner Kendall says. "It allows for a good exchange of ideas."

The audits begin with an opening session, including as many employees at the management level and operations level as is reasonably possible.

The auditors have a complex set of criteria that examines compliance with federal laws such as Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act, as well as compliance with any applicable state or local regulations. They usually spend two to three days examining records and two or three days on a walk-through of the facility.

"They often divide up into teams. One group says, 'Show me your emissions discharge record,'" Schreiner Kendall says, "while the other group does the walk-through."

Once completed, audit findings are shared with employees. A "well done" rating equals compliance with the company environmental policy, the EMS and regulatory compliance.

Problems - or as Mosher likes to call them, "opportunities," as in "opportunities for improvement" - are ranked according to their significance and placed on a list for corrective action. Employees are involved in efforts to plan and perform corrective actions.

The most important items - often related to noncompliance - make the top of the "to-do" list. Opportunities that are in nonconformance with the EMS or company environmental policy also receive a high ranking on the list. Most items do not involve noncompliance or nonconformance but are still considered important.

"Many items are related to housekeeping. They don't involve noncompliance, but they don't speak to a world-class facility [like Weyerhaeuser]," Mosher says. "Sometimes the opportunities aren't problems, they are suggestions for improvements that adopt the best practices of another facility. The bottom line is that every opportunity is handled in a timely manner."

Ownership

"When we adopted the policy to have all our operations capable of ISO 14001 certification, there was a phrase we used," Schreiner Kendall remembers. "We said, 'We don't want big, honking binders on a shelf. We want living, working documents.' We wanted employees to own it. It is absolutely the right way to go."

Have Weyerhaeuser employees taken ownership of the environmental management system? Schreiner Kendall and Mosher say they have.

"The people who work here at Grayling are really exceptional," Mosher says. "They are all very self-directed, very open and committed to the EMS. Managers here manage boundaries, not people. I think that's why we've been successful."

Mosher calls it the "hit by a bus" syndrome. "If I was hit by a bus, God forbid, the objective of the EMS is that it would be pretty easy for everyone else to pick up the pieces and keep moving forward." In other words, it's a process that can evolve as the business evolves, not a stagnant program, not Mosher ordering employees to clean up after themselves.

"The biggest difference now is that we are concentrating on what potential improvements we can make. As the EMS matures, it becomes more deeply challenging. At first, we picked the low fruit - the things that seemed obvious. Now, it's getting harder and harder to find ways to continually improve," Mosher admits, then adds jokingly, "That will be just an awful situation to be in, won't it?"

About Weyerhaeuser

  • Weyerhaeuser, headquartered in Federal Way, Wash., sprang to life just over 100 years ago, in 1900. Today, the company employs approximately 47,000 people in 17 countries, primarily in the United States and Canada.
  • Weyerhaeuser generated $16 billion in sales in 2000 and has ranked in the Fortune 200 since 1956.
  • It is one of North America's largest producers of forest products, the largest private owner and manager of merchantable softwood timber in the world, and the world's largest producer of softwood lumber, engineered wood products and hardwood lumber.
  • Weyerhaeuser is the world's largest producer of softwood pulp sold on the open market and the top forest products exporter in the United States and among U.S. exporters overall.
  • It is one of the largest producers of container board packaging and fine paper and the world's second-largest producer of oriented strand board.
  • Weyerhaeuser has ranked No. 1 in its industry in social responsibility in Fortune magazine's annual corporate reputation survey for seven years.
  • Since 1990, Weyerhaeuser's pulp and paper mills have reduced the use of chloroform by 98 percent, adsorbable organic halides by 88 percent, total suspended solids by 45 percent, biochemical oxygen demand by 30 percent and total treated effluent by 25 percent.
  • The company uses nearly every portion of the logs it brings into its sawmills. Weyerhaeuser's wood products manufacturing sites and pulp and paper mills supply a significant amount of their energy needs by using wood byproducts from the manufacturing process. It is a leading recycler of office wastepaper, newspaper and corrugated boxes, and obtains 40 percent of the wood products needed for its paper products from recycled wastepaper.

Weyerhaeuser Safety Stats

Weyerhaeuser is no slouch when it comes to safety.

  • Since 1996, the company's recordable incident rate for all North American operations has improved by 25 percent.
  • Some 145 company operations worked for more than 20 million hours without a lost-time accident in 1999, with similar results logged for 2000 and 2001.
  • The company has a recordable incident rate of 3.1 per 100 workers in the United States, far below the average for its industry. (The Bureau of Labor Statistics lists the 2000 recordable rate for the SIC code that includes forestry as 8.8 per 100 workers, while the recordable rate for the SIC code that includes lumber and wood products is 9.8 per 100 employees.)
  • Several facilities participate in the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's Voluntary Protection Program.
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