Tapping Into EHS Value

When Nortel Networks began its environmental program, it did so because it "was the responsible thing to do." Now company officials know that doing the right thing has saved them a bundle, nhanced customer satisfaction and given them a competitive edge.

Speaking Tuesday in New York at the annual Arthur D. Little/Conference Board Conference on Corporate Environmental, Health and Safety Excellence, Margaret Kerr, Nortel''s senior vice president for human resources strategy, said new products have saved the company millions of dollars.

When the company looked at its manufacturing process, for example, it decided to eliminate the need for ozone-depleting CFC-113, a solvent used to remove flux residue from printed circuit boards.

"We spent $1 million on research and development, but in the three-year duration of our "Free in Three" project alone, we saved about $4 million," she said. "The savings came from decreased solvent purchases, the elimination of cleaners and their associated operating and maintenance costs, and reductions in solvent waste for disposal."

In another cost-saving, environmentally friend move, Nortel approached its main chemical distributor for help in reducing chemical use at its facilities. For a fixed fee, the company purchased the supplier''s services, rather than just purchasing the chemicals themselves.

"The fee covers services such as chemical process expertise, chemical management, storage and disposal," said Kerr. "Under traditional supply arrangements, it''s in the supplier''s best interest to encourage Nortel to use more chemicals. The new arrangement provides an incentive to ... help ... minimize chemical use," since Nortel pays the same fee regardless of the amount of chemicals used, she said.

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