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DuPont’s Six Ways to Achieve Zero Landfill Waste

Bill Roth | Wednesday February 8th, 2012 | 0 Comments

DuPont’s Building Innovations business unit, maker of Corian and Tyvek, has successfully cut its annual landfill waste stream from 81 million pounds to zero.

Dave Walter, America Business Manager and a Six Sigma black belt, led the team that created this result. Walter explains, “DuPont’s Building Innovations moving to zero landfill waste was accomplished through committed people working together effectively enabled by Six Sigma process methodologies.”

The following outlines six best practices cited by Walter that enabled DuPont’s success in achieving zero landfill waste stream results:

1. Customer Alignment. There was a strong customer focus to DuPont’s efforts. Their customers were going green and looking for green suppliers.

Our customers are increasingly adopting LEED or similar standards. Our motivation to pursue zero landfill was to gain leadership alignment with our customers to maintain their loyalty for our product solutions.

Roger McFadden, Staples Chief Scientist has made a similar observation,

It is no longer enough in today’s supply chain to sell based upon only offering lowest price or fastest delivery. Today’s supply chain is demanding validation and disclosure on a product’s and company’s toxins and environmental footprint.

This greening of the supply chain has emerged as a powerful economic engine in today’s $1 trillion global sustainable economy.

2. Senior Management Support. Walter explains, “The scale of this project could not have been attempted without the support of DuPont’s senior management. This project asked a significant portion of the Building Innovations business to undertake substantive changes. Senior management’s support was foundational to gaining support for this scale of change.”

Time and time again I have seen the degree of support by senior management, most especially the CEO, determine the scale of success with business initiatives. Without this support the scale of change is limited to the project level. With it the scale of change holds the potential to move stock valuations higher.

3. People. Walter talked extensively about the role people across the organization played in enabling this success. One of his first steps was providing assurance to operational leaders. The zero landfill effort was pursued within the context of operational standards for associate safety, production quality goals and production schedules.

A second key element is the ability to listen. There is an art to listening. It begins with trust. Who will volunteer to speak up if there is uncertainty that what they say will be valued? What makes this an art and not a science is the ability to respect the speaker and their ideas while also recognizing the reality that 9 out of 10 suggestions are not used. The art is in rejecting a suggestion without rejecting the individual.

Green projects can have high people-engagement because the vision for the project aligns with associates’ beliefs. “People recycle at home,” Walter explains. “Our DuPont associates aligned with doing this at work too.”

What I also hear at company after company is how the Millennial Generation work associate is challenging management to take increased environmental responsibility. Adding to this momentum are Concerned Caregiver associates increasingly focused upon wellness in the work environment.

My experience has shown higher associate engagement when there is burning platform. Here’s how Walter positioned his project’s sense of urgency:

What helped gain associates engagement was explaining why “here” is where we could not stay because our customers were going “there” in adopting green standards like LEEDs as part of the supplier procurement process.

4. Measure. Walter defined measurement as “clarity of action.” As it relates to green projects, measuring is a process of identifying the numbers tied to specific action items creating the basis for analysis-based decision-making. Measure creates a more diplomatic path for screening associates’ ideas than a curt yes or no response from a “boss.” Measure is a path for common learning that enables the group to evaluate an associate’s suggestion based upon their analysis of the numbers.

This is an area where tools like Six Sigma can enable success. “What we did first was map out what we were doing,” explains Walter. “We measured our inputs, the outputs and the waste stream. We used the Six Sigma approach called DMAIC that stands for Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve and Control.”

Two Six Sigma tools Walter used were Fishbone Diagrams which measures cause and effects and Swim-lane Diagrams that measure how things flow through lanes within a process or organization.

5. Team Approach. A team is so much more effective than management in engaging effective change. The “boss says so” can only move people so far. Walter was effusive on the effectiveness of the Zero Landfill project team.

The team was so effective in focusing upon solutions that really worked. Collaboratively they came up the right answers that carried huge credibility with the organization. The core team was only about 30 people located in 15 locations putting about 10 percent of their time into this project. Yet, the scale of the success was so large compared to the hours of effort. That is the power of team.

The key attributes for creating a successful green team include:
1. Attracting talented and experienced volunteers
2. Providing the team with a clear, measureable goal
3. Senior management support
4. Provision of enabling resources like Walter, a Six Sigma black belt.

6. Supplier Engagement. Supplier engagement is emerging as a key component in achieving green operational results. For most companies their supply chain can represent as much as 90 percent of their environmental footprint. In addition, suppliers like DuPont are increasingly becoming experts on green best practices. Companies going green can now access a growing network of suppliers and like-minded companies to work with to identify and implement best practices.

Bill Roth is the founder of Earth 2017. He is the author of The Secret Green Sauce that profiles business case studies on best practices for making money going green. He is the Green Business Coach for the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s Green Builds Business Program sponsored by Walmart that is coaching hundreds of small business owners on best practices for making money and a difference.


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