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RP Siegel headshot

Sustainability Culture Saves Billions for DuPont

By RP Siegel

Davide Vassallo is a global practices leader for DuPont's Sustainable Solutions Group. As environmental stewards for a company that is the owner and operator of more than 150 production facilities around the world, his group has found that energy efficiency improvements can often be achieved for little or no cost. After running a large number of workshops on the subject, he has found that moving personnel from a culture of consumption to a culture of conservation is key to significant savings.

According to a white paper that Vassallo wrote earlier this year, Industry is the largest consumer of all the end-use sectors, responsible for 50 percent of all end-use consumption. Nearly half of that (42 percent) is concentrated in just a few industries, topped by Chemicals & Petrochemicals (where DuPont lives), Iron & Steel, and Cement.

All manufacturers in these industries are motivated to improve energy efficiency for a variety of reasons, though some are better at it than others. Vasallo claims that efficiency can be improved through core technology replacement, which is capital intensive, energy system improvements, which can often be low-cost, and employee behavior change, which is practically free. Vasallo says the upwards of 40 percent of efficiency reductions can be found in the latter two areas.

But, in order to be successful, the ideas and principles must be deeply embedded in the corporate culture. For example:

  • Enabling effective energy management systems by rooting them in clear organizational goals, with effective staffing and training, and specific processes and actions.

  • Integrating energy efficiency management into the strategy and execution of ongoing business processes (capital, cost, resources, etc.)

  • Designing a practical and enduring energy management process to sustain and build on achieved goals –customized at each level of the organization.

In other words, it must be driven from the top, with line accountability, supported with appropriate resource levels, overseen as part of an Integrated Management System, consistently implemented across operations, rigorously managed with a priority on no-cost and low-cost improvements.

At the corporate level, savings opportunities are identified within the operational units and then rolled up to where they can be prioritized and funded based on that prioritization.

DuPont began addressing the issue back in 1989 when they realized that, “the health and welfare of the organization and its product lines would be at risk if we didn’t act.”

Their goal at the time was a 5 percent annual decrease in energy consumption. They have achieved a 19 percent decrease in consumption while increasing production by 20 percent. The documented costs savings over the period from 1990-2009 are $5 billion. At the same time the company achieved a 92 percent reduction in carcinogenic releases and a 77 percent reduction in TRI (EPA inventory) releases.

Among the projects undertaken are:

  • Integrated load controls

  • Utilization of Vented H2 in CB Boiler

  • Improved Condensate Return

  • Reduced Liquid Nitrogen Usage

  • Steam Trap Maintenance

  • Cooling Tower Water Temperatures

  • Monitoring & Targeting

  • Mindset and Behaviors…

The report did not say how much the company spent to achieve these impressive results, but I think it's a safe bet that it was considerably less than the $5B they saved.

Certainly the savings achieved through employee awareness should be considered low-hanging fruit. It makes me wonder what kinds of savings could be achieved with this approach in small businesses and at home.

RP Siegel, PE, is the President of Rain Mountain LLC. He is also the co-author of the eco-thriller Vapor Trails, the first in a series covering the human side of various sustainability issues including energy, food, and water. Like airplanes, we all leave behind a vapor trail. And though we can easily see others’, we rarely see our own.

Follow RP Siegel on Twitter.

RP Siegel headshot

RP Siegel (1952-2021), was an author and inventor who shined a powerful light on numerous environmental and technological topics. His work appeared in TriplePundit, GreenBiz, Justmeans, CSRWire, Sustainable Brands, Grist, Strategy+Business, Mechanical Engineering,  Design News, PolicyInnovations, Social Earth, Environmental Science, 3BL Media, ThomasNet, Huffington Post, Eniday, and engineering.com among others . He was the co-author, with Roger Saillant, of Vapor Trails, an adventure novel that shows climate change from a human perspective. RP was a professional engineer - a prolific inventor with 53 patents and President of Rain Mountain LLC a an independent product development group. RP was the winner of the 2015 Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week blogging competition. RP passed away on September 30, 2021. We here at TriplePundit will always be grateful for his insight, wit and hard work.


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