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Tom’s of Maine Takes a Step Towards Quantifying Goodness

RP Siegel headshotWords by RP Siegel
Leadership & Transparency

Natural products maker Tom’s of Maine just unveiled a new reporting initiative that they are calling their Goodness Report. Tom’s, which states that “sustainable practices are a priority in every aspect of our business,” suggests that goodness, for a company like theirs, rests on three pillars, namely: healthy goodness, human goodness and environmental goodness.

Tom's then further breaks down Goodness reporting into six areas: Ingredients, Energy, Waste, Packaging, Water, and Community.

The ingredients section describes their continuing search for the most sustainable suppliers for every ingredient that goes into their products. This includes their standards for the use of the terms natural, sustainable and responsible.

The energy section describes their Green e-Certified 100 percent wind-powered manufacturing facility in Sanford, Maine, as well as their investments and commitments in efficiency in both their facilities and with their transportation partners who are all EPA SmartWay participants.

The waste section includes their goal to reach zero waste per ton of product manufactured, and to recycle/reuse 70 percent of manufacturing waste by 2020. A goals tracker provides transparency by giving a pictorial view of their commitments against a timeline.

One of those goals is to reduce the percentage of virgin materials used in their packaging from 60 to 40 percent by 2020. Innovations like moving from aluminum tubes to recyclable laminated BPA-free plastic tubes, their partnership with TerraCycle and their switch to stand-up dispensers for children’s toothpaste that don’t require cartons, all improve their packaging performance.

Water savings has a goal to reduce their consumption per metric ton of product made, from 4.3 to 2.5 cubic meters, a 42 percent reduction by 2020 through a comprehensive program that includes every drop that comes into their facilities.

Finally, in the Community category, not only does the company provide financial support, to the tune of 10 percent of their profits to initiatives for things like clean rivers, heating assistance and community gardening, but they also strongly encourage employees to volunteer in their local community. In fact, the company allows employees to devote 5 percent of their time volunteering in local community efforts, a perk that currently only 42 percent of employees are taking advantage of. They also sponsor an annual Goodness Day, on which the plant closes and all employees participate in a joint giving activity. Last year they cleared land of invasive plants at a nearby wildlife refuge.

All of this reminds me a of vision I recently had of a world that will someday be informed by a set of triple bottom line indices that are simple, traceable, transparent and direct. You know how at the top of every newspaper’s front page or home page are three numbers, the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA), the Nasdaq and the S&P 500? I’m looking forward to the day when instead of those, there will be three different numbers.

One of them would be an index that measures the state of the planet’s health. It might go up on a given day if a coal plant was replaced by a wind farm, or if a new report came out showing an improvement in the overall efficiency of our automobile fleet. It might incorporate the Ocean Health Index and others like it.

Then there would be a metric that measures the quality of life for people. This index could go up if a new law is passed or decisions rendered that improve civil rights. Or it could go down if the crime rate increased in the area in question. The Bertelsman Social Justice Index might be a model for this. This index incorporates poverty prevention, access to education, labor market inclusion, social cohesion and non-discrimination, health, and intergenerational justice.

A final metric will represent the state of the economy. This is probably not the GDP or the DJIA, which is hitting record highs, even as tens of millions of Americans are still struggling to get by. It will need to be some kind of broader measure of prosperity.

These three numbers could serve as a dashboard to the “goodness” of our world, or our country or our city. What would really make it powerful would be the ability to trace the impact of individual actions on the overall score, like the way that today you can, if you want, see how the performance of one individual company impacts the performance of the Dow Jones Index. It could be a very useful educational and motivational tool for young people, showing how all of our actions are interconnected. Hopefully it could be devised cleverly enough so it will provide a reasonable representation of the state of our world and would have to be maintained to keep up with mankind’s evolving understanding of what things matter most to all of us and how to best measure those things.

What do you think of this idea?

Do you have ideas about how we might be able to get there from here?

RP Siegel, PE, is an inventor, consultant and author. He co-wrote the eco-thriller Vapor Trails, the first in a series covering the human side of various sustainability issues including energy, food, and water in an exciting and entertaining format. Now available on Kindle.

Follow RP Siegel on Twitter.

RP Siegel headshotRP Siegel

RP Siegel, author and inventor, shines a powerful light on numerous environmental and technological topics. His work has appeared in Triple Pundit, 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 is the co-author, with Roger Saillant, of Vapor Trails, an adventure novel that shows climate change from a human perspective. RP is 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. Contact: bobolink52@gmail.com


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