WSI’s commitment to corporate sustainability is nothing new. Operating under the ethical principles of honesty, reliability, compassion, fairness, and stewardship, the 3PL company has participated in several green initiatives in warehouse and transportation practices nationwide. So, when approached by Covestro about a global sustainability program last summer, WSI gladly joined the effort.
Founded in 2011, Together for Sustainability (TfS) is a global program to assess, audit, and improve sustainability practices in the supply chain industry. TfS assessments and audits are conducted based on a pre-defined set of criteria and shared across its 30 member chemical companies. These assessments streamline chemical companies’ processes to analyze their sustainability efforts and increase visibility for supply chain partners with exemplary practices.
According to a 1987 report from the World Council on Economic Development, corporate sustainability means “balancing environmental stewardship, social well-being, and economic prosperity while driving toward a goal of long-term success for the health of the company and its stakeholders. A sustainable corporation is transparent in its management of these responsibilities and is held accountable to its stakeholders for its results.”
Today, almost half of all companies surveyed by the UN Global Compact include the UN Sustainable Development Goals in their core business plans. Major firms continue to make pledges to reduce or eliminate their carbon footprints. This year alone, Shell and Apple both announced tying executive compensation to environmental and sustainability goals. Microsoft also recently took significant action and pledged to become a carbon-negative company within ten years. Forbes Magazine’s annual list of the 100 Most Sustainable Companies contains a showcase of companies from a wide variety of industries across the world. Though it is worth noticing that all 100 are publicly traded, and only two, Prologis Inc. (26) and Canadian National Railway Co (54) have significant activities in transportation, logistics, or supply chain as a part of their core business.
When interviewed about the company’s corporate sustainability initiatives, Director of Risk Management and Corporate and Regulatory Compliance, Don McNeff, expressed a great sense of responsibility. “WSI believes that its efforts – although only one company – contribute to the awareness and commitment of other, similar companies. The momentum of some industry members can change the industry, and that one industry can similarly affect others. We see ourselves both leading and participating in sustainability efforts, as a part of a much bigger and greater solution.”
Participating in such sustainability efforts requires a company’s ability to acknowledge areas where there is room for improvement and long-term thinking. WSI is committed to conducting business with integrity, preserving the planet, and breaking the perception that private companies do not engage in sustainability efforts. Therefore, the company has begun the process of evaluating and improving the following aspects of its business:
- Environment: operational factors (e.g., energy consumption, waste management) and product stewardship (e.g., product end of life, customer health and safety issues).
- Labor & Human Rights: human resources (e.g., health, working conditions, career management) and human rights issues (e.g., discrimination or harassment prevention, child labor).
- Ethics: internal and external issues (e.g., anti-competitive practices and responsible information management).
- Sustainable Procurement: social and environmental issues within the company’s supply chain.
WSI already operates according to the American Chemistry Council’s Responsible Care Management System standard. As such, WSI has a strong start toward building a robust corporate sustainability program. Due to the diversity of services, customers, and locations supported by its operations, WSI’s green initiatives are equally manifold. Projects can range from safety-focused preventive measures to standard operating procedures focused on preserving resources and reducing pollution.
For example, in recent years, the company has built a large, state-of-the-art industrial agricultural distribution facility designed to contain and safely drain any spills should there ever be an incident. This was a significant undertaking, requiring the collaboration of a large team of engineers, safety professionals, government officials, and various other stakeholders. Concurrently, other projects focus on improving existing facilities and processes.
According to Steve Anderson, Fleet Maintenance Manager at WSI, the company’s operations consist of 364 lift trucks, with 46% electric powered. He states that “in high usage warehouses, we are upgrading our charging equipment to units that are part of the smartest, most energy-efficient in the industry. We are aggressively looking at new technologies to reduce overall emissions.” Other projects toward greener operations range from installing more energy-efficient lightbulbs and recycling dunnage to more industry-specific projects like Operation Clean Sweep (plastics) and SmartWay (transportation).
As a part of Together for Sustainability, WSI allows its policies and practices to be assessed by an independent sustainability scoring firm. Based on the results, the company can refine its practices, ensuring continuous improvement year after year. To accomplish this, WSI has a cross-functional team, including representatives from legal, human resources, safety, operations, and finance departments, meeting regularly to discuss the program’s plan and execution.
“We’re channeling our best-in-class talent resources to help shape a more sustainable future for ourselves, our customers, and our children.” – Rebecca Neal, Chemical Safety and Regulatory Compliance Manager at WSI.
AUTHORS: Mariana Vieth, Sales and Marketing Manager & Rebecca Neal, Chemical Safety and Regulatory Compliance Manager.