One Critical Way the Definition of Sustainability is Evolving

Posted on Aug 31, 2018 12:39:04 PM, by Mollie Williams

“Sustainability is evolving to encompass more human aspects, namely safety. A commitment to innovation is required to stay at the forefront of it all.” - Paul Pruitt, Senior Director, Corporate EHSE at Milliken & Company

Thirty years ago, sustainability was strictly thought of in environmental terms: carbon footprint, energy reduction and water reduction. In the last decade, the definition of sustainability has greatly expanded in an effort to protect our world and our future generations. 

Ten at the Top, a community organization bringing together the 10 counties that comprise the Upstate region of South Carolina, envisions an Upstate where collaboration, coordination and cooperation across communities and business sectors make us stronger together. During the recent Ten at the Top “A Cleaner Future” workshop keynote panel, Upstate business leaders from a range of sectors joined to share their insight on the importance of sustainability in today’s business climate and its benefits not only for the environment, but also for customers, associates, and a company’s success.

Paul Pruitt, Senior Director of Corporate Environmental, Health, Safety and Engineering, joined the panel discussion and shared how today’s definition of corporate sustainability is evolving to encompass a new critical element: safety, both through the products brought to market, and the way in which they are manufactured.

Sustainability has moved beyond single-measured activities, like the recycled content in a product, to a much broader perspective. This holistic view encompasses life-cycle product analysis, health and wellness impacts and initiatives, and considers the integral role that safety plays at Milliken facilities and through our innovations.

People are a vital resource, and are arguably a company’s biggest asset. At Milliken, we work diligently to ensure that our associates return home safely to their families each day, and each associate feels ownership in their role of the safety process at Milliken.

The safety and health of all Milliken associates are of primary, foundational importance to our company. This commitment has been a longstanding philosophy facilitated through action, as we believe a safe work environment is intrinsically linked to the health and well-being of our associates and success of our company.

Safety is the fundamental building block to creating Milliken's high-performing, sustainable manufacturing operating system. When people work in a safety-oriented environment, they are free to focus on aspects of their jobs. They can think about improving quality or machine performance, which in many instances, improves safety while also increasing efficiency.

Milliken devotes resources to train our associates to perform their jobs safely, to ensure equipment can be operated in a safe manner, to eliminate workplace hazards - and prevent injuries immediately upon the event of an incident, and to comply with applicable safety and health laws and regulations. We believe that all workplace injuries are preventable, all workplace health risks are controllable, and management is accountable.

Safety can and should be a strategic approach to sustainability for all companies. Our thorough approach to safety has allowed us to not only protect Milliken associates from workplace injuries, but also help other organizations enhance their safety efforts through our consulting business, Performance Solutions by Milliken. Milliken practitioners teach other manufacturing organizations safety excellence through the Milliken Safety Way, a proven system with the goal to achieve a zero-accident rate in manufacturing facilities. This employee-centric approach is designed to build an organic, internal capability that is permanently infused into organizations.

Our unwavering emphasis on safety has resulted in Milliken achieving one of the lowest total incident and injury rates of North American manufacturers. In addition to our own certification efforts, we also mentor and audit other companies to achieve OSHA Voluntary Protection Program (VPP) STAR certification status. More than 15 Milliken associates are OSHA trained and certified SGEs (Special Government Employees), a program Milliken has been involved in for 20 years.

Similarly, Milliken is proud to have trained more than 850 local vocational high school students with a 10-hour safety awareness course in partnership with OSHA. These students will go on to influence safety programs across the manufacturing industry for years to come.

Sustainability has been a core value at Milliken for more than 100 years. It’s simply a part of who we are. And as sustainability evolves, so do we. A commitment to innovation, in all aspects of our company, is required to stay at the forefront of it all. 

Explore the Ten at the Top sustainability panel conversation in full here.

Topics: Sustainability

Mollie Williams

Written by Mollie Williams

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