DuPont’s Spruance plant just south of Richmond manufactures specialty fabrics and materials, such as Kevlar® (bullet-resistant) and Nomex® (flame-resistant) polyaramid fiber as well as Tyvek® spunbonded olefin. In April Governor McDonnell announced that the plant was a 2013 Gold Medalist in Virginia’s annual Environmental Excellence Awards.
CRT/tanaka caught up with plant environmental manager Joe Loschiavo to discuss his team’s sustainability efforts.

What is the environmental sustainability program at the DuPont Spruance Plant?

It’s a comprehensive approach to reduce our environmental footprint. It includes a number of highly effective components to reduce energy, water consumption, waste and emission. Specifically, the program includes recycling/reuse initiatives, pollution prevention, and energy efficiency programs that are integrated to support our overall business objectives and align with our corporate commitment to environmental sustainability. It’s really all about people engagement. Together, they drive the plant to continuously reduce and eliminate waste and emission. When you look at sustainability, it really is felt in so many aspects of our operation. It has to be fully integrated into just about everything.

How do you communicate about the program internally, and win the support of your colleagues and get them engaged?

We email employees. We have intranet sites presenting news and information. We have video monitors displayed throughout the plant site with information that keeps people up to speed. We have new employee orientation sessions, too. That’s really valuable. New employees coming in see things differently. They may see things that we’ve missed because we’re so used to seeing things done a certain way. We also have safety, health and environmental fairs that consist of a number of displays and booths. We use social media, too. You’ve got to communicate in a way that’s effective and motivational.

When was the program introduced and what drove its development?

The program officially began in 1999 when DuPont launched its Sustainable Growth initiative, which challenged us to achieve environmental excellence and grow our business. The focus is “commitment to zero,” which engages each individual to take personal responsibility for environmental excellence.

What results and benefits is it achieving?

There are many. For example, we’ve enabled one of our scrubbers (used in the manufacture of Nomex® fiber and paper) to run longer and reduce emissions by 2,000 pounds annually. It also saves $500,000 annually in terms of reduced labor costs and longer scrubber life. That’s one example. Another project achieved a significant decrease in the amount of water returned to our solvent recovery process. This provided both an energy savings and a reduction in water usage of 600 gallons per hour.

Why is environmental sustainability important to DuPont?

Our strategy is to create shareholder and societal value while reducing our environmental footprint along the value chain in which we operate. We’re really embedding sustainability into the way we do business. We’ve set ambitious sustainability goals that help us advance our performance, both financially and environmentally, and it really results in a positive impact up and down our value chain.

How do your efforts compare to those of other companies in your industry?

DuPont is a leader in employing sustainability principles and practices. And, really, we continue to be on the leading edge. There is a growing movement among others in the manufacturing sector as more success stories are communicated.

What made your program a 2013 gold medal winner?

To be a gold medal winner you really need to have a broad-based program that engages people at all levels. Our site employees are engaged. They’re committed and have a positive impact both on the overall sustainability of the Spruance site and on the safety, health and environmental protection and overall welfare of the community-at-large.