Sustainability Highlights

Sustainability Highlights

The last several months have seen several major sustainability accolades, announcements, and accomplishments from companies and organizations throughout the state. As we start out the new decade, this presents us with a high bar we’re going to have to top if we hope to set new records this year. Check out some of the recent highlights.

No More Coal, One Year Early

The University of Notre Dame had two major sustainability goals: discontinuing the use of coal by 2020 and cutting the university’s carbon footprint in half by 2030. It was able to achieve both goals before the end of 2019, well ahead of target.

To achieve this, the university implemented numerous energy conservation measures over the last few years, including installing energy-efficient lighting, establishing temperature set points, tightening building operating schedules, optimizing lighting and HVAC controls, using low-flow water devices, installing a computer-based irrigation system, applying energy analytics, applying variable-frequency drives on pumps and fans, installing the state’s largest green roof system, and pursuing a minimum of LEED silver certification standards for all new construction.

All together, these energy conservation measures generate an annual savings of more than $2 million.

Also, the university began using two new natural-gas-fired combustion gas turbines with heat-recovery steam generators earlier this year. These units operate in a combined cycle with other existing systems to produce both electricity and steam. This energy production is twice as efficient as a traditional electrical plant.

The university is also diversifying its energy sources to include renewable and recoverable energy from geothermal, solar, and hydroelectric technology. By the summer of 2021, a 2.5-megawatt hydroelectric generation facility will supply about 7 percent of the university’s electrical needs and offset nearly 9,700 tons of carbon dioxide annually.

$2.1M Partnership to Inspire Future Leaders

Cargill is investing $2.1 million over three years to help the National FFA Organization develop future leaders who are prepared to continue advancing sustainable agriculture. The funds will enable the FFA Organization’s efforts to bridge the needs of the agriculture, food, and natural resources industries.

“We need the best and brightest young minds to help create solutions that balance feeding a growing population with protecting our planet,” said Ruth Kimmelshue, business operations & supply chain lead and Chief Sustainability Officer for Cargill, and former member of the National FFA Organization Board of Directors.

The National FFA Organization’s sustainability leader development program will receive $300,000 of the investment, supporting the organization’s efforts to re-evaluate programs and events to include educational resources, experiential learning and leadership development opportunities for future sustainability-driven influencers. The multi-year commitment will also elevate support of several other programs, which will reach hundreds of developing leaders and students.

Steelmakers in the Spotlight for Sustainability

For the third consecutive year, ArcelorMittal won the Steelie Award for excellence in sustainability from the World Steel Association. Company officials commented the award is important for their leadership teams amid the growing pressure steel companies are face when outlining their approach to reducing carbon emissions.

The award was given in recognition of the company’s publication of the steel sector’s first Climate Action report in May 2019. The report set out the three pathways the company believes can lead to deep decarbonization of steelmaking, the various low-emissions technologies the company is testing, and the public policy required to make low-emissions steel a reality. It also confirms ArcelorMittal’s commitments to the objectives of the Paris Agreement and outlines the company’s ambition to significantly reduce emissions across the group, including reaching carbon neutrality in Europe by 2050.

Though these are important steps, the company still has a long way to go on environmental issues. On the heels of the award announcement, the Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM) issued a report detailing ArcelorMittal’s release of cyanide into the Little Calumet River at more than 25 times the permitted limit, which killed thousands of fish. The company said it “not necessarily agree” with the facts in IDEM’s report but would continue to work with the agency on water issues.

A Corporate Culture of Sustainability

THOR Industries, an Elkhart-based firm that is the world’s largest recreational vehicle manufacturer, launched a new sustainability website detailing its environmental, social, and corporate governance program (ESG) and its commitment to serving as an example of sustainable practices for other companies.

“We believe in the ‘double bottom line’ – financial performance and social responsibility,” said Bob Martin, THOR President and CEO.

Along with the new website, THOR’s executive management team has implemented a Sustainability Committee to support its on-going commitment to environmental, health and safety, corporate social responsibility, corporate governance, sustainability, and other public initiatives.

Raise the Bar

2020 has some big shoes to fill if it’s going to top these announcements and others from the last few months. Indiana companies are taking a much more proactive approach to sustainable practices, because they’re not only good for the planet, they’re also great for business. As this trend continues, we’re sure to see more big-picture developments like these usher in renewable value for our state.