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Raven Goes Green

April 15, 2014, 10:10 PM by Angela Kennecke

Raven Goes Green
SIOUX FALLS, SD -

Nearly 80 percent of businesses surveyed say a shortage of natural resources will affect their business in the next three to five years. 

Raven Industries, based in Sioux Falls, is one of those businesses concerned about the future of natural resources on its business.  That's why the company started a sustainability program over the last three years. 

As we approach Earth Day, Raven is not only serving as a good corporate example, but its new environmental policies are also helping boost the bottom line. 

The nearly 70-year-old Manchester Biscuit Company building along the River Greenway is now about as high-tech and green as it gets.  After three years of renovations, the corporate headquarters for Raven Industries is nearly complete and on its way to becoming LEED Gold Certified. 

"It started at the top, but fairly quickly, it was embraced at all levels.  And once we rolled this out and started making some visible changes in the workplace, people started speaking up all over the company and offering ideas where we could be better," Jennifer Schmidtbauer, Director of Organization Development, said. 

Going green has its upfront costs--the renovation was $23 million.  But Raven says being environmentally conscious has actually saved the company money.  For example, last year's electric bill was $30,000 lower. 

"Our parking lot lighting is high-efficiency lighting and cost to run that is like running two microwaves," Hugh Dodson, Corporate Facilities Manager said.

Raven has also installed sensors that shut off lights when people leave the room. It's gotten rid of Styrofoam cups and paper plates and installed dishwashers instead.  And this month it will also plant a green rooftop.

"We are going to capture rain water off the roof and harvest that for irrigating the site," Dodson said.

All the environmentally-friendly changes have prompted even more in the company suggestion box.  

"People have said, 'Do we need to print all these reports?  Let's convert them to digital.’  We're saving paper, we're saving ink, saving toner, saving storage," Schmidtbauer said.

While Raven continues to look for ways to save on energy, it will also be conducting a waste audit--going through all of its garbage to look at ways it can be recycled. 

Raven has several manufacturing plants that admittedly produce a lot of garbage.  The company used to throw away the scraps cut from these agricultural films, but recently purchased equipment to melt them down and reuse them to re-make the product.  It's also implemented a suggestion from an assembly line worker involving scrap metal. 

"And so we started collecting scrap wire and different things previously sent to the landfill and came up with a wonderful savings of thousands of dollars," Schmidtbauer said.

Even how it ships products to repeat customers is changing from the typical cardboard packaging.  

"So now we're using reusable containers that reduce the amount of packaging and pretty much eliminate anything going to the landfill," Schmidtbauer said.

While all these efforts help the environment, they also help bolster the company's image--among its customers, its investors and even to attract new employees. 

"There are a lot of people in the workforce that seek out companies that have a commitment to sustainability, so we definitely view it as an attraction for potential team members; as a technology company, we care about this--putting our money where our mouth is and actually investing in it,"  Schmidtbauer said.

Raven says its sustainability program also helps it do business in other states and countries with stiffer environmental regulations.  And while South Dakota may be one of the least-regulated states for manufacturers, Raven wants to lead by example. 

"So we're really hoping by adopting these practices and this commitment that we can inspire others to do the same--because it really is a small world--and if we can have success with this from a business standpoint, we hope others can see that opportunity as well. I think it will catch on," Schmidtbauer said.

Raven says it's better to be ahead of the curve, rather than be forced to make the changes to save the planet down the road. 

One week from Tuesday, on Earth Day, Raven employees will join with Cherapa Place, Sioux Steel and other businesses in the area to pick up garbage from Fawick Park to the Falls.

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