AIM Creates Sustainability Award

Posted by Michele Slafkosky on Jun 13, 2016 7:34:00 AM

Associated Industries of Massachusetts announced today the establishment of the AIM Sustainability Award recognizing companies for excellence in managing environmental stewardship, social well-being and economic prosperity.

Globalwarmingsmall.jpgThe association is seeking nominations for five 2016 Sustainability Awards to be presented at a series of regional employer events during September and October. Award recipients will be selected by a panel that includes the co-chairs of the AIM Sustainability Roundtable – Johanna Jobin, Director of Global EHS and Sustainability at Biogen; and James McCabe, Sustainability Manager, Global Operations Group, Waters Corporation.

“It’s an incredibly exciting announcement,” said Jobin, who has chaired the Sustainability Roundtable for three years.

“The decision by the largest employer association in Massachusetts to establish a Sustainability Award confirms the growing importance that companies are placing on operating and growing in a responsible, transparent manner.”

Sustainability is the process by which companies manage their financial, social and environmental risks to ensure responsible long-term success. Once limited to a group of niche companies, the concept has gained widespread acceptance as global corporations such as Wal-Mart, General Electric and IBM make sustainability part of their business and financial models.

Companies applying for the AIM Sustainability Award may do so based upon their accomplishments in any of four areas:

  • A new idea
  • Environmental impact
  • Collaboration and communication
  • Social impact

Companies of all sizes and from any industry sector are welcome to apply. Applicants must be members in good standing of the association.

AIM initiated its Sustainability Roundtable in 2011 to provide employers the opportunity to exchange sustainability best practices and hear from experts in the field. That opportunity has attracted dozens of participants from companies such as Bose, Siemens, Coca-Cola, Boston Beer, MilliporeSigma, Ocean Spray, Analogic and Cisco. The Roundtable next meets June 16 at Philips North America in Andover to discuss the role that sustainability standards play in supply-chain relationships.

“The Roundtables and the new award encourage those of us working to improve the performance of our companies by improving their relationship to the community and the environment,” McCabe said.

“We urge companies of all sizes and types to apply and look forward to learning about the innovative practices being undertaken by our fellow Massachusetts employers.”

Nominate your Company

Topics: Environment, Sustainability, AIM Sustainability Roundtable

Sustainable Practices and Your Suppliers

Posted by Matthew Gardner on Jun 2, 2016 8:30:00 AM

Editor’s Note – Matthew Gardner, Ph.D., is Managing Partner of Sustainserv. He will serve as moderator of the AIM Sustainability Roundtable on June 16.

The boundaries of corporate sustainability programs are rapidly expanding to include not just the operations of a particular company, but also the impacts and actions of its suppliers and business partners.

InnovationSmall-4.jpgMany major corporations, such as Walmart, now require suppliers to provide detailed information regarding their environmental impacts, social and labor-related programs, and efforts to mitigate negative impacts they may be having on their environs. The environmental, social and labor records of a company’s suppliers may represent significant risk to the company’s business and/or carefully crafted public image.

Supply-chain sustainability has also entered the regulatory arena under the Dodd-Frank Conflict Mineral legislation, under regulations regarding human trafficking enacted by the state of California and Great Britain, and under other laws. These regulations compel companies to disclose the manner in which their supply chains source key raw materials or address the risks related to human trafficking and forced labor.

Social responsibility issues have also received attention of world leaders. In June 2015, following their summit meeting, the leaders of the G7 countries issued a statement recognizing “the joint responsibility of governments and business to foster sustainable supply chains and encourage best practices.”

But addressing supply chain sustainability is easier said than done. Small companies may interact regularly with as many as one hundred suppliers. Large multinationals in the retail sector frequently have more than 100,000 suppliers. Collecting information from a supply chain of any size is an exercise in disciplined data collection, risk assessment and strategic engagement.

Resources and tools are also available to help you prioritize your sustainable supply chain efforts. Programs such as Ecovadis ( or Sedex ( have engaged thousands of suppliers globally, and offer access to large datasets of sustainability related information from these suppliers.

Other databases, such as the Social Hotspot Database (, offer information specific to social responsibility and labor/workforce related issues. These resources allow companies to prioritize which suppliers, sectors or regions may represent disproportionate risk, and thus necessitate greater scrutiny. Based on this, a company can focus its supplier inquiries, whether in the form of surveys or interviews, on those areas that represent the greatest risk, and deploy their limited resources effectively.


Attend the AIM Sustainability Roundtable


Topics: Supply chain, Sustainability, AIM Sustainability Roundtable

Engagement Holds Key to Sustainability

Posted by Matthew Gardner on Nov 30, 2015 3:40:00 PM

Editor’s Note – Matthew Gardner, Ph.D., is Managing Partner of Sustainserv.

The most successful corporate sustainability efforts are based upon engagement with employees, management, suppliers, customers, regulators and the communities in which the companies are located.

InnovationSmall-3Such engagement requires that the company take into account the needs and expectations of its stakeholders. It also requires focused and well-planned communication and outreach efforts.

“Building strong relationships and meeting the needs of our stakeholders in innovative ways is critical to our business” said Pat Centanni, Executive Vice President and Chair of Executive Corporate Responsibility Committee at State Street Corporation in their 2014 Corporate Responsibility Report.

When done right, the results of a well-designed stakeholder engagement program can include powerful and enduring alliances based on mutual trust, and shared understandings of what each group can expect from the other with respect to sustainability performance.

State-of-the-art stakeholder engagement programs are quite comprehensive, and include several key attributes:

  • Commitments to transparency and disclosure;
  • Openness to discuss mutual needs and expectations;
  • The ability to tailor communications and outreach to different audiences;
  • Support of senior leadership.

Each of these topics implies risks and opportunities to an organization. The idea of transparency and disclosure can be quite intimidating to many companies. At the same time, the path to mutual trust and license to operate requires a willingness to discuss successes as well as failures candidly and credibly. While it is important to listen to the needs and expectations of your stakeholders, managing expectations is equally important to let them know what you can and cannot address.

“Maintaining open and constructive conversations strengthens our relationships, helps us to understand other views and guides our decisions on what our commitments should be and how to deliver on them.”

Coca Cola, on stakeholder engagement

Whether your company has the resources to undertake a truly comprehensive and expansive stakeholder engagement program, or must focus its limited resources on those stakeholders and those material topics that are most important for success, stakeholder mapping is a valuable approach. The Ceres Roadmap for Sustainability is just one example of an approach to get the most out of stakeholder engagement and to ensure no constituencies have been overlooked.

The AIM Sustainability Roundtable on December 10 will host a discussion of successful stakeholder engagement initiatives that demonstrate the ways that companies of different sizes and sectors can successfully identify and engage with key stakeholders and showcase the benefits that such engagements can bring to all parties. 

Register for the Sustainability Roundtable

Topics: Environment, Sustainability, Productivity

The Business Case for Managing Water

Posted by Matthew Gardner on Aug 27, 2015 12:43:00 PM

Editor’s Note – Matthew Gardner, Ph.D., is Managing Partner of Sustainserv.

Issues surrounding water have turned from a drip to a flood for companies in Massachusetts and beyond.

WaterhandsHardly a day goes by without news of water shortages, depleted aquifers and contaminated wells somewhere in the world. Though Massachusetts does not suffer from widespread and systemic shortages of water, corporations are starting to quantify, analyze and try to reduce their water usage with the same zeal that they are applying to energy and greenhouse-gas reduction efforts.

There are several drivers behind the new emphasis on water.

The first is economic. Water is a commodity paid for by businesses, so any opportunities to reduce the cost associated with this input material are to be considered against the investment required to realize the savings.

A second economic element is the disposal of water that has been utilized in any sort of industrial process. The disposal of this water is something that is paid for as part of standard utility bills. Reductions in the discharge of waste water, whether it is into a municipal system or into a privately owned waste water treatment facility, will also result in lower costs.

The economics are particularly important in water-intensive industries such as some electronics manufacturing, food processing, or the beverage industry. Water usage in these industries represents a significant cost of doing business, so saving even a few percentage points off of the total utilization results in appreciable cost savings. And if waste water does not meet certain, and sometimes quite exacting, standards for purity, then the disposal costs can multiply quickly.

These issues are compounded for operations located in parts of the world where water resources are limited and/or threatened. Costs in these regions can be high, and limits on water usage are often stringent.

The water “footprint” of a company also extends to the water requirements of the products the company produces. A particular product may not require significant water in manufacturing, but what about the water requirements as it is being used? What is the manufacturer’s responsibility to manage and influence that phase of the product’s life cycle? Those products that offer customers greater efficiency regarding whatever input materials are required in their operation will be viewed favorably.

There are a variety of methods available to calculate the water footprint for a company and/or for the products being produced. Using the principles of life-cycle analysis, it is possible to quantitatively and accurately understand the complete picture regarding the impact that a company or a product has on water resources.

How are local companies managing water? Experts from Desalitech, Boston Beer Company and Ocean Spray Cranberries will share their water-management strategies at the AIM Sustainability Roundtable on September 17 at Waters Corporation in Milford. The conversation will include a panel discussion, a question and answer session, and an opportunity for participants to network with colleagues who have encountered similar issues.

As this has become an issue squarely in the eye of the public and governmental regulators, it behooves all companies to consider this issue, and make conscious and informed decisions about how they need to take the protection and conservation of this precious resource into account.


Register for the AIM Sustainability Roundtable

Topics: Environment, Sustainability, AIM Sustainability Roundtable

What is the Real Cost of Your Products?

Posted by Matthew Gardner on Mar 5, 2015 9:00:00 AM

Editor's note - Matthew Gardner is Managing Partner of Sustainserv, Inc., an international consultancy helping clients develop sustainability strategies, programs and communications.

What are the environmental impacts associated with the products your company provides to its customers?

MosiacA growing number of companies are seeking to understand, document, and in some cases, take responsibility for the entire range of environmental impacts that their products have, from the extraction of raw materials, to manufacturing, to distribution of the product, to usage, to the end of the product’s usable life. It’s a far different approach than evaluating the cost of a product only to the point when it leaves the factory and reaches the customer.

Why would a company broaden its view of environmental impacts?

  • The company may want to market a product as “eco-friendly,” or “green,” promoting the fact that it offers environmental benefits over other products.
  • The company may wish to understand the factors that contribute to not only the cost of manufacturing a product, but to the total cost of ownership of that product – another potentially favorable angle from which to market.
  • There is increasing interest among employers in formal environmental certifications for some types of products, and these certifications often require formal accounting methodologies (e.g. ISO 14040/14044). 

Life Cycle Analysis (LCA) is a sophisticated method in which material and energy inputs to a product are cataloged, and the environmental impacts calculated, scaled and weighted into an overall environmental profile. By understanding how a product is used in the “real world,” and what its typical disposition is at the end of its life, you can develop a quantitative picture of the relative impact of the manufacturing process versus the use phase versus the end-of-life stage and see where the largest opportunities for improvement may lie.

For example, LCA can quantify whether there are energy and environmental benefits to using recycled versus virgin materials in a product. Those same approaches can uncover parasitic energy losses in electronics, or identify opportunities to show end-users how to use products more efficiently to lower their operational costs.

One of the criticisms of LCA is that comprehensive and rigorous reviews can be complicated and time consuming (read: expensive), especially when analyses related to toxic materials and ecosystem impacts are included. Sometimes the level of detail required by the ISO standards don’t provide results that justify the time and expense required.

There are alternative and cost-effective approaches to Life Cycle Analyses called “screening” LCAs. The idea is that smart, informed approximations regarding materials used and processes employed enable the user to focus efforts on alternative design or manufacturing approaches that address the stages that are of most concern. 

Register for the AIM Sustainability Roundtable

Topics: Environment, Energy, Sustainability

Philips, Seven Others Make Global Top 100 Sustainable Companies List

Posted by Christopher Geehern on Jan 24, 2013 12:43:00 PM

Eight members of Associated Industries of Massachusetts were today named to the 'Global 100 Most Sustainable Corporations in the World' list unveiled at Davos, Switzerland.

SustainabilityAndover-based Philips, the diversified health-care and consumer-products company, was the highest ranked Massachusetts organization, taking seventh spot on the list compiled by Toronto publisher Corporate Knights. Other companies with a significant presence in Massachusetts making the Top 100 list include Biogen Idec of Cambridge (8); Intel Corporation (14); Cisco Systems (20); Siemens (31); General Electric (51); AstraZeneca (72); and Repsol (84).

Philips was cited for continued investments in innovation, efficiency and transparency within the supply chain and focus on positive customer experiences that consistently place sustainability at the core of the company's business practices. Under the program name EcoVision, Philips focuses on three sustainability targets for 2015 in the areas of care, energy efficiency and recycling.

The approach, combined with performance in energy, carbon and water productivity, increased Philips' ranking by six positions, up from 13th in 2012.

"Securing this ranking illustrates our ongoing achievements and leadership in sustainability," said Greg Sebasky, chairman, Philips North America, and a director of AIM. "We aim to improve the lives of 3 billion people per year by 2025, and apply environmental and community considerations throughout our operations to achieve this objective."

Robert Paine, Senior Vice President of Membership for AIM and director of the association’s Sustainability Roundtables, said the presence of eight major Massachusetts employers on the Top 100 list reflects rapidly growing interest in sustainability.

“Well-run companies like those in the Top 100 have been operating in a sustainable manner for years because it's good business. Today, these companies are requiring their suppliers to do the same,” Paine said.

“The AIM Sustainability Roundtables are giving employers throughout Massachusetts the opportunity to learn from world-class sustainability players such as Philips and Cisco.”

Philips has implemented its EcoVision program in Massachusetts by:

  • Using renewable wind energy to produce 70 percent of the electricity needed for its Lightolier facility in Fall River;
  • Recycling more than 340 tons of waste, such as light bulbs, paper and construction debris;
  • Composting more than 22,000 pounds of food materials, the equivalent of 54 55-gallon barrels;
  • Supporting local communities through volunteer and service programs, such as the employee garden and food drive collection that donated more than 2,700 pounds of food to the Merrimack Valley Food Bank's Mobile Food Pantry; and
  • Maximizing efficient use of facility space, for instance with a Work Place Innovation program (which enables flex-working) on the Andover campus.

Join an AIM Sustainability Roundtable


Topics: Business Center, Massachusetts employers, Sustainability

Companies Struggle to Match Resources to Sustainability Efforts

Posted by Christopher Geehern on Oct 16, 2012 10:24:00 AM

The following article was written by Dr. Wayne Bates and Julie Muszalski, who lead AIM Sustainability Roundtables in Milford and Whatley.  Bates is vice president at Capaccio Environmental Engineering Inc. and an adjunct professor at Worcester Polytechnic Institute. Muszalski, MA, is a sustainability professional at Capaccio, and adjunct professor at Mount Wachusett Community College.

Sustainability1Capaccio Environmental Engineering recently surveyed industrial manufacturing firms regarding their current and future sustainability practices. More than 100 environmental, health and safety, and facilities managers from 28 industries responded to the survey. The results shed light on how various industries define sustainability, what their current and future initiatives are, and the various challenges associated with implementing a sustainability program. 

One of the most telling results was that managers from nearly 80 percent of companies expect their organizations to increase focus on sustainability during the next two years, but 56 percent do not expect their company to increase the number of resources or amount of funding for sustainability projects. This poses the question that if sustainability continuea to be an agenda item, how will companies address sustainability without additional funding?

Sustainability initiatives must be “woven” into the “fabric” of your company, rather than just another random thread on a “to-do” list.  The field of environmental, health and safety has evolved over the years to the point where systems have been developed to manage Sustainability2environmental aspects. It is imperative that the systems in place be capable of identifying and weaving new sustainability “threads” into the organizational fabric.

How does your company define sustainability? What challenges does your company currently face? Are you prepared going forward for 2013? We invite you to join one of our upcoming AIM Sustainability Roundtables to find out how your colleagues throughout Massachusetts are approaching this new business requirement.


Join an AIM Sustainability Roundtable

Topics: Business Center, Sustainability

Lack of Supplier Sustainability Can Harm Your Company

Posted by Bob Pojasek on Sep 5, 2012 2:50:00 PM

Editor's Note - Dr. Robert Pojasek is the leader of sustainability at Shaw Environmental & Infrastructure in Stoughton and an adjunct professor at the Harvard Extension School where he teaches “Strategies for Sustainability Management.”

Do you really know about the ethics and practices of your suppliers? What will you do if one of those suppliers is cited for bad corporate behavior?

Sustainability RoundtableIt wasn’t long ago that your purchasing department was focused only on cost, reliability and quality.  Sustainability is now being added to your mix as a result of inquiries from your larger customers.  You may find yourself getting more involved with the way sourcing and purchasing is done looking forward.

Perhaps your organization is a supplier of services or products to customers who really care about sustainability.  It is not uncommon to be queried about your sustainability program as part of the purchasing or sourcing process that you go through with these customers.  You begin to realize that the customer is also holding you responsible for your purchasing.  So no matter where you may reside in the value chains (i.e., a supply chain that includes the customer) that use your products and services, you need to be sure that you can implement an effective sustainability program and extend it into your supply chain.

Despite what you may read, it’s not just about environmental stewardship.  Your suppliers may engage in human rights violations or outright corruption.  When they are caught, there is a media frenzy to find out what other companies are potentially complicit in this activity.  To build awareness of these risks, many companies include supplier “codes of conduct” in the purchasing cycle to make sure that the organizations that you do business with are following all environmental, health & safety, social and economic legal requirements

Environmental, social and economic problems in the supply chain cause operational, regulatory, and reputational risks to all of the companies in the value chain.  In today’s economic climate, you are exposed to more risk due to the increased responsibility for what your suppliers do or do not do.  Integrating sustainability criteria into procurement procedures (including the supplier code of conduct) will help your organization make better choices, not only with sustainability in mind, but also for your own bottom line.  Your “top line” can also improve as your results of sustainability efforts become known.

It is important that your supply chain management efforts go beyond just adding sustainability criteria to procurement specifications.  You need to determine what is happening with the criteria and collecting evidence of the changes actually taking place.

The key to engaging suppliers and creating effective partnerships involves two-way communication. Suppliers need to provide  evidence of their conformance to specifications.  They will want to know how this information will be used and how that use would affect their business with your organization.  You need to know about how your efforts will translate to more work with your customers.

Supplier engagement that leads to working partnerships should create continual improvement throughout the supply chain.  This, in turn, will lead to competitive advantage in the marketplace for reasons that go beyond sustainability.  In the next AIM Sustainability Roundtable, we will be taking a close look at supply chain management and sustainability.

Join an AIM Sustainability Roundtable

Topics: Supply chain, Business Center, Sustainability

Corporate Sustainability: Elusive Idea, Customer Mandate

Posted by Robert Pojasek on Aug 16, 2011 1:58:00 PM

Robert B. Pojasek is an adjunct lecturer at Harvard University and the Sustainability Practice Leader at Capaccio Environmental Engineering.

Sustainability could be the most elusive thing your customers ever demand of you.

Corporate sustainabilityBusiness owners and managers justifiably cringe at the term because it has been misused and misunderstood to the point of becoming almost meaningless.  Advertising Age magazine named sustainability as one of its “Jargoniest Jargon” terms of 2010, placing the phrase right up there with a win-win situation and walking the walk.

But make no mistake - global corporations such as Wal-Mart and IBM have made sustainability part of their business model in an effort to save money and improve efficiency. And those corporations are requiring their suppliers to do the same. If you're not already filling out supplier questionnaires about your sustainability efforts get ready - it's only a matter of time.

Even world financial markets acknowledge the prevalence of sustainability as a corporate strategy. Global companies now compete fiercely to be listed on financial indices such as the Dow Jones Sustainability Index and the FTSE4Good in Britain, or on Newsweek magazine’s Green Rankings.

So let’s define sustainability. It is the ability of an organization to manage with transparency its responsibilities for environmental stewardship, social well-being and economic prosperity over the long term while being held accountable to its stakeholders. You may know sustainability by one of its more common names - corporate social responsibility, corporate responsibility, environmental responsibility or sustainable development.

Once the province of a few companies seeking to “do well by doing good,” sustainability has been driven into the broader business landscape by an unlikely combination of supply-chain efficiency initiatives, resolutions from activist shareholders, risk concerns among insurers and Securities and Exchange Commission disclosure requirements.

As I work with Associated Industries of Massachusetts to launch Sustainability Roundtables in September, I’ve isolated several key points for employers concerned about meeting increasing demands from customers for sustainable practices:

  • Your company is probably practicing elements of sustainability already, especially if you have undertaken initiatives to reduce waste and improve productivity.
  • Influential global companies are committed to sustainability not as a matter of philanthropy, activism or social conscience. These corporations believe that sustainability is good for business and for the bottom line.
  • The potential financial benefits of sustainability grow out of energy efficiency, leaner packaging, cleaner plants, conservation of resources and improved efficiency. Waste is not only bad for the environment, it’s expensive.
  • Environmental stewardship means that products, activities and services create no negative impact on the environment.
  • Responsibility for social well-being means that an organization seeks to avoid negative impacts to society, with an emphasis on employees and the people who use the company’s products or services.
  • Economic prosperity extends to all of the communities in which an organization operates.
  • Sustainability also provides a way to reduce operational, regulatory and reputational risk.  Companies have always hedged against unacceptable risks, but sustainability practices are now included in the risk management programs of most major companies.  These customers similarly expect suppliers to reduce and manage risk as part of a closely connected value chain.

I’d love to get your thoughts at one of our September AIM Sustainability Roundtables. You’re welcome to join us whether your company is an industry leader in sustainability or just beginning to get your arms around the concept.

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Topics: Sustainability

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