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Legrand posts double-digit energy intensity reduction across 14 U.S. facilities

By Bridget McCrea

Long before buzzwords like “green” and “sustainability” rolled easily off the tongues of business leaders and executives, Legrand was already committed to operating in the most environmentally conscious manner possible. A manufacturer of electrical and data networking products, the West Hartford, Conn.-based company cemented that commitment even further in 2011 when it threw its hat into the Department of Energy’s (DOE) Better Buildings, Better Plants Challenge ring.

Related: Sustainability product gallery 

As part of the challenge, Legrand came up with a plan to reduce energy intensity by 25 percent across 14 U.S. facilities within 10 years. The effort kicked off in January 2011 and is already well ahead of schedule: within 12 months the company had reported a total energy intensity reduction of 20 percent. Lighting changes, leak repairs, and new insulation in the firm’s manufacturing and office facilities all contributed to the double-digit energy savings.

Legrand’s sustainability initiatives don’t end there. Susan Rochford, the company’s vice president of energy efficiency, sustainability, and public policy for North America, mapped out the company’s overall goals, specific initiatives, and future plans for tED magazine in this Q&A.

tED: Why is sustainability a major initiative for Legrand?

Susan Rochford: Sustainability is really a leadership commitment. We understand that sustainability is a means to improve the way we run our operations and better manage the use of resources and materials. Sustainability relates directly to our organizational values and responds to the evolving market and consumer expectations related to sustainability, such as those being driven by building codes ASHRAE 90.1-10 and 189.1. We’ve made this sustainability commitment on a global level, including here in North America.

tED: What inroads has Legrand made so far?

Rochford: In North America, we made our commitment to an expansive sustainability agenda at the end of 2010 – building on several years of effort to improve the environmental management of our operations. We’ve accomplished many things since then. We have shared with our employees what sustainability means, and that it is much more than just being “green.” We communicate our goals and progress on a regular basis and through multiple channels, like quarterly business updates. We know employee engagement is key to operating a sustainable company, so we have designed and implemented programs to get employees involved, such as an “Employee Eco-Challenge” in 2011, and the “10,000 Step Challenge” to reinforce our employee wellness commitment for 2012.

tED: How has sustainability impacted Legrand’s corporate culture?

Rochford: Sustainability is not something that happens in one department. It’s a shared effort  that must occur throughout an organization. So we’ve taken a number of steps to organize ourselves to integrate sustainability into the way we do business every day. We have a Sustainability Steering Committee, which includes our senior leadership team, and we have formed a number of cross-business teams that are driving our efforts to achieve goals in specific areas, such as products, operations, employee engagement, and supply chain. A great example of this is a team that was organized last year to develop sustainability indicators for our supply chain. This was a truly collaborative effort and the initial response from our suppliers has been receptive.

tED: What’s next on the agenda?

Rochford: We are taking action on a number of fronts. First, we have been very active in working to understand the evolving needs of our end users in the building environment, which is of course where our products end up. We are talking with a broad spectrum of customers on these issues and deepening our understanding of building performance initiatives. Second, we continue to focus on our operations, by participating in the Better Building, Better Plants (BBBP) program. And we are stepping up our efforts to improve our resource productivity in other areas, including water, waste reduction, recycling, and GHGs. Third, we are expanding our efforts to work with our suppliers so we progress together on the sustainability path. At a recent supplier summit, for example, we equipped participants with an energy management handbook that was developed based on our experience and learnings in the BBBP program.

tED: What are the challenges of being a “green” organization in this industry?

Rochford: We don’t see “green” as a challenge. We see it as an expanding opportunity. These are very exciting times for the electrical industry, especially in terms of the convergence of power, transportation, and information technology within buildings. We’re applying our expertise to enable new technologies like rooftop solar and electric vehicle charging. We’re also continuously improving and expanding our contribution to energy saving in buildings through lighting and plugload controls.

tED: What benefits does Legrand derive from its sustainability efforts?

Rochford: Our commitment to sustainability provides tangible and immediate benefits to our employees, contributes to a company’s operational excellence, strengthens our relationship with suppliers, and improves our understanding and ability to anticipate and respond to customer sustainability needs.

tED: What would you say to a company in the electrical industry that wants to operate in a more environmentally conscious manner?

Rochford: It’s critically important to have a commitment at the top of the company that is clearly and continuously communicated and reinforced. In terms of where to start, many companies begin the journey by setting operational goals within their own facilities as these can be measured and often pay for themselves. This first step often sets the stage for more strategic and focused efforts and gets people excited about the possibilities.

McCrea is a Florida-based writer who covers business, industrial, and educational topics for a variety of magazines and journals. You can reach her at bridgetmc@earthlink.net or visit her website at www.expertghostwriter.net.

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