15 Years and Counting

Author: Mary Alice Blackstock

Started in 2002, the Environmental Stewardship Initiative (ESI) has been a long-standing resource for many North Carolina companies looking to reduce their environmental impacts.

“The ESI is a voluntary program with 197 member sites that was established to stimulate the development and implementation of programs that use pollution prevention and innovative approaches to meet and exceed regulatory requirements,” said ESI Manager Angela Barger.

This is especially true for DENSO Manufacturing North Carolina, ESI’s first 15-year Steward, which is the highest level of achievement in the program.

DENSO Manufacturing North Carolina (DMNC), formerly ASMO North Carolina, Inc., produces blower motors, power seat motors, power window motors, electric power steering motors and pinch sensor assemblies for DENSO’s North American customers.

The facility, located in Statesville, was approved at the Steward level directly upon entering the program in 2003, making it the first 15-year Steward in the initiative. However, it’s possible that more companies will join DMNC in that accomplishment later this year.

“DENSO Manufacturing NC was the first one to reach the 15-year mark, but there are several folks who we’re reviewing this year to join them,” said Barger. “And while they’re our longest-serving Steward, we do have several members who have been with us since the very beginning of the program in 2002.”

In 1997, DMNC was first tasked with certification to ISO 14001, a standard that specifies qualifications for an effective environmental management system. At the time, the company had limited resources to get the certification. It focused on its environmental goals and the low-hanging fruit that it could accomplish – addressing restroom improvements, such as water-saving appliances and high-speed hand dryers, and design improvements like switching to different materials and product top coats.

But now, with a more mature environmental management system and the assistance of fellow ESI Stewards, DENSO Manufacturing North Carolina has taken on aggressive environmental goals and reached some impressive milestones.

Since 2015, DMNC has reduced its total waste usage by nearly 19 percent and has reduced its water usage by 25 percent. The facility has also focused on monitoring its waste and recyclables to ensure that non-recyclable plastics are being sent to waste-to-energy companies; it has also focused on monitoring carbon dioxide emissions.

But establishing these environmental goals hasn’t been an easy road. DMNC is a large, continuously expanding company. Company expansion comes with increased water and energy usage as well as increased waste generation, which means that staff must constantly monitor and update the facility’s environmental goals.

However, DMNC staff was able to use ESI’s resources to overcome the environmental impacts that go hand-in-hand with company expansion.

“In the last couple years, the ESI staff has been greatly helpful and persistent with the tools they’ve provided for us,” said Danny Yount, Environmental Health and Safety engineer at DENSO Manufacturing North Carolina. “They’ve held lots of management trainings and other opportunities that have allowed us to get and keep our Steward certification.”

Yount also emphasized the importance of peer learning in the ESI, focusing on the impact that other members have had on the development of DMNC’s environmental management system, as well as employee involvement.

“I’ve been to several ESI award ceremonies over the last couple of years,” Yount said. “One thing that continues to surprise me is the enthusiasm of DMNC’s staff about receiving this recognition and their drive to keep the certification.”

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