By John Bradburn, General Motors and Kevin O’Donnell, Nike
At General Motors and Nike, we operate with the mindset that waste is merely a resource out of place. We work hard to reduce waste by improving material yields, reusing remaining scrap in a closed loop back into our own products, and maximizing recycling of the rest. On the recycling front, we often play a lot of complicated “connect-the-dots” with other companies and organizations to give our by-products a second useful life outside of the landfill. Over the past few weeks, we’ve been brainstorming a new way to leverage our connections and close working relationships formed through the Corporate Eco Forum (CEF) to make cross-industry and cross-organization material reuse easier – and scale it up. Our solution is launching a new Materials Marketplace for CEF members, in collaboration with the US Business Council for Sustainable Development (US BCSD), to help us transform all of our companies’ wastes into products.
This is a call to action for CEF members! We want to establish an effective, ongoing, safe, online marketplace that allows us to find ways to recognize these underutilized materials, transportation systems, and off-gases for what they really are – valuable assets that have gone undiscovered. This collaboration will connect us in new and exciting ways through the common language of resource efficiency.
GM and Nike are co-championing the effort. To streamline the process, we’ll be using an online materials marketplace software to allow participating members – many of whom you’ll know through other CEF activities – to easily post materials that are available or desired, identify reuse opportunities, and exchange underutilized materials. The software enables a facilitated experience from start to finish by CEF and the US BCSD project staff, who will be working with our group to identify and implement the best material reuse opportunities available.
Common interest and the common language of material reuse can result in some significant and innovative ideas. At Nike, we have a lot of prominent and potentially useful by-product materials such as textiles, rubber, leather, and synthetic leather. We’ve implemented a number of successful programs involving both manufacturing scrap and end-of-life product reuse, converting waste into new value-added materials, and minimizing our environmental footprint. But we realize that while we do good work on our own, there’s a whole new landscape of opportunity available through networking with other companies like those involved in CEF.
For example, we have talked quite a bit about General Motor’s collaboration with The Empowerment Plan, a Detroit-based non-profit organization dedicated to serving the homeless community. As part of its mission, The Empowerment Plan hires women from local shelters and trains them to become full-time seamstresses. These women then manufacture coats that transform into sleeping bags, which are then distributed at no cost to homeless individuals living on the streets. Insulation is one of the largest expenses in the coats’ production, but with the help and recommendations from General Motors, they’ve been able to use a repurposed scrap sound absorbing material leftover from the production of Chevrolet Malibu and Buick Verano sedans as insulation. This collaborative reuse opportunity created a win-win-win for everyone involved, and it planted a new seed at Nike to look at how we might do similar high-impact activities with our textile by-products.
On the journey to our shared destination of sustainability, especially resource efficiency, we all have a long way to go. But with a good roadmap, a little creative thinking, and great companions, we can get there. Nike and GM would like to sincerely invite our fellow CEF member colleagues to join us in this effort. To take the next step, please contact Amy O’Meara at firstname.lastname@example.org and indicate your interest.