Green Business Certification: In Sync with Company Philosophies
In this second of a three-part series featuring six Montgomery County Certified Green Businesses, we’ll take a look at how two companies – Canon U.S. Life Sciences, Inc., a Rockville, MD biotech R&D company and subsidiary of Canon U.S.A., a leading provider of consumer, business-to-business, and industrial digital imaging solutions, and Raffa P.C., a 30-year-old accounting firm, one of the largest in the area (employees pictured above) – work to reduce their carbon footprints for the good of the planet as well as their businesses.
For both, doing the right thing for the environment goes beyond efforts to become more responsible corporate citizens; it’s part of each company’s philosophy.
“For Canon, establishing good relationships with customers, communities, governments, and the environment is a core principle that flows from our corporate philosophy, Kyosei”, says Deb Teems, Manager of General Affairs for Canon U.S. Life Sciences. Translated, Kyosei means “all people, regardless of race, religion or culture, harmoniously living and working together into the future,” which fosters the company goal of contributing to global prosperity and protecting our world. Learn more about Canon’s Environmental Charter here.
Similarly, Raffa views every client as an invitation and opportunity to make the world a better place. Most of Raffa’s clients have social and environmental missions, and Raffa takes great pride in going well beyond the provision of administrative and accounting support. Their goal is to enable clients to fully focus on achieving their missions, and, to use Raffa’s tag-line, “Do More.”
This heartfelt ethic permeates Raffa’s culture and helps the company attract employees who are passionate about helping their clients achieve mission-driven impact. Environmental sustainability, at the corporate and employee levels, emanates from this culture. “From the very, very beginning, we focused on things that made environmental sense to the corporation as a whole,” said Raffa, “but it has also been important that our individual employees think like that, too.”
For the last nine years, Canon U.S. Life Sciences has maintained a certified Environmental Management System (EMS) that conforms with ISO 14001, a robust, internationally recognized standard. The EMS, which is certified by a third party every three years, provides the company with a framework to reduce its negative environmental impacts.
Teems said the EMS requirements include strict documentation and employee, contractor and consultant awareness training sessions to ensure that everyone understands the elements of the EMS. “We work together to meet all the ISO standard requirements, one of which is to continually improve our environmental performance.”
Raffa is a certified B Corporation, which means it has met a rigorous, independent, and transparent social and environmental performance standard. As part of this year’s recertification process, the company enlisted the support of sustainability experts to help develop sound environmental policies and measure its high level impact, particularly as it relates to its carbon footprint.
The company, which is virtually paperless, offers bicycle storage for employees who ride to work, has a liberal remote office policy, donates used computer systems to nonprofit organizations, and has an environmentally preferred purchasing policy. It has consolidated its three offices into two, one of which is based in a LEED Silver certified building.
“While our environmental efforts enhance our profitability, that’s not what guides us. We believe our primary responsibility is to be a better corporate citizen,” Raffa said.
Tom Raffa inspiring other business leaders to embrace corporate citizenship at a recent Mix and Mingle sponsored by the firm.
The Certification Connection
For both Canon and Raffa respectively, the ISO 14001 and B Lab standards helped them focus on their company philosophies and find better ways to put their principles into action.
“The certification process actually showed us things we could do better – like vetting vendors by asking them about sustainability practices,” Raffa said. “We don’t own our current buildings, but we’ve wielded influence on the landlord to make energy efficiency improvements.”
Employee-centered initiatives were also put in place – including the “Ask Tom” program – an intranet system that lets employees ask their CEO questions anonymously like, “Can we eliminate all paper cups?” Raffa says he encourages employees to answer their own questions and determine the most environmentally sound solution. The program empowers the individual asking the question to establish a small committee to evaluate energy and resource use under various scenarios (e.g., paper cups versus reusables and dishwasher use).
Having a certified EMS, said Teems, is a good example of Kyosei in action, as it’s led to a number of environmental initiatives that, along with many other improvements, include replacing the Styrofoam used for outgoing shipments with recycled content packaging materials, sponsoring match-up meetings to help increase the number of carpooling employees, starting an employee book exchange and actively promoting employee participation in their annual Clean Earth Event in which volunteers clean up trash, plant trees and mulch/weed flower gardens in County parks.
Canon staff volunteering at their annual Clean Earth Event.
“We’re always striving to do more and do better,” said Teems, and we’re generally able to do so because we’ve got both a clear corporate philosophy as well as an EMS that prioritizes our actions and measures our progress. That’s really the secret sauce.”
Article by Kimberly Hodges and Felicia Hodges.