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green@work : Magazine : Back Issues : Nov/Dec 2006 : Leadership Today

LEADERSHIP TODAY

Driving Industry Sustainability
Thanks to environmental initiatives from companies such as GM and Johnson Controls, the automotive industry is proudly going green.


In recent times, the automotive industry has taken enormous strides in sustainability. Such progress could not have been made without support from the entire auto supply chain. Not surprisingly, then, General Motors (GM) recently recognized Johnson Controls, Inc. with GM’s first-ever Environmental Excellence Award during a special recognition event at the 2006 North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) in Detroit earlier this year.

“ GM has taken great strides to improve the environmental impact of its products and operations, and we will continue to do so,” said Elizabeth A. Lowery, GM’s vice president, environment and energy. “Beyond our own operations, we feel a responsibility as the world’s largest automaker to encourage the entire auto supply chain to do the same, so we’re happy to recognize Johnson Controls, Inc. as a leader in this effort.”

Johnson Controls has been a long-standing supplier to GM and an exceptional supporter of GM’s environmental goals and initiatives. The company has exhibited innovation and intense determination to improve its own practices and processes to help benefit the performance of the overall auto supply chain. In fact, Johnson Controls is one of a small group of suppliers involved in an initiative with GM, the World Environment Center and the Society of Automotive Engineers China to help “green” China’s auto supply chain. The pilot program, launched in 2005, is focused on helping suppliers develop and implement “clean production” practices that help to reduce environmental impacts and also lower suppliers’ operating costs.

In the United States, Johnson Controls led the development of an initiative to promote recycling of lead-acid batteries. Today, the batteries that Johnson Controls supplies to GM are made of 70- to 80-percent recycled lead and plastic. Overall, this is the leading recycled consumer product with a recycling rate of more than 97 percent. To put that in perspective, aluminum cans are recycled at a rate of 55 percent.

Ingenuity In Manufacturing
In 2005, Johnson Controls launched the production of door panels for GM’s Chevrolet Impala using a method that eliminates the need for adhesives and additional wrapping operations. GM and Johnson Controls are both members of the Suppliers Partnership for the Environment program, a forum co-founded by GM, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and several auto suppliers, that is aimed at improving the environmental performance of the auto industry supply chain. Johnson Controls and Saft, a manufacturer of high-tech batteries, recently launched their new joint venture, to supply advanced-technology batteries for current- and future-generation hybrid-electric vehicles (HEVs) and electric vehicles (EVs). The official start-up of the new joint venture was announced at the 2006 NAIAS.

The new joint venture is, on an exclusive basis, involved worldwide in the development, production and sale of nickel-metal-hydride and lithium-ion batteries for HEVs and EVs. Johnson Controls and Saft are combining their development teams within existing locations, and plan to develop state-of-the-art manufacturing sites based on market demand. The companies are also combining their sales and marketing resources in order to address this fast-growing market.

An expanding global market for HEVs has begun to emerge, driven by consumer concerns about rising gasoline prices, as well as growing public interest in low-emissions vehicles.

Current-generation HEVs rely on nickel-metal-hydride batteries. Within the next several years, lithium-ion batteries are likely to become the preferred choice for HEVs, because they offer key advantages in size, weight and power-storage capacity. The new Johnson Controls-Saft joint venture will give global automakers new sourcing options and production capabilities for a full range of EV and HEV battery solutions.

“ This new organization represents a significant step forward for our companies and the automotive industry overall,” said Gregg Sherrill, group vice president and general manager of Johnson Controls. “Together, we will accelerate our participation in the HEV market, and drive to develop, commercialize and supply innovative power-storage technologies for environmentally friendly vehicles. Saft’s proven expertise in high-performance, advanced battery technologies complements our great strengths at Johnson Controls, which include high-volume production capabilities and outstanding knowledge of the global car industry.”

Recognizing The Entire Supply Chain
Johnson Controls shared the credit by recognizing its own 32 top-performing automotive suppliers at a celebration event held recently. Thirty-four awards were presented to supply companies that have shown exceptional performance, leadership and innovation in their work during the past year for the interior experience business of Johnson Controls.

“These awards are designed to honor the innovation, commitment and outstanding work completed during the past year by the top companies in our supply base,” said Terry Nadeau, vice president and general manager of North American Purchasing for Johnson Controls. “It’s very important for us to recognize suppliers who have helped Johnson Controls to exceed our customers’ expectations.” Johnson Controls’ Supplier Performance Awards are presented annually for performance encompassing four key business areas: quality; commercial; material and logistics; and service and engineering support. Outstanding performance by the company’s supply base is recognized on three levels—gold, silver and bronze.

During the Supplier Performance Awards event, Johnson Controls officials also presented four value-based leadership awards for 2006—including the Community Partnership Award, the Innovation Leadership Award, the Minority Business Development Leadership Award and the Strategic Collaboration Leadership Award. RCO Engineering of Roseville, Mich., was honored with the Community Partnership Award. This award recognizes the company that has worked in partnership most often with Johnson Controls to serve and support the local community. The Innovation Leadership Award was presented to Bayer Material Science of Auburn Hills, Mich., for exemplary leadership in working with Johnson Controls to bring product innovation to the market.


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