ARCHIVED - Enviroclub: Green Manufacturing Makes $ense

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July 07, 2007— Ottawa, Ontario

Jean-François Rivest, President of Voodoo Technologies
Jean-François Rivest, President of Voodoo Technologies

It takes more than mounting public concern to bring about the greening of Canada's manufacturers. That's why, seven years ago, NRC threw its weight behind Enviroclub – a Quebec-based initiative that has already helped more than 168 manufacturers increase their profits while voluntarily cleaning up their production processes.

Through a unique partnership, Environment Canada, Développement économique Canada pour les régions du Québec (DEC) and NRC are successfully engaging Quebec-based manufacturers in the Enviroclub initiative, helping them learn how a better environmental performance is good for business.

From 2000 to June 2007, 22 Enviroclubs were launched – each comprising about 15 participating companies. They include manufacturers of commodities ranging from hydroponic tomatoes to lumber, clothing, kitchen cabinetry, packaging materials, aluminium tubing, cleaning products and more. Almost all the participants have seen their profits rise.

Supported by NRC, Enviroclub has helped Quebec-based industry recognize that better environmental performance means greater market access and bigger profits.

To be eligible, companies must conduct a project to reduce or eliminate their use of toxic substances; use less energy, raw materials and water; or re-use or recycle materials. They must also learn how to apply a system to better manage the environmental impacts of their activities.

"Through Enviroclub, NRC is helping companies learn by doing," explains Denis Morrissette, a technology advisor for the NRC Industrial Research Assistance Program (NRC-IRAP) in Quebec. "And, because the participants share their project experience with others facing similar challenges, they all benefit from the lessons learned."

Before Enviroclub was launched, Environment Canada had no effective means of persuading companies to voluntarily re-engineer their processes, says Morrisette. Companies needed financial support and expert help. When DEC – the federal agency responsible for economic development in Quebec – and NRC contributed expertise and money, the program came together. NRC-IRAP also knew the language that small companies would respond to: greater profits and new markets through better environmental performance.

An Enviroclub is a group of companies from a given region or sector that receives expertise and funding to:

  • conduct an in-plant pollution prevention project that reduces production costs; and
  • improve their knowledge of environmental performance through workshops and a network of professional contacts.

From 2000 to 2005, NRC-IRAP contributed $5,000 toward each participating company's project for a total of $150,000 each year. The money helped pay the consultants engaged to help the companies develop and conduct their eco-efficiency projects. In addition, NRC-IRAP advisors in Quebec referred companies to Enviroclub, focusing on those with the most to gain from re-engineering their processes.

Morrissette notes that, in just a few short years, the program has produced enviable results. "Spectube, a manufacturer of aluminium tubing in Chicoutimi, is now saving $59,000 and using 68 percent less trichloroethylene each year. That's 35 tonnes less solvent discharged annually into the atmosphere."

And that's only one small success, he adds. Voodoo Technologies, Canada's largest manufacturer of rotomoulded kayaks, now saves $115,000 annually because it changed certain processes that reduced its gas consumption by 22,300 cubic metres and its waste by 35 percent. Thanks to Enviroclub, Industrie ILI benefited from a solvent chemistry expert who helped the company replace two toxic chemicals in its cleaning and maintenance products. The company can now respond to the market demand for "green" products.

Enviroclub participants spend only eight to ten months in the program, reporting a return on investment – on average – within two years. In the process they become leaders, among the first in Quebec to voluntarily reduce their own environmental footprint.

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