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Editorial: Firm’s green initiatives right model for industry

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When Cummins Inc. embraced product emissions regulations in the early 2000s, it marked an important step in the company becoming the industry leader in environmental sustainability.

Now, the diesel engine maker is taking another important step that other manufacturers would be wise to follow to reduce their environmental footprints.

Cummins CEO Tom Linebarger unveiled the company’s green initiative May 2, which pledges that everything the company does will lead to a cleaner, healthier and safer environment. That kind of statement definitely raises the bar for environmental sustainability, especially for a company already doing a good job in that regard.

But the Columbus-based company strongly believes that it should do better, and the results will benefit customers, the environment and the company.

The plan, which took two years to complete, outlines some bold goals. They are:

  • Reducing the use of energy by 25 percent and greenhouse gases by 27 percent, adjusted to sales, by 2015.
  • Reducing direct water use across the company by 33 percent, adjusted to hours worked, by 2020.
  • Achieving water neutrality by 2020 at 15 manufacturing sites in regions that don’t have enough usable water. The company plans to reduce usage at its plants while investing in projects that increase supplies of fresh water to the environment.
  • Increasing the company’s recycling rate from 89 to 95 percent of waste products, and achieving zero disposal status at 30 sites by 2020.

That’s a lot to accomplish in six years or less. However, Cummins has achieved success with environmental sustainability that suggests these goals can be met — something other companies should note.

The use of Six Sigma, a business problem-solving tool, has saved 90 million gallons of fuel, about 1 million tons of carbon dioxide has been avoided, and more than $3 billion has been saved by the company since 2005.

Cummins’ collaboration with Peterbilt on the SuperTruck has achieved a 75 percent improvement in fuel economy compared with a typical truck on the road.

Also, Cummins has helped communities in India conserve water on farms and access water for homes.

Companies should be good stewards of the environment, making sure they cause as little harm as possible in their pursuit of financial success.

Cummins, a Fortune 500 company, is an example that doing so is not only important but also possible.

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