Chuck Fowler: Recyclable, efficient and reduction efforts bring savings

Cle clm 0314 chuck fowler “Resource-ful”   @FM_sand


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Sustainable development pays



At Fairmount Minerals, one of North America’s largest producers of industrial sand and resin-coated products, we believe that an investment in sustainable development — our people, our environment and the communities where we operate — is an investment in our organization. Daily the Fairmount Family brings to life our motto of “Do Good. Do Well.” by embracing sustainability.

In 2010, we began calculating the impact of our Sustainable Development program as a result of cost savings or cost avoidance and termed it, “SD Pays.” This program encompasses both tangible and intangible value as determined by each of our 13 sustainable development teams. Tangible value is calculated on a monthly basis with the goal of an annual dollar summary. For projects that span multiple years for implementation and where the scope remains the same, savings are credited and applied to each year.


Savings outpace expenses

In our first year, we spent less than $5.8 million on the program, but recorded more than $11 million in savings. This included one of our most successful ongoing projects for the Sustainable Value Chain team. The project entails switching from cardboard box packaging to a reusable and recyclable bulk bag. It saves us more than $650,000 annually and hundreds of thousands of pounds of packaging avoid the landfill.

Some areas we consider include material cost reduction, reduction of resources and increased operations efficiency. Intangible value is also important to meeting our people, planet and prosperity goals. Documentation takes the form of qualitative stories and anecdotal evidence. Examples include such things as social license to operate, talent attraction and retention, improved community relations and improved employee work/life balance.

Annually, we measure and manage how much the program “pays” as well as how much the program costs. The costs include items such as sustainable development team expenses, department expenses and community investment spending.

Another successful project resulting in SD Pays comes from the Sustainable Mobility team. Its goal is to maximize tonnage loaded in railcars, utilize barging when applicable and capitalize on Fairmount’s logistical and distribution network by shipping via unit train when applicable. In 2013, savings for this team totaled more than $8.6 million from a reduction in fuel consumption, which also results in a reduction in carbon emissions.


Carbon footprint improvements

Finally, the last project we would like to highlight comes from the Quest for Eco-Efficiency team. Fairmount Minerals is focused on ways in which we can improve our carbon footprint, and one of the ways we have identified is through increasing our use of renewable energy.

Building upon our successful solar array project at our Best Sand facility in Chardon, we again partnered with Bold Alternatives, an alternative energy firm, to install a solar array at our Menomonie, Wisc., facility in 2011. The array currently supplies 1 percent of the facility’s total energy draw, as well as completely offsets the energy usage for the office building.

While this may not seem like a significant contribution to our energy needs or SD Pays, we anticipate a three- to four-year payback on the project, which will allow us to continue to invest in alternative energy opportunities. In addition, the solar array represents an important intangible SD Pays. As part of the installation, we hosted students and the community as an educational tool so they could observe and participate in the process. This project illustrated our “Do Good. Do Well.” motto in action.

While we calculate the ways in which “sustainable development pays” to help quantify the value of our efforts for the Fairmount Family, our investors and other stakeholders, we also do so with the hope of inspiring other companies — helping them to see that sustainability supports economic value creation. We can definitely say, without any question, that SD Pays. ●


Chuck Fowler is the retired CEO of Fairmount Minerals. He is a longtime proponent of sustainable business practices and actively encourages environmental, social and economic responsibility. For more information, visit