Herman Miller moves closer to ‘Perfect Vision’

May 10, 2010
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In 2004, Herman Miller Inc. was conducting an annual evaluation of its sustainability goals for the next few years. But this time, instead of putting out a schedule of what it wanted to accomplish in the next three to four years, the firm extended the timeline to 2020 and created its “Perfect Vision” goals.

“It’s a continuation of our journey,” said Paul Murray, HMI director of environmental health and safety.

“In 1991, we kicked off our zero landfill. Everybody thought we were nuts then, but it really solidified our thoughts that we can make big differences if we take on big goals.”

Perfect Vision includes three main goals: sustainability in its buildings, sustainability in its products, and becoming footprint free. The latter goal consists of things such as zero waste, zero air emissions, zero water use and 100 percent green power.

On May 1, Herman Miller achieved the transition to 100 percent green power — five years ahead of schedule.

Murray said green power comes in three main forms — building onsite power generators such as windmills, buying renewable energy credits, and purchase power agreements.

“There’s three ways to get (green power),” said Murray. “You can build it yourself — you could generate it onsite … (we) don’t have a lot of that. We have been buying and continue to buy renewable energy credits. Renewable energy credits are a way to support a growing industry, one that isn’t as mature as coal-fired generation.

“(The third way) is have a contract where you do a purchase power agreement. What that amounts to is, we buy wind power from the Saginaw Bay area wind farm. We buy the power at the windmill and have Consumers Energy put it on to their grid and we take it off in West Michigan.”

Murray said that even though there is a bit of a premium cost for green energy, the savings collected from other sustainable efforts negates the cost.

“It doesn’t hurt our stock price because our savings that are audited and tracked are double … what it cost us to buy green power last year,” he said. 

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