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12/28/11 - Trust funds grantees working at the intersection of health and the environment

The BizNGO group, Investor Environmental Health Network, and Natural Resources Defense Council are Trust grantees and are featured in the following Forbespiece.

Better Profits Through Green Chemistry

By Amy Westervelt

When employees at Construction Specialties Muncy, Penn. offices learned that a toxic waste incinerator was to be installed in nearby Allenwood they got to work fighting against it. A few staffers even joined with a local grassroots group that eventually succeeded in blocking the incinerator’s permits. “At first we had this collective sigh of relief, but then we realized that the incinerator would just be built in some other town, and that got us thinking about the source of the problem–toxic waste–and what we could do about it,” says Construction Specialties’ vice president and general manager Howard Williams.

Construction Specialties is a supplier of building materials to some of the largest industrial and commercial enterprises in the country, and when the company began looking into phasing toxics out of its products it started with polyvinyl chloride (PVC), a common ingredient of many building materials and known to release harmful dioxin and chlorine compounds. While the Allenwood incident inspired the staff to think about toxics, Williams says the adoption of a “healthy chemicals” strategy was not completely altruistic. Customers were calling for safer products as well.

The marketplace is moving toward green chemistry and we have customers—Kaiser Permanente, for example, the largest healthcare provider and insurer in U.S.—that have certain requirements for the materials they purchase,” Williams says. “We have a contract with Kaiser that’s worth a substantial amount of money annually and if we did not have the sort of chemical policy we have in place we would not have gotten that contract.”

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