Norm Thompson: Commerce With a Conscience
“We didn’t build the structure with every conceivable energy-
efficient feature out there,” Emrick says. “If we did that, we’d have constructed a building that was a monument to ourselves, which we didn’t want to do. Instead, we approached it as a business decision with a financial goal in addition to an environmental goal. And because of that, we were able to reap both financial and environmental rewards.”
To date, Norm Thompson has saved about 35 percent a year in energy costs compared to other buildings of similar size in the region. This translates to about $25,000 a year saved on just that one line-item, Emrick notes.
An Action Plan
The resounding success of the headquarters construction emboldened Emrick to turn his attention to other sustainability projects, this time in the company’s day-to-day operations. Becky Jewett, Norm Thompson’s president, agreed to fund the new position of sustainability manager. The job involved assisting Jane Emrick in training all employees on sustainability issues, finding credible partners in the non-profit environmental arena and managing the environmental projects the board devised.
“On paper, Derek Smith was the least-qualified person we interviewed for the sustainability manager’s job,” says John Emrick. “He came to us from an MBA program at the University of Oregon. But he has a deep love and understanding of environmental issues as they relate to business. So we just clicked.”
Smith (who also credits Hawken with influencing his environmental ideas) spent his first three months learning the catalog business, listening and watching. “By the time Derek was ready to make proposals, no one viewed him as an outsider or as a threat,” Emrick remembers. “Derek networks like nobody’s business. He spent three months building relationships in the company.”
In 1999, Smith formed an advisory board comprised of employees from various departments and job levels to determine the next appropriate steps for building momentum throughout the company. The board advised developing an action plan.