October 4, 2004

Steelcase Canada becomes charter member of Ont Environmental Leaders program

Steelcase Canada, in Markham, just north of Toronto, has become the first company to be accepted into Ontario's new Environmental Leaders program. The company, a leading designer and manufacturer of office furniture, has pledged to eliminate emissions of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) from its painting processes from nine tonnes in 2003 to zero by 2008. This will be achieved through switching from solvent-based paints to powder coat paints which generate no VOCs.

Steelcase Canada has also pledged to reduce its electricity consumption by 10% by 2008, resulting in an annual reduction of about 400 tonnes of carbon dioxide, as well as reductions in nitrogen oxide and sulfur dioxide.

"Designing with the environment in mind is an integral part of our business," said Mike Fenuta, manager of facilities and technical services at Steelcase. "We have been working to reduce our VOC emissions for the past several years. We take great pride in our 'Design for Environment' process, which involves analyzing the environmental impacts of materials and manufacturing processes before a new design is approved. We're delighted to be the first member of the Environmental Leaders program," he added.

The Environmental Leaders program, announced last week by Environment Minister Leona Dombrowsky, was developed with assistance from a multi-stakeholder group of representatives from environmental non-governmental organizations, academia and industry. It rewards companies who make a commitment to reduce their emissions or discharges of priority substances to levels beyond current regulatory requirements.

To be considered for the program, a facility must have an environmental management system, an emissions inventory, and must report publicly on its progress. In return, the Ministry of Environment (MOE) offers participating facilities a comprehensive suite of incentives which will bring significant benefits to companies, including increased efficiency, recognition, and an opportunity to forge a specialized relationship with the ministry, while improving environmental results.

Ontario's Environmental Leaders program is designed to recognize and reward environmental leadership and promote continuous improvement. To participate in the program, candidate facilities must have a good compliance record, an environmental management system, a commitment to reducing environmental impacts, and a commitment to public communications and reporting. Companies can join the program at one of three membership levels.

*The Participant tier is suited to facilities interested in pursuing an environmental management system (EMS) and continuous improvement.

*The Leaders tier is for those with an EMS and a commitment to reducing their environmental impacts.

*The Champions tier is for those who have already made significant progress in reducing their environmental impacts and are qualified to mentor others and promote the program.

Program participants are eligible for a broad range of rewards. The MOE offers incentives aimed at improving efficiency, long range planning and flexibility, including:

*enhanced comprehensive Certificates of Approval (C of As);

*guaranteed 45-day turnaround time on C of A amendments;

*technical assistance;

*single-window access to the ministry, with a dedicated customer service representative;

*faster decisions on applications for new technologies; and

*greater regulatory certainty.

Another group of incentives is designed to recognize environmental leadership through: the use of a program identifier on company letterhead, flags or other materials; public acknowledgment in Ministry communications; and recognition on the MOE Web site (www.ene.gov.on.ca)

A third group of incentives provides participants enhanced opportunities to shape government regulations and policies. These include participation in the development of other incentives and invitations to industry-government roundtables.

More information, including program applications, is available from the Ministry of Environment's Environmental Innovations Branch, 40 St Clair Ave W, 12th Floor, Toronto M4V 1M2; 416/314-3910, E-mail leadership@ene.gov.on.ca, Web site www.ene.gov.on.ca/envision/general/leadership/index.htm.

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