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AIM Honors Five Companies with 2020 Sustainability Awards

Posted on December 10, 2020

Five companies ranging from a global biopharmaceutical innovator to a 97-year-old central Massachusetts construction company that builds critical water infrastructure have been named winners of the fifth annual Associated Industries of Massachusetts (AIM) Sustainability Award. The award recognizes excellence in environmental stewardship, promotion of social well-being and contributions to economic prosperity.

AIM announced today that Vertex Pharmaceuticals of Boston, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts, FirstLight Power of Burlington, Kadant Inc. of Westford and the R.H. White Companies of Auburn were selected from among several dozen nominations. The five companies will be honored during the AIM virtual Sustainability Roundtable from noon to 1:30 pm on December 16.

“These companies set the standard for sustainably managing their financial, social and environmental resources in a manner that ensures responsible, long-term success,” said AIM President and Chief Executive Officer John R. Regan.

“Sustainability guarantees that the success of employers benefits our communities, our commonwealth and our fellow citizens. We congratulate our honorees and all the worthy companies that were nominated.”

Sustainability has gained widespread acceptance in recent years as global corporations such as Wal-Mart, General Electric and IBM make it part of their business and financial models.

The 2020 honorees were selected by a committee that included members of the AIM Sustainability Roundtable, along with experts Wayne Bates PhD., PE, Vice President, Tighe & Bond, Inc.; Matt Gardner, PhD, Managing Partner, Sustainserv; and Cristina Mendoza, Strategic Integration Lead for Capaccio Environmental.

AIM initiated the Sustainability Roundtable in 2011 to provide employers the opportunity to exchange sustainability best practices and hear from experts in the field. That opportunity has attracted hundreds of participants ranging from companies such as Bose and Coca-Cola to Boston Beer and Analogic.

Here are summaries of each recipient:

Vertex Pharmaceuticals, Boston

Vertex is a global biotechnology company that employs scientific innovation to create transformative medicines for people with serious diseases. The company has multiple approved medicines that treat the underlying cause of cystic fibrosis (CF) — a rare, life-threatening genetic disease — and has several ongoing clinical and research programs in CF.

Vertex has been engaged in sustainability for many years, primarily through energy efficient facilities and efforts to reduce waste and increase the efficiency of how the company operates.  These efforts reduced Vertex’s absolute carbon emissions by 39 percent from 2015 to 2019.

The company maintains a global energy reduction task force that has spearheaded efforts to optimize heating, ventilation and air conditioning controls and more recently to invest in solar power systems to supplement energy needs.

Perhaps the company’s most enduring contribution to sustainability has been pioneering a technology that increases the efficiency of solid oral dose manufacturing.  The process, which was the first such system approved globally by the US Food and Drug Administration, utilizes a smaller footprint than a traditional manufacturing operation and therefore requires less energy to heat and cool.

The process also reduces waste because it provides continuous and real-time analytical capability to ensure the quality of the final product.

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts, Boston

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts is a community-focused, tax-paying, not-for-profit health plan headquartered in Boston. The company is rated among the nation’s best health plans for member satisfaction and quality.

Blue Cross’ business practices are guided by a commitment to responsible stewardship of the environment. Its operating, purchasing, investment decisions and support of accounts and members are designed to have a positive environmental impact, especially in diverse and underserved local communities.

Blue Cross strives to create the healthiest environment possible for employees and members by investing in the sustainability of its buildings and communities.

The company’s LEED Platinum corporate office, twelfth largest in the nation, was the first in Boston to source and install interior furnishings free of added flame retardants and one of the first to implement 100 percent LED lighting.

At two south shore Blue Cross offices, the company has built community gardens where each year, nearly 200 employees harvest more than 5,000 pounds of fresh produce that is shared with their families and donated to community food relief programs.

Outside of the company walls, Blue Cross supports solar arrays in Hopedale and Mendon that not only help reduce corporate electricity bills, but increase the amount of clean power generated by community solar in Massachusetts by about 13 percent and reduce carbon emissions by an estimated 6,300 metric tons, the equivalent of taking 1,300 cars off the road.

In the community, Blue Cross works with East Boston Air Partners to assist their work to develop a model for community involvement that promotes clean air and reduces ultrafine particles linked to increased rates of asthma, cardiovascular disease and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease in communities near airports and busy roadways.

Meanwhile, Blue Cross sponsors BlueBikes, a sustainable transportation alternative to support healthy and active lifestyles and reduce noise and air pollution across the five municipalities of Boston, Cambridge, Somerville, Everett and Brookline.

FirstLight Power, Burlington

FirstLight Power is a clean-power producer and energy storage company with a portfolio that includes nearly 1.4 GW of pumped-hydro storage, battery storage, hydroelectric generation, and solar generation—the largest clean energy generation portfolio in New England today.

The company produces clean electricity for more than 1.3 million New England homes. FirstLight also serves as the steward of 14,000 acres of land, lakes, and rivers in Connecticut and Western Massachusetts that thousands of visitors enjoy every year for hiking, fishing, boating, camping, recreation, nature education, paddlesports, horseback riding, cross country skiing, and many other activities.

Since July 2019, FirstLight’s energy storage facilities on the campuses of Brandeis University and the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth have delivered more than 226 megawatt-hours of clean, reliable energy to reduce the need for electricity generated by fossil fuel during hours of peak demand. That’s equal to the annual year-round electric consumption of 25 Massachusetts homes.

FirstLight maintains a strong commitment to social responsibility. The lakes and generation facilities are already highly important economic drivers to host communities, but the company also believes in being a good neighbor. FirstLight provides opportunities for local environmental, educational, and public safety organizations to compete for grants and collaboratively work with neighbors to maintain and improve the local environment.

Kadant Inc., Westford

Kadant Inc. is a global supplier of high-value, critical components and engineered systems used in process industries worldwide. The company’s products, technologies, and services play an integral role in enhancing process efficiency, optimizing energy utilization, and maximizing productivity in resource-intensive industries. Westford-based Kadant employs approximately 2,700 people in 20 countries worldwide.

Kadant’s Vitry-le-François, France facility developed an award-winning compact pulping system that enables the recycling of used beverage containers (UBC), such as coffee cups and milk cartons. The system provides highly desirable fiber for Kadant customers, enabling them to achieve greater sustainability in their recycling processes.

The addition of fiber recovered from UBC by this novel pulping process can also enable customers to run their paper machines at higher speeds, saving on steam consumption and reducing their starch input. Kadant equipment and products reduce the waste streams of customers, making their processes more efficient and positively impacting their business model.

Kadant has even found ways to use waste produced by some of its customers to produce value-added products that contribute to the company’s revenue. For example, Kadant’s fiber-based products business recovers papermaking sludge and converts it into an absorbent granule that the company sells. The process diverts approximately 150,000 tons of sludge produced by customers’ paper-production process from landfill disposal every year.

R.H. White Companies, Auburn

Founded in 1923, R.H. White is one of the largest commercial contractors in New England, specializing in utility, mechanical, water/wastewater and general building construction projects. In addition to its headquarters in Auburn, the company has more than 500 employees in other company facilities located in Connecticut, New Hampshire, and Massachusetts, including WhiteWater, Inc., its water utility management division, in Charlton.

The company is currently owned and managed by the third generation of the White family, with David H. White serving as Chairman of the Board and three of his children currently working in various capacities within the organization as the company prepares for that fourth-generation of ownership and executive management.

As a company that constructs, operates, and manages water and wastewater infrastructure, R.H. White protects one of the planet’s most precious natural resources – water. R.H. White’s approach to all its business units is guided by a commitment to sustainable practices. These practices and programs benefit employees and clients alike, as well as the communities where company employees work and live today, tomorrow, and well into the future.

Although R.H. White’s sustainability initiatives have been in place for many years, those practices really began to take hold when the company agreed to host the quarterly AIM Regional Sustainability Roundtables in the Leonard H. White Training Center, in Auburn.

R.H. White today maintains concerted sustainability practices that focus on four core principles – Safety, Employee Engagement, Environment and Social Well Being.

The company’s WhiteWater water utility management subsidiary has received nearly two dozen MassDEP Drinking Water Awards for systems operated and maintained by its licensed water operators. Multiple systems operated by WhiteWater have won back-to-back awards and one has now won for three consecutive years.

Additionally, in February 2020, WhiteWater was named the 2019 Utility Service Awardee by the New England Water Works Association (NEWWA), the region’s largest and oldest not-for-profit organization of water works professionals.

R.H. White employees dedicate significant time, effort, and resources throughout the year to organizations, including local and national causes, that are important to them and their families or simply because there is a need for support. Last year, R.H. White created its Community Involvement Committee to organize its various fundraising events throughout the year and make recommendations for donations through the R.H. White Charitable Trust.

Register for the December 16 AIM Sustainability Roundtable