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Podcast: John Crosby of Grand Rapids Label on Sustainability

Podcast: John Crosby of GR Label on Sustainability

In this episode of our podcast, we spoke with John Crosby, Vice President of Operations at Grand Rapids Label (GR Label). We discussed GR Label’s journey toward zero-landfill, including the impetus, measures of success, reactions of suppliers and potential employees, and mentorship from other companies.  

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Conversation Overview

  • John Crosby is Vice President of Operations at Grand Rapids Label, where he has worked for 28 years. He is a part owner of this fourth-generation company. 
  • GR Label believes in sustainability but was at only a 10% recycling rate in 2012.
  • The owners met and agreed that they wanted sustainability to be their legacy for the company’s fifth generation. 
  • Striving for zero landfill is the most tangible, sustainable initiative for customers and employees because it’s measurable.
  • GR Label didn’t know how long it would take to achieve zero-landfill or how to get there, so Crosby contacted fellow Tag and Label Manufacturers Institute, Inc. (TLMI) members for advice and help. 
  • TLMI member John McDermott advised him about achieving zero landfill so that the company didn’t have to start from scratch. 
  • GR Label also started recording atmosphere emissions of the coater as well as electricity, gas, and water use.
  • The company started by measuring volumes rather than dollars. 
  • GR Label is now cost-neutral based on what they used to send to the landfill and what goes in now.
  • For the landfill, they track both volume and dollars.
  • TLMI members are always open and willing to help with sustainability initiatives. 
  • GR Label has been ISO 14001-certified since 2004. 
  • Another measure is submitting evidence of your sustainability audit as part of a questionnaire to receive a score.
  • GR Label has not pursued that. 
  • The company is discussing its initiatives with its suppliers but hasn’t added any required sustainability qualifications for those suppliers.
  • Some of GR Label’s most progressive customers are asking for an action plan or information about how the company is becoming more sustainable.
  • Recently, potential employees have mentioned the company’s sustainability initiative as one of the reasons they sought employment with GR Label.
  • GR Label accomplished its goal of zero-landfill in 10 years. 
  • In hindsight, that doesn’t seem that long, but the uncertainty was challenging.
  • If you want to attempt zero-landfill, expect roadblocks and contact other industry colleagues or TLMI members for help. 

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