Newsmakers, December 1, 2016

Air Date:
Heard On Newsmakers
Maggie McDermott and Jennifer Schloesser
Maggie McDermott and Jennifer Schloesser John Davis/WPR

Businesses and Sustainability-

When the economy collapsed in 2008, Empire Screen Printing in Onalaska was at a crossroads.

Many screen printers across the nation had to close because they had become inefficient and weren’t turning a profit.

But management at Empire Screen, founded in 1960, created a much more efficient printing process, switching from the solvent-based ink that was the standard at the time to a UV ink that eventually used a new LED technology on its printing presses to cure the ink.

“What it does is it doesn’t produce heat,” said Empire Creative Director Jennifer Schloesser. “Our whole process of becoming lean and trying to minimize as much waste as possible was to develop it from raw material to finished goods. LED technology allows us to do that so we can get that product to our customer much faster.”

Empire prints materials for other companies like the La Crosse-based convenience store chain Kwik Trip.

While company survival may be the major reason Empire invested in sustainability, it has led to employee stability. Empire employs 265 people full-time and another 20 part-time and has had a steady workforce for the past decade.

Empire has also started recycling programs and has a Green Team of employees who work on ways the company can become more sustainable.

“Our major thing (sustainable program) is the LED technology,” Schloesser said. “But we also want to focus on employee engagement and awareness. A lot of our sustainability comes in the form of how we market it, how we build awareness and get them (employees) involved in making improvements.”

Empire Screen Printing is hosting businesses around the state on December 8 at the 2016 Wisconsin Sustainable Business Conference sponsored annually by the Wisconsin Sustainable Business Council, founded in 2008.

Hundreds of Wisconsin businesses have joined the council’s Green Masters program since 2010. That program allows companies to develop sustainability benchmarks and compare their green performance with other companies in their business sector.

Business Council Executive Director Tom Eggert said more Wisconsin businesses large and small are realizing the benefits of adding sustainable measures to their business model.

“Sustainability is really about being more efficient at its heart,” Eggert said. “Whether we’re talking about efficiency in energy use, efficiency in material use or efficiency in people use, businesses stand to gain.”

Eggert said most businesses start by examining their energy usage, making changes as small as swapping their light bulbs for more energy efficient models.

– John Davis

Episode Credits

  • Hope Kirwan Host
  • John Davis Producer
  • John Davis Interviewer
  • Jennifer Schloesser Guest
  • Dr. Maggie McDermott Guest
  • Tom Eggert Guest

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