Treating water for a second act

Cummins employees at the Rocky Mount Engine Plant tour the new system's greenhouse at a ribbon cutting earlier this year.
Cummins employees at the Rocky Mount Engine Plant tour the new system's greenhouse at a ribbon cutting earlier this year.

No, the greenhouse at Cummins’ Rocky Mount Engine Plant (RMEP) doesn’t mean the company is diversifying into fruits and vegetables.

It’s part of Cummins’ commitment to reduce water use in the North Carolina (U.S.) community where the plant is located. RMEP has a new system employing multiple technologies including hydroponics – using plants as a filter –  to treat millions of gallons of water annually so it can be returned to the facility for non-potable use.

A similar system – minus the greenhouse – is conserving millions of gallons annually at Cummins’ Jamestown Engine Plant in western New York (U.S.). Both plants expect to cut city water use by about a third – collectively saving more than 25 million gallons annually.

Rocky Mount Engine Plant Water Hub
The new system at the Rocky Mount Engine Plant is capable of treating about 75,000 gallons per day, returning it to the plant for non-potable use.

The projects will likely play an important role in reaching the goals established in PLANET 2050, Cummins’ environmental sustainability strategy to reduce the company’s impact on the climate and other environmental challenges.

The strategy calls for reducing absolute water consumption in facilities and operations companywide 30% by 2030 or more than 200 million gallons annually. The strategy calls for reusing water and returning it clean to communities as a 2050 aspiration.

In 2019, the company used 895 million gallons of water, down from 949 million gallons the previous year, about a 6% reduction.

“What we learn at these locations could be applied elsewhere when we update facilities in the future,” said Nichole Morris, Cummins’ Manager for Water and the Environment. “Each site has unique characteristics that will help us as we move forward.”

Unfortunately, replacing every Cummins treatment system with the latest technology is cost prohibitive. These new systems, however, could provide lessons for other locations when investing in new systems makes sense.

THE POWER OF THE PLANTS

Rocky Mount earlier this quarter held a ribbon cutting to celebrate what it calls its WaterHub. The multi-faceted system includes anaerobic and aerobic treatment, allowing micro-organisms to break down organic materials.

Hydroponics provide additional microbiological treatment coupled with membrane filtration to remove fine solids. A final stage uses a reverse osmosis process to address any remaining undesirable constituents.

The hydroponic plants are critical to the functionality of the WaterHub. Root surfaces provide supplemental aeration and catalyze an ecology of grazing micro-organisms (protozoa and micro-crustaceans) to help reduce sludge and increase overall efficiency.

“These technologies have been around for many, many years,” said Gary Keffer, Director of Health, Safety and Environment at the plant. “What makes this innovative is it puts all of these technologies together to produce the ultra-clean water we need for our manufacturing processes.”

Working with four different outside contractors, the system took nearly four years to complete and has a treatment capacity of about 75,000 gallons per day. Most of the water is returned to the plant’s cooling tower, which is used to cool various machinery such as air compressors. The water must be ultra clean to prevent degradation within the tower, which includes several sensitive metals.

The old system had been updated several times but essentially went back some 40 years. Plant leaders hope the greenhouse will host school tours, providing hands-on learning opportunities on the importance of clean water.

“This project has not been without its challenges,” said Tim Millwood, Vice President of Manufacturing at Cummins, speaking remotely at the ribbon cutting because of COVID-19. “Probably the pandemic was the ultimate challenge. But, thanks to your commitment, this team got the WaterHub over the finish line. I’m really, really proud of you all.” 

PLANT WITHOUT PLANTS

The three pillars of Cummins' water strategy.
The three pillars of Cummins' water strategy.

The Jamestown plant's new system has been around a little longer, and lacks a greenhouse, but it, too, could provide important lessons for other Cummins sites.

Over the past 18 months, the plant has been working to upgrade the treatment system, which was largely original to the more than 40-year-old plant.

While there’s no hydroponics, the Jamestown system also includes a reverse osmosis and filtration process to polish wastewater so it can be re-used in the plant’s manufacturing processes, said David Burlee, Health, Safety and Environment Leader at the plant.

“We are finding the high quality of the reclaimed wastewater is dramatically reducing the number of regeneration cycles required on our deionized water system and increasing the efficiency of our cooling towers,” Burlee said.

Jamestown is significantly north of Rocky Mount and the low temperatures it gets most winters would likely not be as conducive to a greenhouse as the warmer climate in North Carolina.

The system looks a little more industrial, which might be fine in many settings while a system with a greenhouse could be more visually pleasing for plants close to residential areas.
 
THE PATH FORWARD

Given the company has around 125 major manufacturing sites in various locations and climates around the world, Morris is happy to have multiple examples to share moving forward. She says a one-size-fits-all approach isn’t likely to work.

While 10 years might seem like a long time, she often feels those 2030 goals are lurking just around the corner.

“The reductions from these systems are significant,” she said of the Jamestown and Rocky Mount projects. “But we still have a long way to go to reach our 2030 goals and beyond. It will take many different approaches to get there.”
 

blair claflin director of sustainability communications

Blair Claflin

Blair Claflin is the Director of Sustainability Communications for Cummins Inc. Blair joined the Company in 2008 as the Diversity Communications Director. Blair comes from a newspaper background. He worked previously for the Indianapolis Star (2002-2008) and for the Des Moines Register (1997-2002) prior to that. blair.claflin@cummins.com

 

Company posts first TCFD report on climate actions

Cummins' technology is helping to power the world's first hydrogen powered passenger train. (Photo copyright Alstom/Reme Frampe))
Cummins' technology is helping to power the world's first hydrogen powered passenger train. (Photo copyright Alstom/Reme Frampe)

Cummins has posted its first environmental sustainability report aligned to the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD), a platform created to improve and increase reporting of climate-related information. 

The company’s TCFD report joins Cummins reports aligned to the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI), the Sustainability Accounting Standards Board (SASB), and the CDP (formerly Carbon Disclosure Project) in addition to Cummins' Sustainability Progress Reports. The company has been reporting annually on its sustainability work since 2003.

NEW REPORT'S ROOTS

Cummins’ 27-page TCFD report details the company’s strategy to address climate change, governance at Cummins for overseeing the company’s climate-related initiatives, its structure to manage climate-related risks and the metrics and targets the company uses to evaluate its impact on climate issues.

The new report borrows significantly from PLANET 2050, Cummins' environmental sustainability strategy. PLANET 2050 includes science-based goals timed to 2030 and aligned to the Paris Agreement on climate change, as well as the aspiration to be carbon neutral by 2050. The new TCFD report also draws heavily from information included in the company’s annual CDP Climate Report, which Cummins has been reporting to since 2006 and posting its response publicly since 2014.  

Finally, the new report includes extensive information on the company’s two decades of leadership on emissions related issues, from having the first heavy-duty engine certified to tough new EPA standards in 2002 to the unveiling of PLANET 2050 in the last quarter of 2019. Cummins has long supported tough, clear and enforceable regulations that spur innovation in the commercial power industry. It has also actively advocated for action on the world’s climate challenges.

THE IMPORTANCE OF TCFD

TCFD has emerged quickly as an important platform in environmental, social and governance (ESG) reporting over the past five years. The task force was created in 2015 by the Financial Stability Board, a group launched after the G20 London summit in 2009 to promote international financial stability. The TCFD’s first chairman was Michael Bloomberg, the former Mayor of New York City and a 2020 presidential candidate in the United States.

The task force released its first reporting standards in 2017 to encourage companies to report “clear, comprehensive, high-quality information on the impacts of climate change.” The TCFD standards received a major boost in 2020 when Larry Fink, CEO of BlackRock, an investment management corporation based in New York City, called the standards a “valuable framework” for reporting on climate risk in his influential annual letter to CEOs. With more than $8 trillion in assets under management, BlackRock has considerable influence.

“Climate change poses both risks and opportunities for business, now and in the future,” TCFD says on its website. “As the Earth’s temperature rises, increasingly common natural disasters are disrupting ecosystems and human health, causing unanticipated business losses, and threatening assets and infrastructure.”  

The TCFD report will soon be followed by Cummins’ 2020-21 Sustainability Overview and the company’s 2020 Sustainability Progress Report looking at key ESG metrics for 2020. Those wanting to learn more can also check out Cummins’ Sustainability website.
 

blair claflin director of sustainability communications

Blair Claflin

Blair Claflin is the Director of Sustainability Communications for Cummins Inc. Blair joined the Company in 2008 as the Diversity Communications Director. Blair comes from a newspaper background. He worked previously for the Indianapolis Star (2002-2008) and for the Des Moines Register (1997-2002) prior to that. blair.claflin@cummins.com

 

ESG performance propels Cummins to 2021 Best Corporate Citizens list

Cummins rejoined the 100 Best Corporate Citizens List Tuesday thanks to high rankings on ESG Performance and acting on Climate Change.
Cummins rejoined the 100 Best Corporate Citizens List Tuesday.

Cummins has returned to the 100 Best Corporate Citizens list, tying for first in Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) Performance and finishing sixth in the survey’s Climate Change category.

The company ranked No. 49 overall in the survey’s review of the 1,000 largest publicly traded U.S. companies on sustainability performance and transparency. The ranking is based on publicly available data covering eight categories: Climate Change, Employees, Environment, ESG Performance, Financial, Governance, Human Rights and Stakeholders and Society.

“Now more than ever, corporate leadership on environmental, social and governance issues is imperative,” said 3BL Media, sponsors of the survey. “And so is transparency. As companies decarbonize, align with the (U.N.’s) Sustainable Development Goals and rebuild an equitable economy post-pandemic, they must be open about their efforts.”

3BL Media works with  companies including Cummins to help them reach key audiences concerned about ESG performance. However, 3BL is careful to say the Best Corporate Citizens review is completely independent. 3BL develops the methodology and ISS ESG, part of Institutional Shareholder Services (ISS), researches the data and information and processes the ranking. ISS is a leading provider of ESG information for investors.

Cummins finished No. 27 in the 2019 100 Best Corporate Citizens ranking but fell to No. 121 in 2020. The company’s return to the list was fueled by its high ranking on ESG Performance and taking action Climate Change. Cummins tied for the top ranking in ESG Performance with 133 other companies that earned an “A” grade. 

ISS ESG looked at 100 different factors to assess performance with regard to managing risk and seizing opportunities involving ESG. Over the past year, Cummins has wrapped up its work on the company’s environmental performance goals timed to 2020, achieving the benchmarks established for conserving water and working with customers to reduce the environmental impact of Cummins' products in use, while falling just short of the goal set for reducing energy use.

Meanwhile, Cummins’ New Power business segment aggressively pursued development of battery and fuel cell electric products as well as products designed to increase the supply of green hydrogen, a promising low-carbon fuel source.

In addition, the company continued reducing the environmental impact of its diesel and natural gas products, achieving reductions in key emissions that contribute to smog and improving fuel economy, which results in lower greenhouse gas emissions.

In the social performance area, the company continued to advance gender equity in communities around the world in 2020 through the company’s Cummins Powers Women initiative and launched Cummins Advocating for Racial Equity that same year to help dismantle systemic racism in the United States. In governance, two Black women joined the 13-member Cummins Board of Directors in the past year, increasing the total number of women to five on the board or 38.5% of its membership.

On climate change, in addition to the company’s work on its 2020 environmental goals and New Power’s progress in low-carbon products, Cummins began implementing its PLANET 2050 environmental sustainability strategy. PLANET 2050 includes science-based goals timed to 2030 and the aspiration to be carbon neutral by 2050.

Cummins has received several high rankings for its ESG performance over the past 12 months. The company finished No. 84 in Barron’s list of the 100 Most Sustainable Companies in the U.S. earlier this year. Cummins was also named one of the World’s Most Ethical Companies by the Ethisphere Institute for a 14th consecutive year. 

The company was also one of 50 named to the National Business Inclusion Consortiums’ Best of the Best list of corporations committed to diversity and inclusion across all communities. In December 2020, the company finished No. 24 on Newsweek’s ranking of America’s Most Responsible Companies for 2021.
 

blair claflin director of sustainability communications

Blair Claflin

Blair Claflin is the Director of Sustainability Communications for Cummins Inc. Blair joined the Company in 2008 as the Diversity Communications Director. Blair comes from a newspaper background. He worked previously for the Indianapolis Star (2002-2008) and for the Des Moines Register (1997-2002) prior to that. blair.claflin@cummins.com

 

Cummins CEO promotes ESG progress at Annual Meeting

An employee works at the Cummins Fuel Cell & Hydrogen Technology campus in Mississauga, Ontario (Canada).
An employee works at the Cummins Fuel Cell & Hydrogen Technology campus in Mississauga, Ontario (Canada).

Despite the pandemic, Cummins was able to make significant progress on its environmental, social and governance (ESG) priorities in 2020, Chairman and CEO Tom Linebarger told shareholders and guests at the company’s Annual Meeting Tuesday.

The Cummins leader said the progress will be critical to achieve the goals and aspirations included in the company's PLANET 2050 environmental sustainability strategy.

Cummins Chairman and CEO Tom Linebarger speaks at the Annual meeting in 2019, the last in-person meeting before the COVID-19 pandemic.
Cummins Chairman and CEO Tom Linebarger speaks at the Annual Meeting in 2019, the last in-person Annual Meeting before the pandemic.

“We continued investment in our most important technology programs, which are critical to reaching our sustainability pledge of carbon neutrality by 2050,” Linebarger said at the meeting, which was conducted virtually because of the ongoing threat from COVID-19. “We are investing in a range of solutions to lead the industry on the path to a zero-emissions future, and we are taking steps today to turn our 2050 targets into real-world products and applications.”

ESG IN ACTION

Linebarger highlighted five areas in particular when discussing the company’s progress on ESG:

  • Delivering a 20-megawatt PEM electrolyzer system to generate green hydrogen in Bécancour, Quebec (Canada), making it the largest in operation in the world.
  • Providing fuel cell modules to ASKO, Norway’s largest grocery wholesaler, that were integrated into four Scania trucks, and fuel cells for FAUN, a leader in waste collection vehicles and sweepers in Europe for that company’s electric refuse truck program.
  • Cummins’ emergence as the largest supplier of fuel cells for the rail industry, including the world’s first hydrogen-powered passenger train. Linebarger said the company is using its experience in rail for other heavy-duty transportation applications.
  • In the battery-electric market, the delivery of 147 powertrains to Blue Bird in 2020 for use in the school bus market and 19 powertrains to Gillig for use in the transit bus market.
  • The formation of a joint venture with NPROXX to provide customers with high-pressure tank and storage solutions in hydrogen and natural gas markets.

“We continue investment in key technologies for the future,” Linebarger said. “We are targeting markets where commercial opportunities exist today or will emerge in the near- or medium-term.”

But the Cummins’ leader was careful to say Cummins cannot reach carbon neutrality by itself.

“We are advocating for public policies that enable the energy transition while reducing emissions,” Linebarger said. “This includes innovating and scaling low-carbon fuels, modernizing the grid and developing the hydrogen economy.”

Cummins remains committed to offering customers the power of choice, including advanced diesel and near-zero natural gas platforms. The company believes these technologies can reduce greenhouse gases immediately and serve as an important bridge to a carbon-neutral future as the infrastructure develops for low- and no-carbon platforms.

LEADING ON RACIAL EQUITY

Linebarger also highlighted Cummins’ 2020 work to address systemic racism in the United States. The company launched Cummins Advocating for Racial Equity, or CARE, to drive racial equity in Cummins communities and at the company, too.

CARE has four key focus areas: police reform; criminal justice reform; economic empowerment; and social justice reform in healthcare, housing, workforce development and civil rights, including voting rights and education.

“Institutional racism is a disease,” Linebarger said. “It is deeply rooted and longstanding, and it makes our society weaker. It will take decisive and sustained action to dismantle racism and Cummins will be part of that action.”

The Cummins CEO noted that company Tuesday took another step toward racial equity with the election of a third Black woman, Carla Harris, to the now 13-member Board of Directors and a fifth ethnically diverse member. Harris is Vice Chairman, Managing Director and Senior Client Advisor at Morgan Stanley.

PURSUING A HEALTHIER PLANET

Linebarger said these and other steps forward in ESG excellence were only possible thanks to the outstanding work of employees during the pandemic. While the virus took a heavy toll on the company, a collaborative effort from the manufacturing floor to the company’s Board of Directors enabled Cummins to implement numerous steps to safely reopen.

The company also partnered with 3M and DuPont to help produce personal protective equipment for medical personnel around the world, shared what it learned from the pandemic to help other companies reopen through Cummins’ Safe Work Playbook, and approved a record $22 million in community grants including $2.6 million in emergency grants to partners providing pandemic-related services.

It’s all about Cummins living its mission, vision and values, Linebarger said.

“No matter the application, we will provide customers an economically viable solution so businesses can thrive, and we can sustain a vibrant economy while preserving the planet for generations to come,” he said. “Our communities and businesses depend on a healthier planet and this work is our mission in action.”

blair claflin director of sustainability communications

Blair Claflin

Blair Claflin is the Director of Sustainability Communications for Cummins Inc. Blair joined the Company in 2008 as the Diversity Communications Director. Blair comes from a newspaper background. He worked previously for the Indianapolis Star (2002-2008) and for the Des Moines Register (1997-2002) prior to that. blair.claflin@cummins.com

 

Cummins joins group advocating for climate action

An employee works at the Cummins Fuel Cell & Hydrogen Technology campus in Mississauga, Ontario (Canada), a center for the company’s fuel cell and hydrogen production, research and development initiatives.
An employee works at the Cummins Fuel Cell & Hydrogen Technology campus in Mississauga, Ontario (Canada), a center for the company’s fuel cell and hydrogen production, research and development initiatives.

Cummins is celebrating Earth Week by joining the CEO Climate Dialogue, a group of 22 companies and four leading environmental groups committed to advocating for climate action in the U.S. Congress.

The group is calling for aggressive steps to address the country’s climate-related challenges, including an economy-wide price on carbon to use the power of the market to help achieve the country’s carbon reduction goals in a “simple, coherent and efficient manner.”

“Climate action is consistent with Cummins’ mission of making people’s lives better by powering a more prosperous world,” said Cummins Chairman and CEO Tom Linebarger. “We support strong, market-based goals toward a carbon-neutral future and the CEO Climate Dialogue’s principle that a price on carbon is the best way to use the power of the market to achieve those goals.”

THE NEED TO ACT NOW

The announcement comes just a few days before President Biden’s virtual climate summit with global leaders on Earth Day (Thursday). Biden is expected to announce more ambitious carbon reduction targets and invite participating countries to join the U.S. in acting on climate-related issues.

The CEO Climate Dialogue is made up of a range of corporations including BP, Citi, Dow, DuPont, the Ford Motor Company, Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E), Shell, Unilever, and others. But what makes the group truly special is the membership of leading environmental groups, including the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions, the Environmental Defense Fund, the Nature Conservancy, and the World Resources Institute.

“It is urgent that the President and Congress put in place a long-term federal policy as soon as possible to protect against the worst impacts of climate change,” the group says. “Acting sooner rather than later allows us to meet the climate challenge at the least possible cost and put the necessary investments in place in time to meet our emissions targets.”

In late 2019, Cummins released PLANET 2050, the company’s environmental strategy for acting on climate change and other environmental concerns. The plan includes specific, ambitious, and measurable goals timed to 2030 aligned with the Paris Agreement to address climate change, and the aspiration to be carbon neutral as a company by 2050.

CUMMINS LEADERSHIP ROLE

Cummins has quickly emerged as a leader in battery-electric and fuel cell electric technology as well as technology to increase the supply of renewable hydrogen. The company is also working to improve its more traditional product lines, including its diesel and natural gas engines. The company has long supported tough environmental standards, using its technological expertise to grow Cummins’ business, create jobs and improve communities.

Company leaders have consistently said addressing the climate will require multiple technologies that must meet customer needs for dependable, durable and affordable power solutions.

“Sustaining a vibrant economy while using fewer of the earth’s resources is the challenge of our time,” Linebarger said. “Cummins is committed to meeting that challenge.”

blair claflin director of sustainability communications

Blair Claflin

Blair Claflin is the Director of Sustainability Communications for Cummins Inc. Blair joined the Company in 2008 as the Diversity Communications Director. Blair comes from a newspaper background. He worked previously for the Indianapolis Star (2002-2008) and for the Des Moines Register (1997-2002) prior to that. blair.claflin@cummins.com

 

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