Firms extol 'green' VW

Firms extol 'green' VW

April 8th, 2011 by Mike Pare in Business Around the Region

GREEN PAINT SHOP

The VW plant's paint shop will use environmentally friendly waterbased paint, officials said. It also will paint autos using two steps rather than the typical three and a dry filtration process instead of a water-based one.

Volkswagen's chief of environmental sustainability worldwide said the best help the automaker can offer Chattanooga's green efforts is for the new assembly plant to succeed.

"Only a successful company can give a contribution to a community in this field," said Gerhard Pratorius, the German car maker's head of corporate social responsibility and sustainability.

Pratorius said Thursday at the Eco Expo that the Chattanooga factory's motto of "green city, green plant, green car" expresses the company's environmental strategy.

"We're happy we have a common understanding," he said. "It was the right decision to come here."

The $1 billion Chattanooga plant slated to roll out the all-new Passat soon is seeking Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design status.

The factory would be the South's first auto assembly plant and only the second nationally to gain the LEED badge, according to the U.S. Green Building Council.

Guenther Scherelis, VW's general manager of communications in Chattanooga, cited the plant's paint shop where new processes will achieve a high level of energy savings over typical facilities.

"It's our most modern paint shop" in VW's more than 60 plants worldwide, he said.

At a forum at the expo, Paul Murray, vice president of sustainability and environmental affairs at floorcovering company Shaw Industries Group, said the business has "a robust program."

He mentioned its effort to take back and recycle carpet.

"To be a leader, you have to go beyond boundaries," said Murray. He said his job at the Dalton, Ga.-based Shaw is 3 years old.

Alison Taylor, Siemens Corp.'s vice president of sustainability for the Americas, said the company looks long range.

"We see trends that are here to stay ... no matter what Washington does," she said.

Dan Jacobson, vice president of properties for BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee, said building its year-old $299 million headquarters to LEED standards has led to about $5 million of operational savings.

"It's a hedge against the rising cost of utilities," he said. "It's a no-brainer." The insurer's home office became the largest such project in Tennessee to land gold LEED certification and the second biggest nationally.

Dave Crockett, who directs the city's Office of Sustainability, said Chattanooga is working on its supply chain when it comes to the environment.

"We're going to try to do that to specify what we'd like our suppliers to do," he said.

Pratorius said there's no contradiction between environmental sustainability and economic thinking.

"All the investments we're doing are economic investments," he said. "The cost of all these investments are very realistic."