As we approach Earth Day on April 22, we spoke with our very own Sustainability Director, Brian Cooley, about this year’s Earth Day theme ‘investing in our planet’, sustainability challenges in the manufacturing sector, and the future of Mativ’s environmental sustainability journey.
Can you give us a quick introduction to who you are and what you do at Mativ?
Brian Cooley – Of course! I’m Brian Cooley, Director of Sustainability for Mativ, based in our Alpharetta global headquarters. I’m 30 years married with two kids, boys of 28 and 18 years.
I’ve been working directly in sustainability since 2010, but have held positions in operations, R&D, internal audit, and a few other areas. All of these different roles have given me a broad perspective and understanding of the intersection between business and sustainability.
What does your current role at Mativ look like? What are you doing day-to-day?
BC – My work touches many facets of our business. Mativ’s sustainability approach, as a part of our broader ESG (Environment, Society and Governance) commitment, will be developed in close collaboration with our business leaders across our functions and brands.
On a day-to-day basis, my team joins forces with our manufacturing facilities to identify opportunities to reduce energy consumption and conserve resources.
We look for strategic opportunities and guide the business in the right direction when it comes to sustainability. In our industry, specialty materials, there’s so much potential to make a significant impact through innovation. Our products are used across such a wide array of industries and applications, often in ways that end users don’t see, so it’s critical that we are proactively developing products that address some of today’s significant societal issues such as access to clean water and air. And when we manufacture these products, we need to do so in a responsible manner where we minimize resource consumption and waste generation – and emitting carbon is a form of waste generation.
The theme for this year’s Earth Day (April 22) is ‘Invest in our Planet’. What are your thoughts on this theme, and what role should or will Mativ play?
BC – We want to be good corporate citizens and lower our impact on the environment. Obviously, that doesn’t just happen spontaneously; it requires all of our Mativ colleagues to be ‘invested’ in the process.
One of the best ways we as a business can invest in our planet is by developing products that address societal needs in the most efficient way possible. We have a lot of creativity and expertise here at Mativ, and I think we have the potential to help society address some of the bigger challenges that we’re facing. A great example is our filtration products, which in some places are enabling access to clean water for people who would otherwise not be able to have it.
From an operations standpoint, 15 of our facilities are already ISO 14001 certified [environmental management system (EMS)] and seven also hold ISO 50001 certification [energy management system], an important part of our conservation and efficiency initiatives.
Can you tell me a bit about some of the big challenges manufacturing faces when it comes to sustainability?
BC – A big challenge, not just for us but for many other companies, is that global regulations are constantly being updated or created. We have regulations that could apply to us in a country that we’re not present in; but because we sell products into that country, we have to be aware of and adhere to them. It is hard but important work to keep on pace with global regulations.
Also, our customers are continually driving us to do better, always setting the bar higher. I think this particular challenge is one we truly relish – it links so closely into our innovative engineering mindsets!
Are there any areas of success that you would like to highlight?
BC – A great example of a Mativ innovation that drives a positive impact on our planet is our Scapa SFR10/103 tape that is used on safety critical cables on trains, including the braking system, in Germany.
By using benign chemistry instead of halogenated flame retardants – which can persist in the environment and may have potential negative health impacts extremely damaging to the environment – the tape prevents the brakes from failing if there is a fire onboard. Not only is the product less environmentally damaging, but it is also actively preventing accidents and saving lives.
This is just one example. We’re innovating all the time, both collaboratively with customers and independently, developing and strengthening our product portfolio.
What’s your vision for the future of sustainability at Mativ? What does sustainability excellence look like for you?
BC – As a business, we’re at the start of a continuous sustainability journey. We’re taking the full ESG view and trying to work in a holistic way that ensures everyone benefits, not just in the short term, but for many, many years to come.
Our full strategy is under development; but we have issued our commitment to sustainability as part of ESG Tear Sheet. We know that we play a critical role when it comes to looking after our planet and the people on it, and we take that very seriously.
Do you have any message you wish to give to all of our customers, employees, suppliers, and shareholders?
BC – Yes! I am really excited by all of the creativity and knowledge that I see in my colleagues every day. There is so much energy around sustainability right now, and I encourage everyone to harness that as much as possible. We can all keep in mind, through everything we work on, that protecting our planet and developing products that benefit society is not only good for us, it’s the right thing to do.
To learn more, listen to our Getting to Know podcast episode with Brian Cooley.