Johnson Matthey’s Colour Technologies operations in Downingtown, US have introduced an innovative sustainability training programme


Raising employee awareness of sustainability issues is done largely at site level, and individual sites have shown ingenuity in providing training and building employee commitment.

In 2010/11 Johnson Matthey's Colour Technologies operations in Downingtown, US, set up a sustainability training programme for all of its employees. The programme offered interactive learning, practical exercises and insights into the fundamentals of sustainability, achieving 100% participation among employees.

The training was devised with several goals. One was to support the group wide Sustainability Intranet. By using the resources available on the intranet and interacting through the forums, the Downingtown site knew it could make an input and itself reap benefits.

A second goal was to introduce employees to streamlined life cycle assessment (SLCA), a tool created by the non-profit environmental organisation, Forum for the Future, which allows you to assess product sustainability and focus on 'designing out' unsustainable aspects throughout the whole life cycle. The tool offers many of the benefits of a full life cycle analysis without all the labour, and sets plain speaking questions that stimulate interest. A third goal was to show use of a carbon footprint tool.

With the training goals defined, the two trainers drew up a training schedule. For the first overview session, participants attended in groups of two, each individual paired with someone from a different function. This intimate session encouraged engagement, and no one could hide at the back of the class.

The second session explored streamlined life cycle assessment. Here, an example close to home was chosen. What is the most sustainable material for pallets? Three materials were suggested – corrugated paper, wood and recycled plastic – and participants were taken through a series of questions. Are the raw materials completely free from materials from the earth's crust that are scarce? Is waste from use monitored and minimised? Are there well functioning systems in place for reuse and recycling? Participants were also taught the five stages of the life cycle (raw materials, production, packaging and distribution, use and end of life) and how, crucially, changes made at one stage can have a knock on effect in another.

Other parts of the training covered Johnson Matthey's Sustainability Intranet. Employees were shown how to contribute to it and they all went on to post at least one entry on it. They were also taught how to use a carbon calculator and work out their own carbon footprint – the results can offer surprises, both good and bad.

Training and coaching on sustainability continues at the site and the outcome is a workforce with greater understanding and renewed enthusiasm. Developing employee awareness and encouraging use of tools such as the streamlined life cycle assessment and the Sustainability Intranet play an effective part in strengthening involvement in the company's sustainability agenda.