SGS Lakefield

SGS Lakefield looks to standardize sustainable practices 

LAKEFIELD – As we make our way back to the reception office at SGS Canada’s Lakefield facility, turning corners, choosing the right door to get to the next corridor, navigating a long flight of stairs, I jokingly refer to the web of connected buildings as a maze.

Madison Sieloff, one of nine members of the plant’s sustainability committee I’ve just met with, agrees. “I call it that too.”

The corporate structure within the SGS facility is almost as complex as the buildings.

Tyler Nolan is the company’s program development manager for health, safety and environment, both at the Lakefield site and nationally. A Trent University environmental sciences grad, he was instrumental in pulling the sustainability committee together.

He notes that “we run almost three different businesses on this facility” – a sprawling, fenced-in compound at the south end of Lakefield.

The committee, formed in October, will determine how well “sustainable” practices already underway work and then standardize them across the entire facility, Nolan says.

Lillian Kuehn, national business services manager for the SGS minerals side, clarifies that there is no “almost” – SGS Lakefield contains three separate businesses with 371 employees.

Two relate to mineral testing. The geochemistry lab measures the mineral content of ore samples shipped in from around the world. The metallurgical testing business determines how minerals can be removed from the ore economically.

The third arm is an environmental lab that can analyze anything from drinking water, metals in air and sewage to acid rock drainage.

A support group works with all three business lines, moving materials from one area to another and taking care of maintenance.

The full 14-member sustainability committee meets once a month.

Sieloff, who chairs the committee, says a meeting will typically focus on one topic. That might be plastics recycling.

“Each department member will speak on how it impacts their specific department. From Corin’s standpoint being from environmental she sees different consumables that are used and how we need to go about recycling there,” Sieloff says.

“From the maintenance side, Amanda can help us with services on site and how we need to organize everything. From geo-chem, same kind of thing.

“We can see the different groups, how it can all come together into one formal system.”

Basic recycling is not new to SGS. Having a single, cross-facility committee has made the old methods more effective.

Plastics pails, for example. Hundreds were being recycled each year along with other plastics – a truckload or more of large, empty containers roughly four times a year. Now, as a result of cross-talk between departments, many pails are reused instead of recycled, a step up on the sustainability scale.

Reuse is also taking hold in smaller ways. Instead of getting rid of old file folders each business now takes them to a common room. Everyone in the facility knows that if they need a folder, that’s the place to go.

Not surprisingly, a company full of highly trained technicians also has more innovative and specialized sustainability projects on the go.

One client manufactures catalytic convertors for the automotive industry. SGS does tests to make certain the right amounts of lead and precious metals go into the convertors.

They recently started testing leftover “haz waste” to determine if it contains enough valuable metal to justify reprocessing. If the results are positive their client will buy back what was once shipped out and stored as hazardous waste and treat it to recover those metals.

The sustainability committee grew out of an annual survey SGS conducts across its worldwide operations – 1,800 offices and 85,000 employees working in at least 10 different industries, according to the company website.

Last year’s survey revealed that many employees felt sustainability was a priority but weren’t sure exactly what the term meant.

“Just having the committee point out some areas where everybody can participate to improve upon our sustainability, thats a big factor,” says Corin Forrester, a senior laboratory technician. “And it’s a lot better when it comes from the community as opposed to senior management.”

This is one of a series of articles commissioned and paid for by Sustainable Peterborough and published in partnership with The Peterborough Examiner. By Jim Hendry, Peterborough Examiner, original article published Saturday, March 26, 2016.