Miron's Sustainability Practice Set to Soar
Miron practices what it preaches, from its credo "People, Planet, Payback" to a policy prohibiting plastic water bottles in its office. In 2011 its environmentally minded culture prompted Madison, Wis.-based nonprofit organization Cool Choices to request Miron's participation in the 2011 pilot program iChoose, an initiative seeking to extend sustainability practices from the workplace to the home.
"We learned that Miron was active in the Wisconsin Sustainable Business Council here in Madison and, upon meeting its employees, saw it had this amazing culture," says Kathy Kuntz, executive director at Cool Choices. "It just seemed to make sense to work with an enterprise that had made a commitment to sustainability and to getting its employees excited about it."
"Our response was, sure, we'll participate," says Lehman, "but you'll have to make it competitive—welcome to Miron—as well as fun, easy and something that all employees can participate in, regardless of whether they're living in large houses or small ones, cottages or condos, whether they have grown children, young children or no children at all."
The resulting game, for which playing cards were developed, including step cards, focus cards and innovation cards, attracted two-thirds of Miron employees and served as the basis of a 70-page case study issued by the Energy Center of Wisconsin. Employees collectively reduced electricity by 18% relative to typical households, as well as saved more than $100,000 and eliminated 1.2 million pounds of carbon emissions.
In February, the game took a more serious turn when a coalition of businesses led by Miron and Johnson Controls lobbied the Wisconsin Legislature to step up funding for energy-efficient design on the heels of a national report indicating the state was losing ground to its Midwestern neighbors on energy efficiency.
Lehman and Corey Brumbaugh, a Miron vice president, also have taken their cause to Washington, D.C., where they and USGBC members met with House and Senate leaders to discuss sustainable design. "Rather than whine, we showed them what we had done," says Lehman. "We presented them with a book highlighting the $380 million in sustainable projects we were able to execute due to funding by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, and at a time when the economy was tanking. We don't like to lobby. We'd rather present positive results because people don't always know what they don't know."
What Miron doesn't know, it learns quickly, which goes a long way toward explaining how the firm so nimbly shifts between football stadiums and manufacturing plants, campus facilities and amusement park rides, including the Zippin Pippin roller coaster, a $3-million project in Green Bay, Wis., that presented Miron with a particularly steep learning curve.
"I don't think any firm these days has the luxury of locking into a single market and saying, 'This is our forte,'" says Voss, who goes on to say that Miron originally was not "experienced in sustainable design, so we acquired the expertise. We certainly didn't know anything about the workings of a roller coaster. Here we had 5,000 pieces of wood, but our staff got excited and researched it. The project was so successful that we were asked to build another one in China."
Voss declined. For the present, Miron remains rooted in the Midwest, where its sustainable practice and longtime industrial clients like Hillshire Brands, Chicago, and Wausau Paper, Mosinee, Wis., have helped it survive the downturn. "Our relationship with Hillshire started out with a nice plant project" in New London, Wis., about five years ago, says Voss. "But Hillshire is the client that really took us on the road."
Much of its work for the food-industry giant has occurred in South Dakota, Missouri and North Carolina. Although Miron has contemplated opening offices in those regions, "I've been the biggest naysayer," says Voss. "So I'll challenge our colleagues. I'll ask, do you have your ducks in a row? Work forces are different in different regions. Product levels are different. Cost structures are different. On the other hand, we can't afford to say no to going somewhere else."