For Rainier Industries Ltd., sustainability is more than just a buzzword—it’s a way of doing business. Although the term is often associated with high expenses, Rainier president and CEO Scott Campbell considers sustainability an initiative that makes business sense. “It’s actually pretty easy and saves money,” he says, “so the barriers are pretty dang low.”
In 2016, Rainier was honored by King County, Wash., as one of the Best Workplaces for Waste Prevention and Recycling for the fifth consecutive year, as well as the Re-Innovator of the Year.
Rainier manufactures custom shade, shelter and display products at plants in Tukwila, Wash., and Statesville, N.C. Founded in 1896, the company originally provided tents and supplies to prospectors in the Alaskan Gold Rush. In 1984, Campbell purchased Rainier, building the operation from 11 to 250 employees. He has since acquired 17 businesses with a range of products including tents, yurts, awning and screen systems, and industrial fabric goods.
Campbell recognized the need to make the company more sustainable, so Rainier developed a sustainability initiative in 2007, which quickly became part of the core mission. In 2009, Rainier received ISO 14001:2004 certification by TÜV Rheinland Group, which specifies requirements for environmental management systems.
Company sustainability efforts range from recycling and repurposing waste products to eliminating harsh chemicals in its production process. Rainier recycles more than 70 percent of its waste, redirecting roughly 2,340 tons of waste from landfills. Last year, it added a machine in its packaging department that shreds excess cardboard, which then can be repurposed as shipping padding.
Many of Rainier’s products are made using sustainable, nontoxic materials, such as wood harvested from sustainable forests and treated with non-solvent preservatives. The use of PVC-based fabrics is minimized, and printers use UV-cured, water-soluble inks.
For companies interested in becoming more environmentally active, Campbell adds, “We’re pretty friendly and happy to help others.” That seems to sum up Rainier’s formula: a kinder, smarter way of doing business.
By Jahna Peloquin, a writer and editor based in Minneapolis, Minn.