Ball Corp. goes sustainable

If you want evidence that social, environmental and economic sustainability is more than a passing fad, consider an $8 billion Fortune 500 company that realizes its efforts in those arenas are vital to its success.

Among Ball Corp.’s sustainability goals are to reduce its use of electricity and natural gas, decrease its use of materials, reduce volatile organic compounds and increase recycling. John Hayes, chief operating officer for the Broomfield-based packaging and aerospace company, talked about Ball’s practices during a keynote address as part of the state of Colorado’s annual Environmental Leadership Program awards.

“I’d like to say that that we have long been stewards of sustainability, but until recently we haven’t called it that,” Hayes told a group of several hundred business leaders gathered Oct. 20 at the Seawell Ballroom in the Denver Performing Arts Center. “The ELP program is a great example of how our environmental success had its roots long before we started formalizing our sustainability initiative.”

Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp., which makes up 10 percent of Ball, has maintained the “gold” level of the Environmental Leadership Program for 10 years. Ball’s metal beverage packaging division – the company’s largest business — has achieved that level for six years. The program, overseen by the state’s Department of Public Health and Environment, recognizes companies whose sustainability efforts have significantly exceeded the state’s environmental requirements.

Last year, Ball published its first sustainability report, covering the years 2006 and 2007 and using 2005 as a base year. The effort earned the company industry attention. In April 2009, Ball was selected as co-winner for the “Best First-Time Reporter Award” in the 2009 Ceres-ACCA North American Sustainability Awards. The following month it was selected for FTSE4Good Index Series, which recognizes companies with policies and systems in place to manage social, ethical and environmental risks.

Ball beat Wall Street expectations for the third quarter, reporting that profits rose slightly. The company attributed the rise to cost savings from previous restructuring efforts. Its stock has been trading in the $50 range for the past few months and has been on the upswing over the past year.

“To be a truly sustainable company you have to be economically viable,” Hayes said.

Gov. Bill Ritter, who also addressed the more than 100 companies that were recognized at the event, said that “even in difficult times, sound sustainability practices are imperative.” He praised businesses that are lowering their energy use and embracing practices that are sensitive to the environment.

“Every business that makes this decision is making a decision that matters to all of us,” Ritter said.

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