For this edition of our continuing series “Conversations with Green Champions,” Rolland President Philip Rundle speaks with Produits Neptune, the first bathroom products manufacturer in North America to earn Level 1 and Level 2 ECORESPONSIBLE™ certification.
Alexandre Marchand, General Manager and a Produits Neptune shareholder, talks about environmental responsibility in a less-than-green industry, certification as an innovation accelerator, and doubling sales.
Produits Neptune is a sustainability-minded private business
- Designer and manufacturer of bathtub and shower stall products; distributor of shower doors, accessories, toilets, and sinks.
- Located in Saint-Hyacinthe, Québec, near Montréal, with 150 employees and customers (stores and distributors) across Canada and the United States.
- Winner of the Sustainable Development Strategy Award in the SME Category in the 2017 Mercuriades, Québec’s most prestigious business competition.
What triggered Produits Neptune’s focus on the environment?
In the 2010-12 period, we looked for a common goal that would bring our employees together and drive change for the better. The environment was a growing public concern, so we decided to work at becoming more environmentally responsible, more sustainable. Not an easy goal because our industry is not especially green: We make bathtubs and showers using acrylics and resins derived from petrochemicals, so making an effort to reduce our environmental impacts is especially important.
What is the significance of ECORESPONSIBLE certification?
The ECORESPONSIBLE program, created by the Council of Sustainable Industries, has four pillars – environmental, social, financial and governance – so it addresses sustainability in a broad sense. Level 1 (Engagement) required us to build solid business plans related to all four pillars. We were the first in our industry across North America to achieve certification, in 2014.
We earned Level 2 certification (Performance) in late 2020, after six years of implementing improvements including greener manufacturing processes, better working conditions, and more sustainable business practices. All this followed the business plans. Produits Neptune has the only Level 2 in our industry today.
What are typical environmental improvements?
We now recirculate water used to test bathtub systems for leaks, reducing our environmental footprint and our costs. And we sell acrylic scraps to a recycler which turns them to powder used to make benches signs and playground slides. These solutions came from our employees. The Produits Neptune website has a long list of other sustainability achievements.
Is all this costly, in terms of time and funds?
We do not see ECORESPONSIBLE certification as a cost. The rigor required by the program has accelerated the innovations and R&D work that have strengthened Produits Neptune on the environmental, social, economic and governance fronts.
Has Produits Neptune’s business also improved?
We doubled sales between 2015 and 2020! This is not all due to our efforts to earn certification, but does underline that we are now more competitive across the board. And 2020 was our best year ever: With travel and restaurants on pause due to the coronavirus pandemic, people have been renovating and building homes, which has boosted demand for our products.
Does your sustainability focus appeal to consumers?
People are not looking for ECORESPONSIBLE certification, specifically, but certification does signal that Produits Neptune is focused on the environment. This is valuable. When consumers are choosing between a Produits Neptune bathtub or a competitor’s, and quality and price are comparable, ECORESPONSIBLE certification is our added value proposition.
Does sustainability come into play with product development?
In addition to ECORESPONSIBLE certification, which applies to the company, we have also launched products that meet the standards of the ECORESPONSIBLE attestation program. It calls for product design and materials used to meet specific environmental criteria.
Is environmental performance a priority when selecting suppliers?
We make sure the materials and components we buy meet our environmental standards, and allow Produits Neptune to maintain ECORESPONSIBLE certification. Our buying decisions are green, and even though we do not control the overall environmental performance of our suppliers, we ensure that we work with the most sustainably driven partners.
What led Produits Neptune to use Rolland paper with 100% post-consumer recycled content?
Produits Neptune’s environmental positioning is well-understood internally, so choosing 100% post-consumer Rolland paper for our printed price lists and catalogs was not a big decision for our communications team. They saw that Rolland and Produits Neptune’s environmental values are aligned.
Are there other benefits to using Rolland paper?
Produits Neptune’s printed materials have text and logos demonstrating Rolland’s environmental certifications and attributes, including Forest Stewardship Council (FSC®) Certification and the use of 100% post-consumer fibers and biogas energy. Our website has the same information. This exposure is a win-win for the Produits Neptune and Rolland brands.
How does Rolland reduce your environmental footprint?
A screen in our corporate presentation highlights the environmental savings due to using 100% recycled paper (Rolland Enviro® Satin) rather than virgin paper. This year, this includes the equivalent of 178 trees and 51,000 litres of water, among many other environmental benefits.
What are your next environmental priorities?
Reinforcing and maintaining ECORESPONSIBLE certification, which requires an annual audit, and launching more ECORESPONSIBLE approved products. We will look slowly at Level 3 certification, which could take five to ten years because it would involve our entire value chain, from suppliers to customers. Not a simple matter!
Do you see Produits Neptune as a green champion?
We are not in a green industry but do make a major effort to be environmentally responsible while manufacturing products that people need. And we earned Québec’s prestigious Mercuriades Sustainable Development Strategy Award, so others see us as a leader. We are constantly working to improve, too. So, yes, I do see ourselves as a Green Champion in our industry and I share this title with everyone at Produits Neptune.