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Thought Leadership | November 11, 2020

Sustainability Makes a Real Difference to Rheem Associates

John Fitzgerald, EVP, Operations

Did you know that 45% of Rheem’s US salaried new hires, aware of our sustainability initiative, say it impacted their decision to join the company? That’s just one powerful finding from our quarterly New Hire Sustainability Survey, conducted January 2019–June 2020.

But sustainability isn’t just a reason for people to join Rheem. It’s a source of pride and meaning for our longstanding team members as well. Wherever and whatever our jobs are—from management to the factory floor, training to operations, design to manufacturing—Rheem’s progress toward reducing our impact on the environment lets us all know that our daily work is contributing to a greater good.

We’ve been continuously innovating to make products ever more reliable and efficient since our founding nearly a century ago. In recent years, under the leadership of our President and CEO, Chris Peel, Rheem developed a line of smart products with sensor technology to continuously monitor the health of products, boost their efficiency and extend their operating life. This Internet of Things (IoT) technology is an enabler of our sustainability efforts, which are focused on Designing for Zero Waste—including energy waste.

Feeling good about doing good

For example, Corporate Facilities Manager, Chuck Spinks, oversees Rheem’s plants, offices and other facilities, optimizing efficient solutions for water, electricity, waste and maintenance. Last year, his duties expanded to include our Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Reduction and Zero Waste to Landfill (ZWTL) initiatives. “We’ve worked to develop a global strategy for sustainability in our operations as well as procedures for on-site implementation,” says Spinks, noting that his expanded role allows him to combine a deep personal interest with his job. “I’m an avid outdoors person, and it’s always been important to me to protect the environment that I enjoy so much. Being part of a company that’s making big strides in reducing its environmental impact, and in helping its customers do the same, is very rewarding to me.”

Like Chuck Spinks, Cliff Davis is also working hard to help implement Rheem’s aggressive GHG reduction initiative. In his role as Quality Systems Leader, Davis has customized Reliance software to serve as our GHG tracking tool. The purpose of the tool is to capture and analyze a facility’s individual GHG output, which is reported monthly. “To me, the tracking tool is one of the most important projects I have been a part of at Rheem,” he says. “The world’s environmental problems are huge. They represent the biggest challenge we’re going to face over the coming decades. In my job, I’m able to build a solution at scale that enables a company the size of Rheem to make major, lasting environmental changes. That’s something I’m really proud of.”

Doing more to waste less

Daniel Partin sees firsthand how the company’s larger sustainability initiative is playing out at the local level. As Senior Manufacturing Engineering Manager, Partin led Rheem’s ZWTL pilot and implementation plan in Ft. Smith, Arkansas. “The biggest challenge was that we didn’t have a ZWTL template or list of ready-made steps to follow,” he explains. “We were the first. We had to figure out our waste streams, their volumes, and best practices to handle them. We had to get knee-deep into our industrial processes.” Despite the challenges, the mission was one that he and his colleagues embraced. “Recycling is a feel-good point for everyone at the facility,” says Partin. “No matter what our roles are, we all want to take care of the environment and larger community, so we’ve had zero pushback. It has been really eye-opening for me and a source of great personal satisfaction.”

Project Engineer Daniel Reyna can relate to Partin’s perspective. Reyna has done extensive work to help implement ZWTL in Nuevo Laredo, Mexico. “Working to help Rheem exceed 97% landfill diversion and move toward 50% GHG reduction is something I can feel proud of, but it’s not just about the numbers—this affects the world,” he says. “We’re improving life for the next generation. Training employees on ZWTL is important because they are the bridge between sustainability policy and the planet.”

Taking pride in creating greener solutions

As an Associate Product Manager for Residential Heating & Cooling, Sandhya Jalakam experiences Rheem’s product sustainability efforts up close. “I’ve been here only a few months, so I am still learning about Rheem’s sustainable technologies,” she says. “But it’s clear that Rheem is one of the few companies whose product lines control both water and air in the home, so we can have a lot of influence on helping to protect the environment.” As a specific example, she adds, “With our Ultra Low NOx furnaces, we’re able to play a significant part in lowering emissions while still offering a competitive, efficient product to the market. My colleagues and I are very enthusiastic about advanced technology developments like this.”

And in our Water Heating business, Ankur Maheshwari, Global Decarbonization Lead, oversees a portfolio of advanced products that includes the company’s Hybrid heat pump water heater, solar water heater and demand-response technologies. In this role, he helps Rheem develop strategies to create sustainable products that promote decarbonization. “I have a very interesting job that feeds my passion to support a clean environment,” Maheshwari says. “Part of it is about the legacy I want to leave behind for my kids. The work I do will ultimately result in a world with air that’s cleaner for them to breathe. That’s what keeps me energized and motivated. I gain a sense of giving back.”

Teaching the world to value sustainability

Sustainability is also motivating Rheem associates to reach out to plumbers and contractors. At our factories in Australia, for example, we conduct guided tours of our manufacturing facilities, educating visitors on everything from our water conservation technologies to the processes behind our drive to Zero Waste to Landfill (ZWTL). For Mark Gordon, National Sales Enablement Manager, this commitment to sustainability and transparency is a key differentiator for Rheem and our products.

“Plumbing in Australia is a market that young men and women are striving to get into, so we’re not just talking to our loyal plumbers but also bringing others into the fold,” Mark says. “When you bring someone in and show them firsthand your sustainable products and the sustainable processes you use to make them, people say they didn’t realize we did so much, and by the time they leave they’re Rheem advocates, and they go out and tell others.”

Other parts of the world are seeing similar successes. Whether it’s a learning center in China or the online training we offer throughout the United States, sustainability is driving engagement beyond the excellence of our products.

At Rheem, we are inspired by the active engagement we see from our team members and encourage all employees to contribute to A Greater Degree of Good by exploring how they can make a tangible difference in their role today.