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Widex Hailed by United Nations and Other Groups as a Pioneer of “WindMade” Products


The hearing industry has been at the forefront of a number of advanced technologies, most of which involve tiny electronic transistors, receivers, and button-cell batteries. However, the industry is now known for pioneering something large—330 feet large.


Widex was named one of 15 global companies at the forefront of harnessing and using wind technology as a primary energy source for its headquarters, including production, by the United Nations (UN), the wind energy industry, and several influential organisations in late November in New York City. Widex Manager Richard Tpholm was part of a panel of experts who explained why clean, renewable wind energy not only makes sense from an environmental standpoint, but is also an effective way for medium-to-large manufacturers around the world to reduce operational costs at the press conference that officially launched the new WindMade standard and labelling programme.


Motorola, Deutsche Bank, Lego, and global medical supplier BD were also named "WindMade pioneers." The 15 Windmade pioneers generate enough energy to power 60,000 households when combined.


How to Get Off the Grid

It is not entirely accurate to say that Widex's new manufacturing headquarters near Lynge, Denmark, is "off the grid"; in fact, the Widex facility is expected to generate more power than the company requires each year, and will therefore transmit energy back onto the grid for the benefit of the local community. The 330-foot windmill, which generates 3.4 million kWh of power and reduces the company's CO2 emissions by 2,000 tonnes per year, is prominent among its many energy-saving features, which include an advanced geothermal heating/cooling system and solar panels. (For more information on Widex's "green" headquarters, see the April 2011 HR.1)


What Makes WindMade Unique?

We've all seen labels and advertisements claiming that a product is organic, eco-friendly, fair trade, and so on. But what exactly do these terms mean, and who defines them?

The WindMade Standard for Companies and Organizations is intended to impose strict stipulations and definitions on the term "WindMade," and then to allow companies that meet the standard to use the new branding label in their marketing. A company must source a minimum of 25% of its electricity consumption from wind energy, as well as other renewable energy sources such as solar and geothermal, to qualify for the WindMade label. Importantly, the standard includes third-party verification by PricewaterhouseCooper, which considers both the electricity footprint and the renewable energy source.


Global Leaders Offer Thoughts on the WindMade Initiative and Pioneers

The United Nations and other major organisations emphasised Widex's significant commitment to clean energy, which the company claims was made possible by its global customer base of hearing care professionals. The World Wildlife Fund (WWF), the Global Wind Energy Council, and the Wind Energy Foundation were among the other organisations represented at the media event.


"WindMade is the first consumer label ever endorsed by the UN Global Compact," said Lila Karbassi, GM/environmental leader of the UN Global Compact, an organisation that encourages businesses worldwide to align their operations with ten universal principles in areas such as human rights, labour, the environment, and anti-corruption. "WindMade is completely in line with our mission, and it promotes greater corporate sustainability, which is an important contribution that businesses can make."


"We are convinced that WindMade has the potential to be a transformative force," Karbassi added. "It can help businesses reduce their energy consumption, and market-based solutions that lead to increased investments in renewable energy are highly valued—especially in a context where governments and financial institutions are looking for the right mechanisms to address climate change... As a result, we are proud to recognise the pioneers who have stepped forward, as well as the first corporations to be certified by the programme, today.


"WindMade is an incredible opportunity for forward-thinking sustainable brands to drive change on behalf of consumers," Karbassi said. "We truly believe it has the potential to go a long way." It has the potential to capitalise on change and contribute to the global expansion of renewable energy use."


Steve Sawyer, secretary general of the Global Wind Energy Council, a trade association representing the wind industry, provided historical context for global efforts to put a price on carbon and "help level the playing field and allow renewable energy to compete directly with fossil fuel and other conventional energy." Sawyer describes the global debate on carbon emissions as a "nexus between science and politics" that is currently failing both business and the general public. Despite the failure of global initiatives such as the 2005 Kyoto Protocol and the 2009 UN Climate Change Conference to create government policies that reduce reliance on fossil fuels, Sawyer believes that a private-sector approach to changing energy policy remains viable.


"WindMade provides us with the ideal opportunity not only to change the practises of companies, but also of countries," Sawyer said. "I'd like to thank our friends at Vestas [Wind Systems] for getting this started... and I thank these trailblazers in particular for paving the way for us to make things work and bring about the kind of change we need—because we desperately need change, and the time to rely on our governments to do so is long, long gone."


"[Today's event] is really about the pioneering companies and their leadership," Marty Spritzer, director of US Climate Policy for the World Wildlife Federation, said. And, while we're celebrating the new WindMade label and its launch, we're also honouring the pioneers who are paving the way for others."


Even if you don't believe in climate change, Spritzer says there are plenty of reasons to support renewable energy, particularly wind power. "These investments assist countries in becoming more self-sufficient, energy-independent, and secure," he said.


"It turns out that consumers want to be a part of the solution," Spritzer added. "Surveys show that people want to buy products made with renewable energy, and [the WindMade label] can help them do so." We know that consumers have a lot of power, especially when we make it easy for them [to effect change]... The WindMade logo recognises companies that have invested in wind energy and gives the public and policymakers confidence in the claims made by these companies. This label bridges the gap between consumers and industry, allowing businesses to communicate transparently and confidently."


The Best Option

Widex was honoured as a pioneer because it is an exceptional company that uses wind energy, according to Wind Energy Foundation Executive Director Darlene Snow in an interview with HR. "They're one-of-a-kind," Snow says. "They've made a significant investment—literally—in the ground and with the turbine." They are a long-standing family business, and while they are not a small company, they are also not a behemoth. [What Widex has done] is demonstrate that wind energy can be used in any industry."


Snow thinks Widex sees the big picture. "You wouldn't normally associate a hearing aid company with a sustainability mission or a wind turbine," she says. "How does this benefit their marketing?" It's primarily a business-to-business organisation, and what they do is mostly hidden from the general public. So, I believe this demonstrates that they are doing this from the inside out. Widex is clearly motivated by a culture and a commitment to conducting business in a specific manner. And this is only one manifestation of that culture.


"What we liked best about [Widex's selection as one of the 15 pioneering companies] is that it validates the idea that you don't have to be a wind-energy company, or a Walmart, Whole Foods, Starbucks, or any of the companies traditionally marketed as 'green' or having 'green' products." Widex demonstrates that [WindMade] is applicable to any industry committed to a cleaner and better future."


The majority of the speakers at the media event lauded the WindMade pioneers as "courageous," but Tpholm objected, citing the business and economic issues surrounding wind energy. "When scale is taken into account, wind-generated power is very efficient, and it obviously appeals to consumers," he says. "As a result, I believe there will be a large number of adopters similar to the size of our company." In fact, it's difficult to find counter-arguments to WindMade. It just makes so much sense on so many levels, and it really comes down to the time spent thinking about it, designing it, and putting forth the effort."


He explained that depending on electricity costs, the purchase and construction of the wind turbine outside Widex's world headquarters could pay for itself in 12 years. With oil prices constantly fluctuating, renewable energy adds another component of stability to a company's bottom line. "When you consider the savings," Tpholm says, "I don't think it really costs a lot of money." "It did require a significant amount of management time, thought, and effort."


He claims that at first, many people thought they were making a joke about erecting a massive windmill. "However, I believe this was the right decision for a company like ours." — KES

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