Small Companies Can Make a Big Difference

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Mark Posson

I recently had the pleasure to speak with Larry O’Connor , the CEO of Other World Computing and  I came away with a stronger realization that leadership is arguably the largest factor in an organization’s environmental performance.

The company, which was started by Larry at age 14, has been providing quality hardware products and support to the computer industry since 1988. It provides peripherals for Macs and PCs with a focus on higher performance, energy efficient solid state drives to give computer users faster, more responsive systems with battery life approaching that of today’s increasingly popular tablet computers.  Since its beginning, OWC has focused on developing innovative products that also meet the organization’s environmental concerns.

Under Larry’s leadership, OWC also has achieved sustained business growth, profitability and environmental excellence.  The company’s environmental philosophyis elegantly simple:  doing the right thing for the most effective utilization of natural resources makes for good business. And for a small firm, OWC has made a big environmental difference.

How has this enlightened leadership philosophy translated into specific actions?  Here are  just a few examples:

  • When designing a new 37,000-square-foot headquarters and warehouse building in 1998, OWC chose to followed Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) criteria.  This included the use of porous pavers led to smaller storm water retention basins, allowing for more space for future development. The company also used natural light to lower energy use and boost employee morale. The headquarters building houses the product development and customer s support teams, keeping the jobs in the United States. The attractive work environment has undoubtedly allowed OWC to attract top talent.
  • A geothermal heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) system, which produced lower long-term operating costs
  • The company installed a 500-kilowatt wind turbine to meet all of their present and planned power needs.  Long-term thinking?  Absolutely. It’s expected to pay back in 10 to 14 years, a hedge against escalating energy costs, energy self-sufficiency and alternative technology, all of which are good long-term sustainable business strategies.
  • OWC also doesn’t rest on their laurels, but rather looks for ways to continually improve its environmental performance.  As an example, OWC is in the process of upgrading the efficiency of its conveyor system, its largest production power user.  The upgrade is projected to yield a 70 percent reduction in energy usage and increase product through-put.

During my conversation with Larry, I kept coming back to ‘Why?  What was driving this desirable business behavior?’ He summed it up for me like this:

“At the end of the day, we work to do as much right as we can for all concerns.  By being long-term, we can look at the long-term win-wins for both conserving our resources and with a competitive long-term cost benefit as well. As I had said – very arguably, if there isn’t a long term cost-benefit to a technology in the current time, there is likely something to question about the real net conservation benefit of the technology as well.”

Enlightened leadership: it’s a beautiful thing.

 

About Mark Posson

Mark Posson is Operations Director for Lockheed Martin Space Systems Co. in Sunnyvale, Calif. During his free time, Mark enjoys fishing, hiking, biking, racquetball, public service and spending time with his family.

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