When employees at O’Sullivan Films work to improve the world around them, they don’t have to go any further than their headquarters in Winchester, Va.
Winchester, part of the Shenandoah Valley located 75 miles west of Washington, D.C., is home to Abrams Creek, a stream that runs through O’Sullivan’s campus, which includes offices and a factory where the company manufactures films and artificial leather products. Like many urban waterways, Abrams is subject to environmental issues that range from erosion to pollution.
Because of its role as a large employer in a relatively small city—450 workers in a town of about 27,000—O’Sullivan “feels a responsibility to the community,” says John Morley, marketing manager. So once or twice each year, a cadre of O’Sullivan employees volunteer to take two hours off and head to the creek.
Besides cleaning up trash in and near the water, the company’s workers take measures that help natural grasses grow, repair buffers, and build and maintain silt ponds that reduce erosion, says Kevin Burkett, O’Sullivan’s environmental manager. Staff also maintain trees that provide shade for the creek, keeping it cool and attractive to wildlife like turtles, great blue herons and large-mouth bass.
According to Burkett, if one of the company’s production areas is down, instead of being idled, employees will go clean up the stream on sort of an ad hoc basis.
“We also have a spill response team,” Burkett says. “For example, last year a restaurant chain upstream from us discharged grease into Abrams Creek. We initiated our internal spill response team to place absorbent booms in the creek and started clean-up before the fire department was on scene, and then worked beside the fire department to help clean up the creek.”
“We just want to make the creek as nice as possible,” Burkett says, “and keep it in its natural state.” In addition to caretaking of the creek, he adds, employees also spend time cleaning up the streets in Winchester.
The work on Abrams Creek and city streets are just two examples of O’Sullivan’s commitment to the city where it has operated since 1944, says Julie Owens, human resources manager.
According to Owens, O’Sullivan supports organizations such as the Shenandoah Valley Discovery Museum, the Museum of the Shenandoah Valley, Habitat for Humanity and Backpacks for Bright Futures. The company also hosts blood drives for Virginia Blood Services and donates equipment to local schools, such as lab ovens and computers.
O’Sullivan is dedicated to addressing environmental concerns at all levels of the manufacturing process, Burkett says. The company follows Virginia’s Environmental Excellence Program—Exemplary Environmental Enterprise (E3), an environmental management system and pollution prevention program. “We have been E3 since 2001, and our goal is to be certified ISO14001 by end of 2018,” says Burkett. “Once we have the certification for ISO14001 for a complete year, we will be able to apply for the higher E4 standard at the state level.”
Owens explains that the company’s community and environmental work, besides being the right thing to do, is good for the business in a number of ways. “When we support a lot of good organizations,” she says, “it gets our name out there, and that encourages people to want to work here.”
Jeff Moravec is a freelance writer from Minneapolis, Minn.