Creating Environmental Programs That Stick

We all know – Velcro – the hook and loop fastener that lets us close our sneakers, put on our babies’ diapers, attach important documents to the wall, and generally stick things to other things. Now, the business is going green: Antioch Green MBA student Marc Duquette, MBA ’10 has implemented environmental sustainability programs at the company that have stuck like – well, Velcro.

Always an outdoorsperson

“When I was a kid we used to spend a good portion of our summers camping up in Maine every year,” says Duquette, who grew up in Lowell, Massachusetts. “Prior to high school, I was in the Youth Conservation Corps” — a program that introduces young Americans to conservation opportunities in national parks. So it’s no surprise that in 1986, he earned his BA in environmental science at St. Joseph’s College in Standish, Maine, and in the early 90s earned a Certificate in Environmental Technology and Hazardous Waste Management at the University of Massachusetts in Lowell.

Marc embarked on a successful career in environmental science: Over the years, besides working at Velcro USA Inc., he’s been an environmental health and safety manager at Advanced Circuit Technology, a senior environmental and safety engineer at Sanmina-SCI Corp., and an environmental, health and safety director at Koch Membrane Systems. His resume is littered with such accomplishments as “Reduced solid waste to landfill by thirty percent” and “Managed replacement of aging, 10,000 gallon chemical storage tanks.”

Heading Back to School After Reaching the Top

So why, after being at the top of his career, did Duquette decide to go to Antioch University New England for an MBA in Organizational and Environmental Sustainability (otherwise known as the Green MBA)? “When you’re in business for a while you get to a point where you feel stagnant and you want to do something more,” he says. “I struggled for a number of years, asking myself if I should get a technical environmental degree, a master’s degree in environmental engineering, or a generic MBA.” Then Duquette heard a radio ad for Antioch University New England’s Green MBA and a light bulb went on. “It put the package together in a nice program,” he says.

Duquette had worked at Velcro USA Inc. as a manager of EHS and quality registrations from 2002 until 2008, and left to join Koch Membrane Systems, a company that makes water filtration elements. But then, in the summer of 2009, in the middle of his Green MBA program, Duquette went back to Velcro Group Corp., this time as the Director of Environmental, Safety, and Product Compliance – a position the company created with him in mind.

“At Velcro USA Inc. [originally] I wasn’t being given the resources I needed to do my job and it was just too much,” Duquette explains. For example, if a customer ordered ten parts from Velcro USA Inc. and needed them certified lead-free, “I would have to take all ten of the parts, break them down to the individual raw material components, and certify each component – and we really didn’t have the infrastructure to handle that sort of thing.”

After Duquette left Velcro USA Inc., the company spent the next year and a half trying to get him back. The company hired additional people, and created systems to document the safety of various products. (Now, everyone from customer service to the engineering department will have a part of the responsibility to qualify the company’s raw materials.) Not only that, but Velcro Group Corporation created the new position for Duquette, giving him global responsibility to develop, implement, and oversee sustainable corporate environmental, safety, and product compliance programs.

Thanks in part to actions Duquette took at his first stint at Velcro USA Inc. and in his current position, the company now reuses or recycles more than thirty percent of the waste it generates, all of the electrical and thermal power in the New Hampshire headquarters is self-generated, and Velcro USA Inc. was the first in the industry to remove solvents from coating processes and substantially reduce the use of heavy metals. And those are just a few of the environmentally-friendly advances the company has made under Duquette’s direction.

Duquette says that what he’s learned in Antioch University New England’s Green MBA program has helped him in his new position. In fact, on his office bulletin board hangs the personal mission statement he created as part of his ethics class at Antioch: “My mission is to end each day knowing I did my best, and that I accomplished something meaningful with full integrity and purpose.” Every day at Velcro Group Corp., Duquette fulfills that mission.

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