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Suppliers weigh environmental and business concerns.

Like all of manufacturing in America, suppliers to the foundry industry recognize that environmental controls have become as much a cost of doing business as Social Security, workers' compensation and health benefits. But the question remains, how much is enough?

This was the question pondered during the 75th Spring Conference of the Casting Industry Suppliers Assn. held March 17-21 at Sanibel Island, Florida. One of the reasons that the business position is not being heard in the debate on the environment is because environmentalists have one agenda whereas business has many.

This is according to John Paling, a photographer for National Geographic and admitted environmentalist. He pointed out that while business and industry are running around trying not to get hit by the environmentalists, the same groups who push environmental issues are only doing half of their job.

"They're always beating up business. They never consider using a carrot, but always use a stick to get their way," Paling said. "They never show approval for business and industry achieving the goals that they |the environmentalists~ wanted. If you let environmentalists set the agenda, they'll scare the world silly."

Paling acknowledged that current environmental regulations are abusive, but added the biggest problem is that the public does not trust business. "While most people understand that business must be concerned with economics, the general view is that short-term economic results will always take precedence over other matters," he said.

What Paling suggests for business is to get "eye level" with the environmentalists and to understand their biggest concerns if they are to deal with them effectively. "The major care of the environmental groups is population and the use of resources and the effect of industrialization on wild life.

"The world's population today stands at 5.6 billion. Within 10-15 years, it is expected to grow to 10-15 billion. And while the West's population is expected to double within 91 years, the African population is expected to double within 24 years. But environmentalists believe that most available resources are being used up by business and industry."

Despite being an environmentalist, Paling said what we need today is an "environmental Richter scale to determine 'real risks.' We must determine the real problems and real solutions."

Industry Perspectives

Regarding environmental legislation, the real question facing the foundry industry is whether the increasingly stringent regulations are a threat or opportunity. According to William Shaw, GM Powertrain Div./Casting Operations, "our challenge today is to balance profits with social responsibility."

There's little question, Shaw said, that growing environmental regulations have held down growth in manufacturing employment, kept real wages flat and resulted in meager productivity growth. He estimated that 30% of all the division's capital expenditures in the near future will go toward meeting pollution control regulations.

At the same time, the push for improving environmental conditions may also present opportunities, he added. Among these are improved core binders and release agents, increased sand reuse and reclamation technologies, and containerization and process improvements.

Richard Piekos, Ford Motor Co. of Canada, outlined ways that Ford is trying to balance its needs with those of the environmentalists. He pointed out that the two share a common goal: improving the quality of life of employees, the community and the company.

Piekos said Ford's strategy in coping with increasingly stringent environmental laws is that of cooperation, and outlined the steps the company is taking in meeting the goals of that strategy. Among these are using more environmentally tolerant processes and materials; moving from wet to dry collection methods; 100% water recycling; sand reclamation; improved dry dust handling; reuse of flue dust and sand; and continual employee training.

"We're not afraid of new legislation," said Charles Kurtti, in putting forth Neenah Foundry Co.'s position on current and proposed environmental laws. "We work closely with our suppliers in meeting the regulations," he said, indicating that Neenah has invested nearly 50% of its capital expenditures (both direct and indirect) to meet environmental requirements.

At the same time, Kurtti issued a challenge to foundry suppliers to continue working with their customers to meet the environmental challenge.

Economic Review

"Everybody's looking for a 10-foot pothole in the economy," said Einar Borch, Einar Borch Resources. "But it's just not there." Whereas the gross domestic product in 1990 was an all-time high at $4.877 billion, the 1991 GDP only slipped 1.1% in 1991 to $4.821 billion.

Despite all the news of doom and gloom, GDP, compensation and civilian employment were at an all-time high in 1992, Borch pointed out.

While the media concerns itself with unemployment, he said, the average annual increase in employment is 2 million. One of the major problems is that we don't distinguish between core and cyclical unemployment. "Chronic unemployment is a long-term social problem," said Borch, as he pointed toward a basic tenet of the American economy: "Unemployment does not create a recession. It's the result."
COPYRIGHT 1993 American Foundry Society, Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1993, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:report from the 75th Spring Conference of the Casting Industry Suppliers Association
Author:Kanicki, David P.
Publication:Modern Casting
Date:May 1, 1993
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Next Article:Foundrymen unite on Capitol Hill.

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