Our entire company – corporate and production – is together in the community of Cosmopolis, WA. Therefore, our approach to community social responsibility is defined by our status as a local business. Beyond providing 200 family-wage jobs, spending $155 million annually into the area economy, and using the services of over 1200 local and regional suppliers, we participate directly in the social life of our community and county both financially and personally.
- Safety: Cosmo’s safety program goes beyond typical mill activities to include a fitness center, health and wellness information, and safety advice for both the work and home environment.
- School visits: Cosmo has an elementary school in close vicinity to the mill. We have partnered with the school for them to obtain technology grants, and we make in-kind donations at their request. Cosmo also presents to any regional school that requests a classroom visit.
- Community complaint resolution: Cosmo answers every legitimate community concern regarding odor, noise, or emissions with call-backs, visits, and internal investigations. If appropriate, Cosmo uses media relations to answer any persistent or widespread concern. The mill also schedules any noisy maintenance work during daylight working hours to minimize community impact.
- Cosmo Code: Cosmo’s approach to workplace culture is unique and includes a flattened organizational hierarchy, team member breakfast meetings with the leadership team, and a web-based anonymous feedback forum. A “Code” of behavior has been developed through consultation that has replaced the traditional third party labor relations model. Cosmo team members also eligible for quarterly bonuses based on the mill meeting certain metrics.
- Grants to recreation and the arts including local theatre, parks programs, educational scholarship, and youth programs such as Young Life and Boy Scouts.
- Grants to youth sports including local softball and little league.
- Grants to local service and social agencies including food banks, services for children, and programs for seniors.
- Grants to local fish enhancement programs.
- Reputation management and feedback with elected officials at all levels.
- Cosmo has also responded to our local community’s request to use of the mill’s fitness center for an employee wellness program.
As a start-up company, we have begun participating in local service clubs, economic development associations, and representatives of our mill also participate in outside fundraisers.
We work at Cosmo Specialty Fibers, but we live in Grays Harbor County. As such, we respect and represent the values held by this community. Accordingly, our environmental values reflect Grays Harbor community values.
We understand the importance of preserving water quality so that the sport and commercial fishery and the shellfish industry – a crucial part of the area’s economic diversity – can thrive. And we know that maintaining great air quality will encourage families and businesses to locate here and remain here.
This is why one of the primary tenets of our mission statement is “operating environmentally responsibly.”
- Reduction in oil consumption: Our use of fossil fuel has steadily declined since the mill opened – on average from about 15% of fuel used to produce mill power to less than 5%.
- Renewable energy: We now use, on average, 95% biomass and deconstructed biomass from our cooking process to produce energy. We are a qualified green power producer and produce Renewable Energy Certificates for the renewable energy market.
- Fiber Chain of Custody: Cosmo has attained PEFC certification. With over 30 endorsed national certification systems and more than 240 million hectares of certified forests, the Program for the Endorsement of Forest Certification is the world's largest forest certification system.
- Fossil fuel substitution: Cosmo has partnered with Conoco Philips to test the use of petroleum coke pellets – a unique product that will significantly reduce SO2 emissions when used as a substitute for fossil fuel.
- Residual Stream Uses: Cosmo is working with the Wisconsin Institute of Sustainable Technology at the University of Wisconsin, and a Weyerhaeuser/Chevron partnership to direct residual cellulosic streams into possible production of sugar for ethanol, poly-lactic acid, or aromatic compounds.
- Ocean Acidification/Oyster Bed Protection: Cosmo has teamed with CH2M Hill to produce state-of-the-art hydrodynamic studies of the mill’s effluent diffusion zone. This will allow the mill to control any effluent issues with significantly less chemical treatment. The outcome will ensure the highest water quality standard for local oyster growers and reduce treatment chemicals that may contribute to ocean acidification.
The heart of our environmental safety: air and effluent emission permit compliance
By working with local and federal government agencies tasked with protecting the environmental needs of our area – the Washington State Department of Ecology (DOE) and the Environmental Protection Agency – we can do our part to look after the environment, an economic driver in the community we share.
As part of that stewardship, Cosmo Specialty Fibers operates under a strict set of environmental permits issued by the government agencies for air and water impacts, as well as any operational impacts on the land within the mill footprint. These permits are “living documents” (viewable here: http://www.ecy.wa.gov/database.html ) in that they are subject to change at any time as directed by the DOE or EPA, thus ensuring that our local environment and community is always cared for.
There are five important considerations – mandated by the DOE in the development and approval of these permits – that guide the mill’s environmental approach:
- Strict air emission and water effluent limits. The mill must be financially sustainable to remain open. To be financially viable, the mill must be globally competitive in terms of product mix, quality and cost. These operational characteristics drive the feedstocks we use, which, in turn, results in certain potential mill effluent and emission levels. These effluent and emission levels cannot leave the mill until they are within strict limits determined as environmentally acceptable by the DOE and EPA. These limits are written into our permits as law, along with the accompanying reporting requirements.
- Best Management Practices (BMPs). Another government agency and industry term, BMPs means that we work to adopt best management practices used in other, similar mills in our handling of environmental processes and regulations. Importantly, the Weyerhaeuser legacy resulted in this mill often being officially cited as “best in class” and an example for other mills to look at. Our capital expenditure plan is intended to carry on that legacy.
- Renewing, recycling, cleaning. For over 50 years, the mill has been a major recycler of operational feedstocks. Our Hemlock fiber is a renewable resource and is the best fiber in the world for the production of specialty cellulose. A major part of our energy generation is biomass or “green” energy from the use of bark and other waste material. We reuse a significant volume of our chemicals in the pulping process through our recovery system and as much pulp byproduct waste as possible is dried out and used in energy generation. We then use washing, clarifying, secondary treatment and diffusing on the effluent side, and scrubbers and precipitators on the emissions side.
- Legal obligation to report on all mill activities. As part of our legal obligations under our environmental permits, we must consistently and transparently report to the DOE on what effluent or emissions leave the mill. We also must report any episodes where a permit level was exceeded, and what we did about it. And, if we are contemplating any engineering or product changes to our operations that might have an impact on our legal effluent or emission levels, we must report these planned changes to the DOE, before any implementation is approved. Finally, we must have appropriate community relations plans in place to advise the surrounding communities of our activities or issues in a timely manner.
- Accountability. We are a human enterprise running complex technology and we recognize the ongoing challenges associated with meeting our public and regulatory environmental obligations. But, because we live here and intend to be here for the long-term, our commitment is to consistently meet those challenges and to keep our surrounding communities informed of our actions in this regard.