Sustainable products for the future
When a family-owned company called Calstone held an open house at its Scarborough, Ontario headquarters to announce its commitment to the environment, guests came through in droves to tour the efficient 55,000-square-foot plant, office and showroom space, which featured Calstone’s five furniture lines in versatile and harmonious colours.
The company, which has supplied furniture to businesses, universities and branches of government for the past 20 years, was demonstrating its commitment to a green headquarters. This on top of its industry-leading environmental guarantee that clients who participated in its innovative new remanufacturing program could rest assured that their Calstone products would never end up in a landfill.
The family-owned business traces its roots back to 1985 when Jim Ecclestone was Vice President of new projects for a manufacturer called Ontario Store Fixtures. The company also produced mailroom furniture and packing stations on a subcontracted basis. When Ontario Store Fixtures decided to focus exclusively on its namesake product, Ecclestone and a partner, Frank Ober, went out on their own and took over the subcontracted manufacturing operations.
“The company I was doing business with for that product told me that if I was to ever set up my own business they would love to buy from me so that gave me the incentive to move ahead, find a partner and set up the business,” explains Jim Ecclestone, president of Calstone. “The company grew from basically zero dollars up to the $7 to 10 million range where we sit today.”
While mailroom furniture and packing stations are still important lines for Calstone, the company branched out into manufacturing steel-based workstations for educational institutions and businesses in 1987. These products quickly became the young company’s mainstay.
In 2006, the business was shaken up. Partner Frank Ober retired and Ecclestone bought out his share. Daughters Laura and Jamie and son Matthew made a commitment to their father to carry on the family business.
At the same time as the buy-out, the growing trends in environmental initiatives and the fight against global warming began to map out the possibilities of a growing business. “One of the things in the newspaper every day, as I wondered about what it was going to be like in 25 years, was about global warming,” says Ecclestone. “That gave us the insight to look at the different things that we could do.”
One of these was to look at 0 per cent to landfill. Since Calstone is a metal-based product line, the firm went to all of its clients to assure them that that once they were done with the products they would be reused and recycled, so that 0 per cent went to a landfill.
“That was a successful launch for us in 2006, one of things for which we have won a couple of awards,” says Ecclestone. The latest award nomination is the 2010 Waste Minimization Award from The Recycling Council of Ontario (RCO). Calstone’s Remanufacturing Program was nominated in the Sustainable Program Category, which evaluates products or services that improve the management of resources and/or minimize negative environmental impacts during their own life cycle or the life cycle of other goods and services.
Calstone also decided to bring its environmental commitments into its manufacturing plant. The space uses plants to cleanse the air naturally while the 2,000-gallon water tank uses rainwater in a loop system. “It actually has a pump on it that pushes all the water through our spot-welding equipment and cools the machines and goes back into the tank,” Ecclestone explains. “We built a heat exchanger on top using a radiator and two fans and we take the heat out of the water and blow it into the plant.”
The firm is in the process of adding four more heat exchange units as well. “Our game plan is to have our whole manufacturing operation from hot water and get to a point where our natural gas will only be used for emergencies,” adds Ecclestone. “We also flush our toilets from this tank. We utilize the rainwater as much as possible. It is an exciting time for us as we continue to move toward zero emissions from our building.”
The environmental commitment within the business and its manufacturing processes definitely set Calstone apart from the competition. “There are a lot of different green initiatives being done out there now,” says Ecclestone. “One of the things that is exciting for us is we have done so many things at very little cost. You can spend millions of dollars to go green and still not be where we are today.”
But are Calstone’s green initiatives paying off with its customers. “Just over a year ago, we landed a contract with Pitney Bowes Canada to supply all their mailroom furniture,” says Ecclestone. “Two of the executives looked around our facility and saw all the green initiatives we were doing and how organized we were. One of the executives said that that was the thing that cemented that they really wanted to do business with us.”
Besides its green commitment to its plant and its products, Calstone also prides itself in being an open-book. “We actually share information with other Canadian manufacturers,” adds Ecclestone. “I think that is extremely important in this day and age. We need to share incentives to keep our manufacturing sector healthy and clean. We also work with the City of Toronto and the City of Scarborough in letting them bring other companies into our facilities to let them see what we are doing to go green and how it can truly be beneficial. Our whole process here is that it is a good feeling we are doing all the right things for the environment.”