Material and equipment manufacturer working to meet the demands of an environmentally conscious world

Volm Companies and Yellowstone Plastics is a material and equipment manufacturer and supplier. The business offers product solutions for fresh produce, frozen and processed foods, lawn and garden, pet products, outdoor fencing and fabrics, erosion control, landscape, culvert and drainage, and seafood, snacks, sweets, and dairy industries.

Volm Companies and Yellowstone Plastics’ portfolio of products includes packaging of various sizes and styles, packaging supplies, and a full line of packaging equipment. Services include packing facility design and engineering, as well as inventory management.

As a complete design, equipment, and consumables supplier, Volm Companies believe they have a unique and exciting opportunity to provide thoughtful solutions that help reduce landfill waste and meet the demands of a more environmentally conscious world. The Green Business Bureau is proud to share Volm Companies’ sustainability journey so far.

Approaching Sustainability with social and environmental responsibility in mind

Volm Companies and Yellowstone Plastics (YP) recognize business operations need to change to cause less harm to the environment. As such, the brand seeks to continuously evolve based on customer demand and expectations, to reduce the environmental impact of business practices, and to create a socially responsible corporation. Let’s take a closer look at some of the key sustainability initiatives Volm and YP have implemented.

Tile making night hosted by volm companies

Tile-making night hosted at Volm Companies. Volm sponsored one of the Antigo Legacy Mosaic Mural Projects. This project’s goal was to bring the Antigo Community together by having community members create ceramic tiles that are displayed as part of the 5 murals throughout the school district.

Diverting waste and supporting a circular economy with innovative design

Over the course of a year, Volm Companies has kept more than 900,000 lbs of pre-consumer waste out of landfills. Below we detail how the business has done this.

Firstly, Volm Companies sends pre-consumer material that was either defective, rejected, or excess poly film to a recycler, who’ll then transform this material into useful products.

Secondly, to increase recycling efforts, Volm has implemented a 3-month recycling initiative at their corporate location, whereby the company donates $1 for every pound of material that’s recycled (cardboard, paper, RICs 1-5, glass, and aluminum cans). This money is donated to local non-profits with a special meaning to one of their own employees.

Thirdly, Volm is working hard to expand their sustainable packaging portfolio, while also evaluating how to design products for a circular economy. Their portfolio now includes recyclable materials, paper, biobased, compostable, and lightweight products. The brand has also developed a light-blocker film that filters out UV light to slow the over-ripening of food products, helping to reduce food waste.

PGA netting manufactured for PGA tournaments, this material is then recycled

PGA netting manufactured for PGA tournaments – this material is then recycled.

As a result of Volm and YP’s dedication toward waste reduction, innovation, and a circular economy (plus more), the brand was one of nine award winners at the 34th annual Wisconsin Manufacturer of the Year (MOTY) ceremony. The MOTY awards are given for outstanding achievements in manufacturing. Volm was selected from more than 9,000 eligible Wisconsin manufacturers. Finalists are evaluated on innovation, philanthropy, customer commitment, advances in technology, and the quality of jobs provided.

Knapkavage Bag-Made using the paper that won the 2021 Innovator of the Year Award for the Sustainable Packaging Coalition

Knapkavage Bag: Made using the paper that won the 2021 Innovator of the Year Award for the Sustainable Packaging Coalition

Improving energy efficiency for a reduced carbon footprint

Volm Companies and YP know creating a sustainable business needs a holistic approach, one that considers operational impacts across a multitude of environmental factors. For this reason, the brand’s green agenda extends beyond waste reduction.

The business is also focused on reducing energy waste via efficiency improvements, and conducting energy audits to identify target areas for improvement. Audit results are then used to draw up recommended actions. The aim is to reduce the business’s energy use and carbon footprint.

Creating a socially responsible business via philanthropy and community involvement

Volm and YP recognize the importance of supporting their communities through both philanthropy and community involvement. They are currently working on developing a Volunteer Time Off policy that will allow employees to give back to their communities while being paid. The brand understands that having a work-life balance can be difficult, so this program will allow people to give back to their community without having to sacrifice time with their own families.
For Volm and YP, social responsibility has always been a core business value. The brand has a long history of philanthropy and giving back to the communities which have supported them for so many years. With its corporate office in Antigo, WI, and as the second largest employer in the city, Volm knows that if they want to attract and retain staff, they must take care of their employees and their families.

With this in mind, Volm Companies sponsors several activities for their employee’s families. For instance, for families that are deeply rooted in their Christian values, Volm covers the cost of their employee’s children to attend one week at a Lutheran Bible camp during the summer.

The Green Business Bureau brings accountability and guidance for sustainable progression

Volm Companies’ wanted to work with a green business certification provider that would not only certify and validate their sustainability program, but one that could also act as a resource to help the company progress their sustainability journey. As such, Volm and YP partnered with the Green Business Bureau.

The team at Volm Companies are committed to being good stewards for not only the environment but also the community. They wanted their employees, customers, suppliers, and community members to recognize the brand’s dedication to making the world a better place for generations to come. Volm Companies knows that partnering with GBB will help bring accountability, keep the momentum high, and prevent stagnancy. Volm Companies’ Green Team now manages the implementation of GBB across 4 sites.

Lean training at Volm’s Pasco location.

Lean training at Volm’s Pasco location.

By joining GBB, Volm Companies pledges their commitment to do right by their customers, employees, communities served, and the environment. Using GBB’s EcoAssessment and EcoPlanner, Volm Companies can identify areas for improvement within the scope of sustainability, while also celebrating their achievements. The GBB platform has also allowed Volm to identify, prioritize, and measure new sustainability initiatives, and have them certified by a trusted 3rd party.

Today Volm Companies can celebrate their silver-green business certification status.

Rising to the challenge of sustainability by following their journey of continuous improvement

The biggest sustainability challenge Volm and YP have faced has been designing products for a circular economy, especially in regards to plastics. There are times when plastic is the best option for packaging because it allows for better breathability and has necessary light-blocking properties – both of which prevent food waste. The brand also knows that HDPE and LDPE are the safest plastic food storage containers available today for food contact. However, Volm and YP understand that they need to continuously evaluate their product offerings to work towards more sustainable packaging options, and so the brand turns to innovative design to continuously seek less harmful options.

Another challenge Volm and YP anticipate is building sustainability into the company’s culture. It’s easier to build a company around sustainability than it is to build sustainability into an already existing business. Having five separate sites in the U.S. and one located in Canada, all of which operate very differently, makes the challenges more unpredictable. To help mitigate some of those challenges, the brand has chosen to measure each location separately through the GBB platform. Recognizing the one size fits all approach doesn’t work, the company feels that independently scoring each site will allow the team to address sustainability efforts in a quicker time frame.

Despite these challenges, Volm and YP have made a lot of progress. We’ve summarized this progress below, that is, the business has:

  • Implemented an effective recycling system at five locations in Antigo and has begun tracking waste diversion.
  • Conducted regular energy audits to reduce overall energy demand and business-related emissions.
  • Worked hard in establishing a Volunteer Time off policy to encourage employees to give back to their communities.
  • Written a Supplier Code of Conduct to ensure the brand is working with businesses that have shared environmental values.
  • Joined GBB and has achieved silver-green business certification status.

Volm and YP recognize that their sustainability journey has just started, but through the strong and steady efforts of the brand’s Green Team, the business is confident they will reach their goals.

Volm Companies’ mission statement is that we exist to serve and build up our customers, suppliers, communities, and each other. For Volm, sustainability then means more than just selling products that meet customer sustainability needs, it means understanding our total footprint and taking active measures to thoughtfully reduce that as a company. Being mindful of our impact is simply following our mission statement” – Daniel Mueller, CEO of Volm Companies and Yellowstone Plastics

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