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Management Side
Technical Side
Pratt finds gold in going green
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Pratt Industries USA has four 100% recycled board mills; in Conyers, Georgia; Staten Island, New York; Valparaiso, Indiana, and Shreveport, Louisiana. They stay busy cranking out medium and linerboard to feed the company's 60-plus converting and box making plants now operating in more than 25 US states and in Mexico.

But in all the company's operations, there are no blue-collar employees. Instead, Chairman Anthony Pratt insists that all Pratt people have green-collar jobs. This is in keeping with the company's understanding that it is not merely a board-and-box manufacturer; it is a recycling company.

Anthony Pratt took over the reins of the company's Pratt/Visy operations in Australia, New Zealand, Southeast Asia and the USA after the death of his father. He saw quickly in the 1980s that there was gold to be mined in the US national move to reclaiming and recycling. When other company leaders were grumbling about having to incorporate recycled fiber, Pratt seized on it as a potentially profitable opportunity. He was correct.

Pratt went a step farther than most board-and-box makers. The company realized that box buyers also were having to meet some environmental goals in order to be strongly competitive. Pratt proclaimed that its mission was to protect and nurture the planet's natural resources while reducing impacts on the environment by "Harvesting the Urban Forest." This tied in nicely with the environmental goals of companies that buy packaging. And then Pratt pushed the process even farther by helping its customers design packaging that testified to environmental protection.

So what do you do when you find that your company is being very, very successful? First, you reinvest at a pace guaranteed to keep your company in the lead. In 2007, as part of the Clinton Global Initiative, Anthony Pratt promised to invest $1 billion over 10 years in recycling initiatives to help counter global warming. He did so in only five years.

Second, in accord with the leanings of a family-wide conscience, you give some of the money away. The Pratts are among the few of Australia's billionaire families who regularly give back to the community. Pratt's sister Fiona Geminder and his mother are heavily involved in the family's philanthropic foundation--chaired by Heloise Pratt--which has given away more than $500 million. Pratt Industries did indeed strike gold in recycling--enough both to sustain the company and to support charitable works generously.

Chuck Swann is senior editor of Paperitalo Publications.
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