WisBusiness: Panelists say ‘Green Tier’ program can help brand Wisconsin

By Brian E. Clark

Wisconsin can use its Green Tier program not only to protect the environment and stimulate the economy but as a way to brand the state as ecologically progressive, panelists at a Green Tier conference at Monona Terrace said Monday.

But to do that, the program, which gives companies that meet and exceed environmental standards regulatory flexibility, must be ramped up, said John Imes, executive director of the Wisconsin Environmental Initiative. His group co-sponsored the gathering, along with the Department of Natural Resources.

Tom Still, who moderated the panel, said the Badger State must get beyond so-called “random acts of efficiency.”

Still, head of the Wisconsin Technology Council, said Green Tier practices need to become a “routine” part of doing business.

Paul Linzmeyer, a Green Bay executive, said Bay Towel embraced Green Tier and promoted the effort by putting the program’s logo on its trucks in big letters.

“By doing that we turned our customers into advocates,” he said. “It gave us a competitive advantage. Extending our brand with a Green Tier component made perfect business sense.”

State Sen. Mark Miller, D-Monona, told of a Dane County company that helped clean up the environment by using scrap plastic to make blister packs. Not only did the businessman make money by having others paying to take their scrap plastic, but he kept the material out of landfills and turned it into a profitable product.

Other panelists told of companies that were encouraged to innovate because they knew they could get more flexibility from the DNR if they went beyond the base environmental regulatory levels.

Matt Frank, DNR secretary, praised the Packaging Corp. of America for finding a way to reuse nearly seven times more of the methane it was emitting by capturing the gas and using it as an energy source.

The key for the success of Green Tier, he said, is to expand the program to all sectors of the Wisconsin economy and get more companies to participate “in order to improve the bottom line and their environmental performance.”

The conference continues today with Gov. Jim Doyle scheduled to speak in the morning.