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Posted 9.19.05

As Hurricane Katrina pounded mercilessly into Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama, far away at the Eaglewood Resort near Chicago 200 plus Fairmount Minerals Company employees began a three-day Appreciative Inquiry summit with the goal of creating a company fully grounded in principles of sustainability and corporate social responsibility.

Headquartered in Chardon, Ohio, Fairmount is one of the largest producers of industrial sand in the United States. Men and women from approximately 11 Fairmount facilities across the country often slipped out of the summit to call and check on friends, family and colleagues affected by the hurricane. In the midst of the excitement of recreating their company, many were worried for loved ones and strangers battling the devastation of the worst storm to hit the United States.

By Day 3 of the summit, Fairmount CEO, Chuck Fowler, stood up and announced that the company was working to locate ex-Fairmount employees from the Harvey, LA facility and determine whether they were safe and what could be done to help them. Additionally, he told employees, Fairmount was making a donation through the Red Cross to aid the massive recovery efforts needed in the aftermath of the storm. Although employees had not yet finalized a new action plan for their company, the first step toward becoming a business that sees itself as an agent of world benefit had begun.

Named SiO2 – Sustainable In Our Organization – after the chemical elements in sand, the summit brought together an eclectic group of miners, customer service representatives, sales person, executive management, bankers, lawyers, board members and more focused on the “3P’s” – Profit, People, Planet. FMC is 62% employee owned and wants input as to how employees want this company to look in 10 to 15 years. Working with Weatherhead's Custom Program staff and Dr. David Cooperrider, co-creator of Appreciative Inquiry and founder of The Center for Business as an Agent of World Benefit, Fairmount decided to use the Appreciative Inquiry method to build on its core strengths to develop a shared vision of becoming a sustainable company. The summit was facilitated by Cooperrider with guest speaker Chris Laszlo walking the participants through the concept of sustainability and encouraging them to develop unique sustainable programs for their company.

Guest speakers Bob Stiller, CEO of Green Mountain Coffee Roasters, and Cindy Frick, V.P. of Yellow-Roadway, both of whom are from companies who are veterans of the benefits of AI, CSR and sustainability practices, recounted their experiences and gave positive encouragement to the Fairmount Minerals employees.

“We are now focused on long term value versus liquidity,” said Fowler, a graduate of Weatherhead’s EMBA program. “The foundry industry is one of the world’s largest recyclers. At FMC we are trying to be an empowered family.”

Soon the FMC “family car” may be a hybrid vehicle. On Day 2 of SiO2, Jenniffer Deckard, CFO of FMC and a Weatherhead EMBA graduate as well, announced the company would give $2,000 to each employee who purchased a hybrid car. Those monies come in addition to what the government is offering. FMC then provided a line-up of hybrid vehicles for employees to inspect during their breaks throughout the summit.

Employees participating in the summit developed innovative ideas for better communications between miners and the crew at ground level, improved health and wellness programs. They were joined by representatives of other companies which are both customers to and suppliers for Fairmount, as well as people from several NGO’s such as Saving the Birds Thru Habitat and Wildlife Habitat Council.

Fairmount has long made greater efforts than those mandated by federal, state or local agencies, according to Kay Charter, executive director of Saving the Birds Thru Habitat, but wanted to do more. It wants to become not only a sustainable development company, but a leader in the industry in achieving that goal.

Fairmount, which has long made greater efforts than those mandated by federal, state or local agencies, wanted to do more. It wanted to become a sustainable development company - and it wanted to lead the industry in achieving that goal. The August summit was the culmination of an eighteen-month planning process to move the corporation in the direction of sustainable development from the top down and the bottom up.

There they were joined by representatives of other companies which are both customers to and suppliers for Fairmount, as well as people from several NGO’s (non-governmental organizations such as Saving Birds Thru Habitat and Wildlife Habitat Council).

 

 

 

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