September 29, 2023 / 2 minute read
A Transition from Product to Impact
Written by Scott Barbour, President and CEO
When I first started with ADS, it didn’t take long to recognize that this company was much more than a stormwater product manufacturer. Yes, we were providing solutions for the construction and agriculture industries, but we were also managing the entire lifecycle of a raindrop. ADS products capture, convey, store and treat water, a precious natural resource, before returning it to lakes and streams.
And there was more. We were one of the largest plastic recycling companies in North America. As an industry leader, ADS was developing products made from materials designed to be environmentally sustainable.
We had a unique and strong value proposition. Which led me to this question: How do we shift the way we think about ADS from a construction supplier to a company that plays a significant role in helping to manage and protect our environment and communities?
Over the last twenty years, we have seen an increase in the frequency and magnitude of large-scale stormwater events – such as severe storms, hurricanes, and flooding – all of which significantly impact communities if there are not systems in place managing water. These events cost billions of dollars in addition to causing economic disruption and environmental damage. ADS products help neighborhoods address problems associated with these disasters, keeping residents safe from flooding and other problems linked to increased rainfall. We also work with communities to improve regulations around stormwater management to help account for these larger events.
The challenge wasn’t changing the business strategy. It was changing how we thought about the business.
Any change starts internally, so I gathered a group to talk about what it would take to transition ADS from a company that built products… to a company that drove impact in our communities and in how water was managed and protected. We knew it would require a plan with purposeful steps, new branding and focus on how we talk about ADS, as well as a deep commitment to these priorities.
Thanks to so many in the organization, ADS did an excellent job executing that early plan, including adopting the company tagline “Our reason is water,” which highlights our commitment as a company focused on water, sustainability and the environment.
Our priorities expanded from there. ADS’ 10-year sustainability goals now include:
- Increasing recycling operations to utilize 1 billion pounds of recycled plastic annually.
- Reducing environmental impact.
- Embracing accountability and social purpose
- Improving operational excellence.
- Being transparent in our progress
These goals are now the core tenets at ADS. We aren’t simply talking about community impact, we are investing in people, facilities and equipment, while taking purposeful steps to execute on these goals:
We’ve hired leaders — all women — in safety, recycling, sustainability and DEI who are all developing and executing plans to push us forward in those core tenets. For example, our annual Sustainability Report holds ADS accountable to investors, customers and ourselves in how we operate, and ensures we remain focused on new and advanced recycling processes and partnerships, pushing us to that 1 billion pound goal.
We launched the ADS Foundation, which is dedicated to inspiring social equity for organizations that develop clean water and recycling solutions available to the public. To date, we have donated more than $4 million to a variety of organizations that focus on recycling, water and community.
Finally, the new ADS Engineering and Technology Center is beginning to take shape. It will be the most advanced stormwater engineering center in the world, bringing together engineers and researchers to focus on product engineering and materials science, and manufacturing technology. This investment will allow ADS to innovate faster and deliver cutting-edge new products to the market that preserve and manage stormwater in neighborhoods across the country.
It's been incredibly rewarding to see these changes and advances take shape, and to be embraced by employees, customers and investors who understand how ADS is doing so much more than providing products.
And I’m excited to watch our team succeed as we continue to hone this message and make these important investments.
Our Reason IS Water.