Over the summer, Linden-based Turtle & Hughes issued a paper on environmental, social and governance and sustainability issues, a timely move given how the topics are among the hottest in the corporate world right now. The electrical and industrial distribution company said a recent survey showed that sustainability in its products, service and operations was second only to service in what was most important to customers.
The report sets out Turtle’s strategy both inside and outside the company and with its suppliers. NJBIZ recently spoke with CEO Kathleen Shanahan about what the commitment means in practical terms. “ESG is a is a global high priority, and I think Turtle has been working in this space of sustainable solutions for our customers for a long time,” she said. “We believe in smarter cleaner, safer communities — our tagline is powering a better tomorrow — our core values embrace sustainability and individual performance.
Below is an abridged version of that interview, edited for length and clarity. A video of the full discussion is available at njbiz.com/njbizconversations.
NJBIZ: The company did issue a report on ESG and sustainability over the summer and I really wanted to talk to you about that.
Kathleen Shanahan: We feel like we’ve been involved as an electrical distributor with our customers for quite a while — doing energy storage, doing, EV charging, lighting energy adaptations — where we do an ROI for every project. Customers can then take those environmental carbon savings to their customers saying this is what they’re doing.
We’re working with the New York New Jersey port authority, which was the first transportation agency to sign on to the Paris climate accord, and say how do we help you as a distributor with our power distribution expertise, our energy expertise, our lighting expertise to make sure your consumers, who are the people that use transit and use the airports and use all these facilities that are also demanding these efficiencies … How do we help you provide that to your customers? That’s what turtle really prides itself on.
NJBIZ: Okay well that’s you actually touched on a number of things, I wanted to get into in a little greater depth. But first what I’m hearing from you is that this push for sustainability is coming from customers, it’s not something that you’ve dreamed up. You were feeling that that demand before?
KS: In the past, yes, I think it was a priority for customers. It’s also a priority for our employees, I mean, I think everybody feels like they want to leave the Earth a better place for their future family members than they found it. So like I said it’s a core value for our employees, but it’s also been yes, a driver in the marketplace for our customers.
NJBIZ: OK, now just a couple of things that you mentioned that I did want to ask you about — the first one is EV charging stations. That’s obviously an important part of New Jersey’s energy master plan and for other states. I’ve heard from experts, though, who suggest that the infrastructure just isn’t there and and wonder whether it can ever be there. How does, how does Turtle fit into that and what do you what kind of work are you doing in that in that area?
KS: Well, we’re proud of our partnership with ChargePoint, the charger provider, and I think it’s important that the State of New Jersey, the state of New York, the New York-New Jersey port authority that they set the standards, then the manufacturers make the products and the distributors help them implement the products. … So I do think the change — we’re going from a gas, diesel transportation society to an electric society — but we’ve got to make sure that the grid is prepared, as well as the facilities to charge the cars. I think that it’s part of an evolution.
I think it’s happening faster than people think it’s happening, when you look at the orders for all these electric cars that are out there and coming, so I think that tells you what consumers want. And what we’re trying to do with our partnership is provide the best possible EV — in both accessibility and reliability — for that transition to electric vehicles.
And we’re using them ourselves, our own vehicles that we use, we’re testing them to see if we can achieve the same sort of deliverable expectations around a schedule and all the things that are expected around our delivery to job sites, especially in the New York New Jersey area.
NJBIZ: That’s interesting because, as you say, I think that the demand is growing and it’s growing more quickly than a lot of people realize. You also mentioned energy storage — again another big issue in New Jersey, with the offshore wind project getting up, the wind port starting to gain speed. What can you tell me about Turtle’s activities in that area?
KS: Well, we have a division in the company that is all about energy storage and we’ve announced a partnership with Cadenza which is led by one of the world’s preeminent battery experts, CEO Christina Lampe-Onnerud. We’re working with her on her product. It’s a woman-owned business, we were introduced by our one of our women board members and we’re working with them on how to bring battery storage solutions to the marketplace. And of course battery storage is one of those opportunities that everybody’s trying to figure out how much battery can store, when’s the best time to go off the grid to the battery, then back to the grid. It’s all about usage of the grid and relieving the pressures on the electric grid at the high points of use during the day.
So we are working with several companies. We worked with a company in Latin America, to figure out this on-off the grid reliable energy transfer to maintain the workflow of business, whatever that might be.
NJBIZ: All right, and is the technology there? Because I’m hearing what you’re saying that you’re trying to do this, but does the technology exist?
KS: The technology is there. With cadenza it’s all on the job site and the job needs … the energy needs and the length of time you need the energy. So it’s all about all of those components — the battery size and the battery’s ability to store and the battery’s ability to then restore energy as it’s drawn down. So I think that it’s evolving. It’s not perfect, yet it’s getting better.
We are very intrigued and interested and excited about this partnership. Cadenza has done a project, I think … where they actually have a battery storage product on site that they’re testing. So everyone’s looking to see how much of a load that these products can absorb right.
NJBIZ: Any other interesting products projects? You mentioned the port authority, I think read that you did some work the Hudson yards in New York, what was involved there?
KS: We helped the Hudson yards design the first micro grid that allows them to ensure energy continuity for the members of the community. That’s what micro grids do, and we help them both design and implement.
We’re working with some partners such as Eaton on the first micro grid in New York City. A lot of communities are looking to establish micro grids, which then allows them to avoid brownouts, to secure energy reliability and if the grid goes out, they still have that as a backup. So that’s what we did in Hudson yards — very proud of that, a big project. And again that’s one of these innovative opportunities that we are very agile and interested in supporting signature statements such as Hudson yards.