Hop on the phone with Bridgestone/Firestone executive Courtney Cannon for about 20 minutes, and you start to get the feeling that all the world’s problems are, indeed, solvable, and everything is going to be just fine.
Over the past seven years or so, Courtney has developed herself into an integral cog in Bridgestone’s manufacturing sustainability machine, focusing her efforts on aligning what is often considered competing priorities: Engineering new ways to grow the company’s profitability and manufacturing footprint while simultaneously lowering overall CO2 emissions. Today she’s worked her way through the ranks to become senior director of business optimization at Firestone Industrial Products, and just a few short months ago, she worked as Bridgestone’s senior manager of digital manufacturing strategy, working to develop short- and long-term strategies to keep Bridgestone globally competitive in the tire industry.
No matter her title, making Bridgestone (and as a result, the world) a more sustainable place is the theme that strings her work together.
“It’s interesting that even as I’ve transitioned into other roles, I’ve always held on to some sustainability responsibilities, which I’ve absolutely loved,” she says. “When you’re talking about plant expansions and growing production through expansion of our facilities, it can oftentimes compete with your CO2 footprint because the more you make, the more you emit. So, in my world, we really need to think more broadly and differently and challenge the status quo, challenge what we’ve done historically and then also be good community stewards.”
One of her most recognizable cross-functional sustainability projects began in the mid-2010s when Courtney (then working as Bridgestone’s energy manager) and team began dreaming up a solar farm at one of the company’s manufacturing plants. The venture wasn’t as simple as it sounds, requiring Courtney and the team to put in the legwork to partner with utility companies and local commissioners, as well as learn the installation regulations to complete the project safely and efficiently.
“It took a while and there were certainly hurdles, but ultimately here we are in 2022 and we have an onsite solar array that directly feeds to a plant. Every single teammate that drives into this plant every single day sees and understands the commitment that Bridgestone has to sustainability, which I think is huge. And I hope it establishes some precedent for others to be brave and be bold and do it,” she says. “It’s something not only I am personally proud of, but I’m proud of Bridgestone for.”
Continuing her sustainability-focused crusade, Courtney says it’s important for tire manufacturers to look inward to investigate how and where they can improve their manufacturing processes in a more energy-efficient way.
“I love the alignment of sustainability with our corporate social responsibility because where we produce tires is very important. The investment is happening largely in the U.S., but also globally in cleaning up our grid,” she says. “There are significant advantages for us to manufacture in an area that is cleaning up with the grid, making grid efficiency improvements, because that means for every kilowatt-hour we use of energy, there’s less CO2 emitted in the atmosphere.”
She encourages tire dealers to find ways to make sustainability improvements in their own shops, adding that no matter the initiative – whether it’s sustainability-focused or not – involving every team member and supporting an open dialogue tends to be what leads to success.
“In every energy project that we have funded in Bridgestone, it started with a teammate idea, and that’s critically important,” she says. “So have the conversation, the dialogue, the forum to allow for ideas to present themselves, and then have the conversations about how we take action.”