On business: The winners: Environment, ethics, investors

We've got winners to report from several arenas.

Businesses that cut pollutants and energy use are winners in the private-sector category of the annual Minnesota Environmental Initiative awards, presented Thursday night at ceremonies in Minneapolis.

First place was claimed by the sprawling Flint Hills Resources oil refinery at Pine Bend, about 15 miles southeast of downtown St. Paul.

The complex is producing more gasoline, jet and other fuels while managing to cut harmful emissions into the air, water and ground by more than 50 percent since 1999.

The management of Flint Hills, which paid almost $19 million in environmental fines in the late 1990s and 2000, took it upon itself six years ago to clean up the plant and make it a lot more efficient. Flint Hills also accepted a challenge from the Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy to develop an independent means to monitor progress through external consultants and the University of Minnesota.

The explanation of the unusual partnership and emissions data can be seen at www.fhrpinebend.com.

A runner-up in the private-sector category was Bloomington-based Donaldson Co., which developed engine filter systems for new and used diesel engines. The filters cut up to 95 percent of particulates and nitrogen oxide emissions from diesel trucks, school buses and cars. It takes about 24 hours of running an old diesel bus to fill a gallon pail with soot, to say nothing of the nitrogen and hydrocarbons escaping tailpipes.

Cleaner diesels mean fewer sick kids and healthier lungs for everybody, and potentially $200 million in annual sales for Donaldson.

District Energy of downtown St. Paul, owned by its member businesses and other users, also won an award for switching from coal and oil to waste wood as the principal source of fuel for the ultra-efficient boilers and generators that provide electricity and steam heat to St. Paul commercial and other customers.

These three are great examples of Minnesota businesses that are cutting pollution at the same time they are expanding their enterprises efficiently, said Mike Harley, executive director of Minnesota Environmental Initiative, which works with business and government on environmental issues.

You can read all about the innovative finalists and interesting partnerships that are making Minnesota a cleaner, leaner more efficient enterprise at www.mn-ei.org.

Business ethics awards

An insurance agency, a law firm and a diversified industrial company are recipients of the 2005 Minnesota Business Ethics Award.

The winners were honored Thursday at seminars and ceremonies sponsored by the Twin Cities Chapter of the Society of Financial Service Professionals and the Center for Ethical Business Cultures at the University of St. Thomas.

The winners in the small, medium and large-company categories:

• The Awes Agency, a 21-year-old Edina insurance and risk management agency founded by three partners who brought more than 60 years of insurance experience and unhappy experiences working for others. The judges said this firm, in a tough industry, has been tenacious in providing excellent service for customers and a great workplace for employees.

• Gray Plant Mooty is a 139-year-old law firm with 153 attorneys and 147 paralegal and support employees. The MBEA judges noted the firm's emphasis on values and integrity, including recognition of employees who pay careful attention to client satisfaction and engage as community volunteers.

• Pentair Inc. has acquired and sold a number of businesses over the last four decades. With $2.3 billion in 2004 revenue and about 13,000 employees worldwide, it currently has two operating groups. Amid the perpetual motion, the judges said one constant is CEO Randall Hogan reinforcing an ethical culture with a "winning right" approach. That's illustrated by policies and practices that mark Pentair's commitment to sustaining an ethical culture.

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