Orosz leads the greening of Hamilton Sundstrand

BY Deborah Nason

Three members of Hamilton Sundstrand's Air Management Systems team - from left, Terry Cowles, Deborah Orosz and Jeanne Larsen - were finalists for the Tech Council's award in the large business innovation leadership category.

"Greening" a global conglomerate like United Technologies is a tall order. Beyond corporate-wide environmental goals and external regulatory pressure, it takes strong internal standard bearers to lead the charge — and Deborah Orosz is a shining example of how to do it right.

For her efforts as Green Programs Manager for UTC subsidiary Hamilton Sundstrand, headquartered in Windsor Locks, Orosz recently was named one of Connecticut Technology Council's Women of Innovation.

She sees her work as a calling.

"Leading people — which has been so rewarding to me — [allows me] to follow my passion and have my organization following along with me. Sometimes I just stop and think 'Wow, they're taking my lead!' and it's so exciting to me to see that happening," Orosz said in her acceptance speech.

The award program honors women who serve as role models and leaders in technology, science and engineering.

Orosz holds a B.S. in chemical engineering from the University of Connecticut, and a master's in management of technology from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. With a background in materials engineering, she has spent much of her career in the areas of process improvement and environmental replacement materials.

"Environmental replacement means looking at chemical constituents to see which are harmful for the environment or people, and replacing those substances," she explained. "For example, we look at aging components and materials that are becoming obsolete and no longer available. We don't do it just for regulatory reasons, but also because of our emphasis on social responsibility."

While overseeing green programs from 2006-09, Orosz focused on both processes and standards. "I put in place processes (a series of tasks) and standard work (instructions for tasks). If we made all our products environmentally efficient, but if the processes were not efficient, we wouldn't stay in business," she said.

As green programs manager, she focused on two major areas of compliance: UTC environmental goals and European Union chemical regulations.

"UTC has a culture of socially responsible people — it's highly encouraged," Orosz said.

Indeed, for the past 20 years, UTC has had an expanding array of environment goals in place, which now include such areas as: greenhouse gas emissions, non-greenhouse gas emissions, worldwide water consumption, packaging, industrial process waste, energy efficiency and "materials of concern."

She led global teams in this initiative, taking a three-pronged approach:

Product review. "We came to realize that we need to review them environmentally earlier in the design process," she said.

Partnering with other UTC divisions to share knowledge.

Investing in laboratory research in environmental replacement to identify different materials.

As a result of her success in this area, she won the UTC Environmental Health & Safety Product Environmental Award for Product Goals — Best in Class.

The second major area of accomplishment for Orosz is related to UTC compliance with the European Community regulation known as REACH — Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemical substances, which went into effect in 2007.

"This regulation put restrictions on the chemicals in our products that could be shipped to the European Union, which means we need to look closely across all our products — for example, we even look at an adhesive within a product," Orosz said.

"As a best practice, we partnered with industry so we could benchmark our work and determine how to best approach compliance for environmentally friendly substitutes in our products. We also needed to stay in touch with industry to figure out which next chemicals are likely to be regulated," she said. "We needed to be proactive to ensure we were being compliant with the initial list of restricted chemicals but also looking at the long term and making sure we had replacements identified, [because it takes so long to qualify a new material]."

Her leadership and passion yielded some significant professional opportunities — she refers to them as "honors" — in the following areas:

NASA's Shuttle Environmental Assurance Initiative — she served on an industry-wide team that provided environmental insight into space shuttle operations.

Aerospace Industry Association Engineering Management Committee — she worked on a regulatory review sub-committee related to REACH.

Corporate-wide research — she led teams across UTC, coordinating research efforts in environmental replacement materials.

Since 2009, Orosz has been serving in the position of operating effectiveness manager for Hamilton Sundstrand.

"I still incorporate green principles in my new leadership role," she said. "I'm continuing my same focus on improving processes. The whole concept of sustainable business goes beyond a small technological piece — it's also about economic and social sustainability. Now I look at all the aspects of the business, especially looking at our people."

What's behind her drive?

"In all my positions I've always valued environmental responsibility and I've tried to do the best that I can in any given day. I'm happy to work at a company that supports social and environmental sustainability."