A local leader in green business practices

A Q&A with Richard T. Murphy Jr., president and CEO of Minneapolis-based Murphy Warehouse Company about their sustainability efforts

Richard T. Murphy Jr., president and CEO of Minneapolis-based Murphy Warehouse Company. Credit:

Q: What does Murphy Warehouse Company do?

Murphy: Simply put, we work with our clients to help them store, pick custom orders and ship their products throughout the Upper Midwest and North America. We perform these services with 200 wonderful, long-term employees.

Q: How has your business evolved over the years?

In 1904 my great, great grandfather bought two horses and a wagon. From that humble beginning, Murphy has grown to become one of the Upper Midwest’s largest logistics and warehousing operations. For most of the 20th century, Murphy managed large trucking fleets running across the country. After the deregulation of trucking in the U.S. in the 1980s, we closed this business arm and focused on our warehouse operations, which today are full service logistics service providers. This means that we manage all aspects of moving, storing and sometime manufacturing our client’s products and materials. 

Q: What does sustainability mean to Murphy?

Our belief is that a truly sustainable businesses must balance the environmental with the economic. We invest in improving the environment because it also makes economic sense. If we can enhance our financial bottom line at the same time we improve the environment, then we can become a role model for others to see the positive benefits and hopefully join the club. Many public and private companies struggle with justifying expenditures for sustainable actions. I am blessed with wonderful shareholders who love what we are doing, are proud of it, and want us to continue. They know being a ‘good neighbor’ in the communities we operate facilities in is very important to us as a family business.

Q: How has Murphy become more sustainable over the years?

We began our sustainability efforts in the 1980s by upgrading light fixtures. This has continued as technology has evolved. 

In the 1990s we focused on redeveloping our sites into native prairies and managing our stormwater onsite with bioretention basins. 

In the 2000s we pursued Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification of our warehouses through the LEED: Operations and Maintenance program. This dramatically changed how we manage our site, water use, energy, material consumption and recycling and indoor environment.

In the 2010s, we started our path into solar power generation. In 2013 our solar power initiatives placed us as the fifth largest producer in Minnesota. 

Also in 2013 we created the largest all LED lite building (350,000 square feet) in the Upper Midwest. And finally, in 2014 our second Annual Corporate Sustainability Report complied with Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) guidelines, another major accomplishment for a small business.

Q: How does sustainability fit into Murphy’s business model? 

Strategically, we are investing in our long-term future on three accounts. First, sustainable investments help reduce our operating costs, so we can stay in business profitably. Second, in the marketplace, we can help our clients meet their corporate sustainability goals by greening their supply chain. And third, we have become a national leader for sustainability in our industry, which essentially has brought us free advertising. All of these are good for our business. 

Q: Are you using any sort of tracking methodology to measure your progress toward your sustainability goals?

Yes. In fact, that raises an interesting part of our story. For many years we invested in ‘green’ practices because quite frankly, we felt it was the right thing to do. But we had a difficult time communicating this. We have found that developing and tracking measurable metrics through the LEED framework and Energy Star’s Portfolio Manager has given us the tools to more effectively communicate our efforts. We use these tools to help us manage our operations as well as report on our sustainability goals.

Q: What have been your greatest challenge?

The biggest challenge we have faced is data collection.  This is a somewhat laborious task that has to be done, but that doesn’t make it any less challenging. In the real world data collection it is much, much harder to do when you have to gather from multiple meters and utilities. We have even had one utility inform us they will longer provide detailed data. 

Q: What sustainability goals do you have for the future?

Our primary sustainability goals focus on energy, water and greenhouse gas emissions. Regarding energy, we hope to continue to increase the percentage of our electricity generated through renewable sources. This means continuing to invest in more solar power production in addition to energy efficiency. Better water management includes continuing to reduce water use and retain more stormwater onsite. For reducing greenhouse gas emissions, we continue to look for ways to upgrade Murphy trucks and reduce fuel consumption.

Q: What one thing would make it easier for you to achieve your sustainability goals?

Having our sustainability efforts be more fully valued in the buying process. Today, many customers express interest in sustainability, but it is not one of their formal selection criteria in choosing a supply chain partner. I’d like to see that change, because it would further enhance the financial benefits. That day will come, hopefully, and we think our leadership position will bring the desired financial results.

Sustainability in the City is a new monthly column by Craig Wilson and Melissa Rappaport Schifman of Sustology, a Minneapolis-based consulting firm, featuring Minneapolis-based business owners’ views and efforts on sustainability. If you would like to be considered for future articles, please contact Craig Wilson at Craig.Wilson@sustology.com.