YKK Stories

Fundamental Behavior 24 – Be an Ambassador

December 3, 2021
Author: YKK
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Be an ambassador

When I think of this week’s Fundamental Behavior, “Be an Ambassador,” I’m reminded of past Secretaries of State or any of our many U.S. Embassy diplomats scattered across the world in various foreign countries.  An ambassador is defined by either a “diplomat or a person who acts as a representative of a specified activity or organization.”

When presented with the opportunity to make comments on this week’s Fundamental Behavior, my first thought was coming up with something to write about. Closely followed by, I volunteered for something I’m not qualified for.  I mean, I hardly think of myself as an ambassador to our great company and brand name.  But, after thinking about it a little longer, I was wrong.

I was reminded of several past events that tested being an ambassador for YKK.  One such event occurred several years ago when Sewanee, The University of the South, conducted a study of the Duck River in Tennessee.  Geology and Hydrology students, led by Dr. Martin Knoll, performed a water sampling event from the beginnings of the Duck River in Manchester, TN past one of our former YKK S&B locations in Centerville, TN.  As a result of their study, which yielded elevated levels of certain metals in the water, they determined that “the YKK Snap factory was a likely source, as the factory had an EPA-monitored discharge area on the Duck River.”

From this Watershed Capstone Project, as it was called, Dr. Knoll’s class developed a poster which caused potential harm to our YKK brand.  That, and the fact that a red flag was raised by the State of Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC). We were notified of the poster by one of our contacts within TDEC, which was greatly appreciated.

From there, we contacted The University of the South and Dr. Knoll and explained our position, as you cannot place a price on any negative impact to the YKK brand.  Dr. Knoll was very cooperative and understanding of YKK’s position.  We talked about possibly doing a presentation for him and his class, but we needed something to present.  Soon after, we developed our own plan to conduct a YKK study, in the attempt to mimic the University’s study.  As our study was completed, we followed up with Dr. Knoll and made arrangements to present our results to him and his students.

During this entire process, I was much more focused on proving the university wrong as opposed to being someone who represented YKK, as an ambassador.  But, looking back on that event, that’s exactly what played out and that’s why I was wrong about not being an ambassador to the YKK brand and name.

That was further evidenced by a thank you letter written by Dr. Knoll and the university.  In that letter he stated how impressed they were by both the range of work that YKK does and by its commitment to protect the environment.  And based upon the discussions after we presented, how much they appreciated our rapid, extensive, and convincing sampling.  The letter went on to say it’s nice to see a big company with a sincere commitment to sustainability and the good of the environment.  They also said YKK seems to be a leader in this regard, and that they hoped we would consider returning to Sewanee for an encore presentation.

That’s just one example of being an ambassador for YKK.  But I’m sure many of you have had similar experiences, whether it’s talking or interacting with customers, fellow employees, contractors, vendors, communities, etc.  Whether or not you realized it at the time, you were representing YKK.

And that “encore presentation” with The University of the South has not yet happened, but those words and thoughts in their thank you letter convinced me more than ever that not only do we all work for a truly great and environmentally friendly company, but we are all ambassadors to the YKK brand and name.

Since we’re coming up on the end of the year and in full football season, I’ll leave you with one of many quotes I respect:

“The achievements of an organization are the results of the combined effort of each individual.” -Vince Lombardi

That also includes each of us being an ambassador and representing YKK in the best ways possible.

Wishing you and yours the merriest of Christmases and a Happy New Year!


Todd Baldwin
Director of Environmental Affairs
YKK Corporation of America