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Beginning a Sustainable Manufacturing Initiative is No Small Matter

sustainable manufacturing

Earth Day celebrations each April 22 turn a spotlight on the concepts of conservation and environmental matters. Yet to be truly effective, Earth Day must be more than a one-day celebration. For those who care about the long-term sustainability of natural resources through environmentally sound practices, Earth Day is every day. Those ideas of conversation and environmental sustainability are also alive in the manufacturing industry, as manufacturers look to use sustainable manufacturing processes to minimize negative environmental resources and conserve energy and natural resources.

Positively Impacts Bottom Line

For many years, sustainability efforts remained largely lip-service but with time, these practices are becoming more of the norm for manufacturers throughout the U.S. Why the change? Manufacturers are seeing that sustainability done correctly can positively impact the bottom line for the company and create positive ripple effects for vendors, suppliers and consumers alike.

While there is no common definition of sustainable manufacturing, the U.S. Department of Commerce defines it as, “The creation of manufactured products that use processes to minimize negative environmental impacts, conserve energy and natural resources, are safe for employees, communities and consumers and are economically sound.”

Sustainable manufacturing is no small matter, encompassing a range of economic, societal and environmental factors. Creating and maintaining an initiative at your company requires looking at all departments throughout the company as well as throughout the supply chain. Done well, sustainability takes time and requires good communication to get everyone on the same page, understanding why the company has chosen to pursue this initiative, possible effects of ongoing actions and the impact of compliance/non-compliance throughout the company. With great effort and over time, good sustainability practices can empower employees, enhance the safety and quality of a product and benefit the community where the manufacturer is located.

Reasons to Create a Sustainability Initiative

Increase operational efficiency through reduced costs and waste

Growth of competitive advantage

Appeal to new customers

Method to protect and strengthen brand

Platform to build long-term positive reputation and improve trust

Boost competitiveness within the segment and industry

Consistent Action for Success

Some companies initially test the waters of sustainability by looking for ways to lower resource and production costs. If that initiative is successful, many manufacturers look for other ways to grow and formalize this initiative. Having a dedicated plan and staff tasked with the initiative can often determine if the endeavor will be successful or not. Sustainability practices are long-term and those who pick and choose applications rather than integrating them across all business functions will find it hard to achieve the same level of success as those that fully commit.

Baby Steps

Understandably, taking on a sustainability initiative in your business is a big step, one that deserves guidance throughout the process. To learn more about sustainability practices, visit the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) for resources and tool kits to guide the process.

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