The dream of a green economy has been one that has attracted many consumers and manufacturers over recent years. Growing public and political concern over issues of sustainability and resource consumption has led to buzzwords such as “green” and “eco-friendly” to carry significant weight in the industry. As environmental concerns continue to grow, we can’t help but ask, where do we find ourselves on the road to a truly sustainable manufacturing industry?
Pressing Environmental Concerns
The production of greenhouse gas emissions and fossil fuel consumption rank at the top of present day environmental concerns. The United Nations has stated that, as a planet, we must cut almost all greenhouse gas emissions within the next 100 years in order to avoid the worst effects of climate change. That is a significant goal to set. It will require all manufacturing to reevaluate their processes and streamline their systems to significantly reduce their carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions by 2100. Many scientists argue that these dramatic actions may already not be enough, but regardless of the specifics, the incentive for manufacturers to “go green” is real and pressing.
The Growth of the Triple Bottom Line
While once it could easily have been argued that the corporate bottom line would always be defined in financial terms, an appreciation for a so called “Triple Bottom Line” consisting of financial, as well as social and environmental benefits, has grown in popularity. In a survey of roughly 3,000 corporate executives, almost two-thirds responded that companies consider sustainability to be a significant and lasting part of the success of their businesses. More than 60 percent of consumers have indicated that they value environmental sustainability as the most important consideration when deciding whether or not to purchase a product. In fact, 46 percent have even reported that they are willing to pay a premium for sustainably manufactured products.
Big Manufacturers Are on Board
Green manufacturing is about more than just marketing to customers. Sustainability in manufacturing is best described as a systematic approach to reduce or even eliminate waste through optimizing manufacturing resources and technologies. In short, what is good for the environment is also good for business. This explains why so many U.S. companies, and companies around the world, are willing to make the long-term investment in high-quality, sustainable manufacturing practices.
Take Nike for example. Nike has notably increased corporate revenue by 26 percent after implementing a series of sustainable manufacturing practices. Those practices include waste reduction, smart energy consumption, and the use of green and renewable resources. Another big name, Walmart, currently saves more than $500 million per year as a direct result of their sustainability projects.
Walmart notably changed the detergent industry by committing to sell only concentrated liquid laundry detergent to cut back on resources used to ship and sell non-concentrated detergent. By selling only concentrated liquid, Walmart committed to saving more than 400 million gallons of water, 95 million pounds of plastic resin, and over 125 million pounds of cardboard in the space of three years. As you can see, when big players commit to sustainability, even small changes can have a big impact.
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