Manufacturing does not have to be a wasteful or uneconomical process. Adopting sustainable manufacturing can help maintain your business. Benefits from sustainability will go beyond just the walls of your facility. Not only will your company be more productive, it can also have a lower negative impact on society, the environment and the economy. There's no time like the present to adopt sustainable practices.
Sustainability vs. Green Operations
While sustainability often means using more environmentally friendly processes, that is only one part of the puzzle in sustainable manufacturing. For manufacturing, sustainability means ensuring the safety of your products, employees and the local community. It also requires adherence to economic laws while creating a profit and investing in the local economy. Sustainable manufacturing encompasses values-based production with minimal negative results.
Economic sustainability establishes your company as a critical part of the local economy. Your business and the community have a mutually beneficial relationship. Good stewardship of your profits is essential. Sustainable manufacturing companies work hard to produce more sales and higher profits — but not at the cost of their employees. Treating employees well by paying fair wages and creating new jobs will attract new talent while improving the economy.
Aside from job creation and paying your taxes, investing in infrastructure will also improve your shipping needs. Sowing money into the local economy through charitable gifts and business investments improves your reputation with the population. You'll reap better customer loyalty over time.
Putting your money into the local economy does not mean you stop or slow your business growth. In fact, sustainability can have the opposite effect. For instance, one company, who wished to remain anonymous, grew 40 percent in 15 years while saving $7 billion. Even if your company is small, you can realize significant savings as you grow from adopting economic sustainability practices, which is one-third of the sustainable manufacturing pie.
Sustainability and the environment are synonymous in many minds. But, like the economy and society, this is only a third of what makes sustainable manufacturing. Environmental focuses include using sustainable energy and materials, generating less waste and preserving the environment. You can make your facility greener through switching your electricity sources from fossil fuel-based to renewable energy, but that is only one of many changes you can make.
Sustainable materials have the lowest impact on our planet. For instance, using galvanized fasteners is a sustainable choice. Using a fastener of a similar metal to the parts you're connecting will prevent galvanic corrosion, which occurs when electricity flows through two different metals, causing wear. Avoiding this type of damage will make your parts last longer. You'll require less material for replacements and generate less waste from disposing of corroded parts.
Another facet of environmental sustainability is reducing your waste. You can accomplish this by opting for renewable energy sources. Doing so can save money on energy costs, which can increase your profit margin. By conducting an energy savings initiative, one Kansas company dropped its energy costs by $24,000 annually. Greener energy sources also result in fewer emissions, but you'll also want to focus on reducing your waste. Showing a concerted effort in creating a greener business could net you tax incentives for your business.
Social sustainability focuses on your company's relationship with people. It requires ethical treatment of your employees, customers and those in the community. Following standard legal and ethical business practices is only the beginning. You'll need to take a firm requirement for high standards in interacting with everyone, including how you source your materials.
By taking care of your employees and listening to their needs, you improve morale in the workplace, thus increasing worker retention. Loyal workers also will tend to contribute more innovative ideas, some of which could improve your business. Improving your working conditions may also attract new employees. At a time when manufacturing workers are in short supply, this could be the boost your business needs to increase production.
Treating your suppliers well is another aspect of social responsibility. Doing so can gain their loyalty, and you'll help boost their businesses, in addition to your own. Taking care of customers responsibly by adhering to the promises you make can do the same by solidifying their loyalty to your brand.
Making Your Business More Sustainable
There are numerous ways to make your business more sustainable and profitable. Basing your decisions on a future-focused mindset can go a long way toward stepping into sustainability. Thinking about the future will help you decide on the best course of action for your company's profits, your employees, the environment and the world.
When moving toward sustainability, you'll find your profit margins increase as you reduce costs. Though you should focus on all three parts of sustainable manufacturing equally, you may want to make minor changes in one area to get started. For instance, one business set out to get rid of 14 hazardous waste streams. Doing so cut the company's cost for waste disposal of hazardous materials to $40,000 from $750,000 a year.
If you have a more pressing need for new employees, start changing how you treat your current workers. You'll attract new employees who will see your current workers enjoying their jobs. The exact course you take toward sustainability will depend on your business' current needs. Over time, though, you should adopt practices in economic, environmental and social sustainability.
Sustainable manufacturing is possible in any business. You'll not only make your company a better addition to the economy, but you'll do less harm while increasing your profits. It's the path all manufacturers should take for businesses that last long into the future.