Companies are becoming more and more aware of the issues and challenges but are often not sure how to proceed.
A recent report by the Sloan School at MIT along with Boston Consulting Group (see Env Leader for links - http://www.environmentalleader.com/2009/09/18/only-30-of-firms-have-a-business-case-for-sustainability/) presents the results of a survey of corporate executives. Guess what? Their answers agree with much of our list of motivations!
In order of importance, the "sustainability-related issues" that companies believe will impact their business organization include:
- employee concern
- concern over environmental pollution
- depletion of resources (non-renewable and renewable, like water)
- societal pressures
- global political security
- population growth
- climate change
The report discusses the concerns about the gap between "intent and action" and indicates that there is not a lot of leadership towards addressing sustainability and a big shortfall when it comes to execution.
That's where we fit into the picture. Green manufacturing strategies, employing the "technology wedges" discussed in the last blog evaluated with solid performance metrics form the first steps in a strategy towards creating sustainable production. And, if we follow our scope of manufacturing encompassing all stages of product creation and distribution from raw materials through use and reclamation, we will correctly view the battlefield. The Sloan School study (http://sloanreview.mit.edu/special-report/the-business-of-sustainability/) said that many of the business leaders interviewed for the study recognized that the risks of not acting are increasing.
If we look we can find opportunity.
The Ricoh comet circle is an excellent way to represent the “supply chain” feeding the consumer. You'll probably need to go to the link to see the details - this image is too small. The forward (counterclockwise loop) is from materials through production to delivery and use. The reverse (clockwise loop at the bottom) is after the consumer is done with the product back through recycling, recovery, and return to material supply chain. Usually when a green supply chain is mentioned it is in the context of the return loop - resource recovery. That is only half the battle and, if the forward loop is done correctly, is much easier.
The consumer can be you or me at home, or a company buying something (machinery, paper, electronic components). The key idea is that the closer to the consumer that the circle loops … the more sustainable/green is the scenario.
Ricoh lists the following components to a successful strategy:
- identifying and reducing environmental impact at all stages (this is Japanese continuous improvement at its best and is key to identifying elements of the operation that need to be identified, quantified, and reduced, eliminated or otherwise offset) putting priority on "inner loop" recycling (the highest value resources are those converted into product and used by their customers; try to minimize the resources, cost, energy that is needed to return a used product to "the state of highest economic value")
Altogether, Ricoh hopes this strategy will reduce the impact of society as a whole leading to sustainable living. And it identifies many places in which our green technology wedges can be applied.
And this will help reduce any angst felt thinking about sustainability.