Friday, December 25, 2009

Green New Year


The Copenhagen conference on climate change has just concluded (see http://en.cop15.dk/) and we will not really know or understand the full impact of any decisions made there for some time. I certainly am not going to speculate on this. Different countries will respond in different ways. One of the reasons for getting this blog up and running was to contribute to the discussion about how we, at the manufacturing level, can respond and take advantage of the various initiatives to move us towards a greener world. And, as I've stated before, if you are not convinced of some of the predictions or the urgency of this movement, we are still looking at steadily rising energy costs, restrictions on resources (think water for starters) and consumer preferences and push back as sufficient motivation to pay attention to this. Not to mention the regulations and requirements of many parts of the world in which our products find themselves being used or consumed.

Last posting I mentioned we'd spend a little more time looking at "the scopes" - that is  Scope 1 through 3 of ISO 14064 (1- direct emissions from on-site/company owned assets, 2- indirect emissions  from energy generation or supply, 3- all others resulting from your business operation including business travel, shipping of goods, resource extraction and product disposal)) and, now, the movement toward Scope 4, which would include the use phase and end of product life, is under discussion. Many of you are already familiar with these and their implications for determining a carbon footprint and green house gas impact for our organizations.

The figure below, from Future State Solutions based on information from the World Resources Institute (http://www.wri.org/) shows this graphically. (Another version with a discussion on the green house gas protocol is available at http://www.itu.int/dms_pub/itu-t/oth/06/0F/T060F0000090023PDFE.pdf (from 2008) with original information at http://www.ghgprotocol.org/).



Interestingly, and we discussed this in the last Future State Solutions webinar, for many companies the bulk of the impacts (that is the contribution by scope) comes from scopes outside of their core control. This can be due to their supply chain, activities that do not show up in the product itself (or process they are conducting). For firms like Walmart,  their direct impact on the footprint of their products is very small since they rely on a large and distributed supply chain for their business. So their efforts at sustainability indices for their major product groups is an attempt to get their arms around this (see http://walmartstores.com/Sustainability/9292.aspx).

But, most manufacturers are not like Walmart (not only in size of the business but manufacturers actually make things.) So the distribution of impacts over scope may be different, or similar, but relate to different aspects of the supply chain both into and out of your facility. It will look a lot more like Ricoh's comet circle we've spoken of in the past. And, things like employee travel to/from work, and purchased materials or other outsourcing, can be big impacts. But, if you are going to be held accountable for the contributions of these impacts as part of your product "footprint", then you want to be aware of these, and work with your suppliers and distributors to make sure the impact is known (that is quantified), and minimized. This 'minimization' can take any of the paths we've been discussing from reduced materials, or substituted materials, to lean processes, to reduced energy operation, to recycling and waste minimization, etc. Makes the ideas of video conferencing rather than flying around the world look more attractive for reasons besides economy!

If we add a future Scope 4 to the analysis, that is, how your customer uses or consumes your product and what happens to it when it is at its end of life, we can see our "leverage" on our product's or process' impact further reduced. Of course, for Walmart and similar companies, Scope 4 may be the major impact since everything they sell goes into the hands of consumers and will eventually find itself back in the reuse, recovery or disposal stage.

This is where some of the "steps to sustainability" mentioned in an earlier posting and seen on some of the websites and process or system analysis tools will come into play. We'll be talking a lot more about "steps" (that is beyond my rather skeptical review some postings ago - see October 7th posting, http://green-manufacturing.blogspot.com/2009/10/12-steps-are-only-first-steps.html). In my graduate class recently completed I had the students do a homework on "steps to sustainability" by searching for and categorizing information on the web in this topic area. The energy and enthusiasm of some 30 students attacking this problem is hard to beat! The results were very informative. But this is for a future posting.

Finally, under the "things that need poking at" category a word about greenwashing. You'll recall that this describes the practice of companies disingenuously spinning their products and policies as environmentally friendly" (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Greenwash and  the July 30 posting - http://green-manufacturing.blogspot.com/2009/07/why-green-manufacturing-part-4-some.html).

I was reading a travel magazine I get as a user of a credit card and there was a side bar article on a resort location in Northern California titled "Who's the greenest of them all?" The article was sprinkled with the terms "green" and "sustainable" so I had to read this. Well, needless to say, their concept was somewhat different than what we've been speaking of here. Materials in construction used for reclaimed wine-barrels (ok- that's good), run the resort on geothermal, solar and grid electricity (not bad - but I believe they get their power from the same public utility I do so I can claim the same "mix"), but then we get to the "other part." Large rooms with lots of amenities, outdoor and indoor steam baths for the guests, mud wraps and hot-stone rubdowns - the whole works and a gourmet kitchen to boot. Maybe they have the little sign in the bathroom about reusing your towels to help save the planet.

This could be sustainable but I'd need to see the power consumption "balance of trade", the operating resource and material consumption data - you know - everything we've been speaking about with respect to sustainable, or at least green, businesses. Of course the guests and staff at this spa drive in from some distance so there goes your Scope 3 and 4 impact! Point is - if you are going to bandy the terms about, please be prepared to back them up with some data. Did I mention the rooms are "from" $300 a night? Now that's a nice definition of green!

Happy New Year!


6 comments:

  1. Hello David,

    How does a smaller Company than Walmart, let's say, go about achieving any sort of measurement on the indirect stages. The financial and human resources necessary to accomplish this task would be daunting, aren't they?

    I'd love to be able to get to this level of supply chain awareness, but, it seems to me it's a full time person and 6 months before any real data is acquired and even at that, it's pretty light. That puts the first level of data access at $30k plus and 6 months. Does the consumer pay for this through product pricing?

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  2. This is an excellent question and gets to the heart of the matter ... what can be done that doesn't require a lot of resources but is effective? Some "low hanging fruit" ideas include the resources on the Carnegie Mellon LCA website (http://www.eiolca.net/) that allows a quick look at aspects of your business and calculates a footprint (rough but helpful), you could try a simple questionnaire to major suppliers, resources to see if they are aware of their impacts (embedded energy, resource use, etc.), you could start just making a chart of "where things come from and where they go" (and this could be a useful group activity) to get a sense of the complexity of your production, and, finally (but not free), some of the resources listed in earlier blogs (like the lean green work or economic bottom up LCA tools) can be used effectively. I will work on this and use it as the content of an upcoming blog so we can go into more detail. And, anyone else who is reading and has something to add should chime in!

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  3. I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don't know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.

    Alena

    http://smallbusinessgrant.info

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  4. we love your blog postings, so well add your rss or news feed for them, Thanks and please post us and leave a comment back and well link to you. Thanks Jen Lean blogging.

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  5. Thanks for reading and commenting Alena and Jen - feedback and discussion is important on topics such as green manufacturing and we are trying add to the community of information that is "out there".

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  6. I enjoyed following the whole entry, I always thought one of the main things to count when you write a blog is learning how to complement the ideas with images, that's exploiting at the maximum the possibilities of a ciber-space! Good work on this entry!

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