Wednesday, June 16, 2010

How are we doing?

One thing I was reminded of while traveling recently is the wide range of "awareness" to the many aspects of green and sustainable living. Even in small motels in remotest parts of Nevada (and believe me ... there are some remote parts!) you can see signs about the management's concern for the environment and to please reuse the towels.

This example, plus smaller plastic caps on disposable water bottles (to make you feel less guilty about drinking water from a plastic bottle that you will, hopefully, place in a recyclable bin and hope will actually be recycled), as well as use of recycled non-potable water for gardening and bathroom fixtures in the Grand Canyon,  show that something is catching on.

You may remember my "Everett and Jones philosophy" cited some blogs ago. Recall that? Basically there are three types of people in the world-

 - those that make things happen,
 - those that watch things happen, and
 - those that say 'what happened?'"!

So ... we are making the third slice of the pie, hopefully, smaller.

This motivates me to propose a "sustain-o-meter" to allow the tracking of efforts toward green and sustainable living. This can be applied as well to the topic of this blog and we'll look into some current programs seriously addressing green and sustainable manufacturing in a bit.

But first the "sustain-o-meter." If you do a google search of this term you get a number of hits, including a reference to forest sustainability, Unity College sustainability monitor, and another one from "Professor Planet" on the sustainability of ideas and  complete with an explanation of the "three finger sustainability" salute (don't worry - you can use it in public!). So, I am not first...but I am trying to be a bit more "quantitative" in the meter readings to allow more detail. Well, you be the judge.

My version of the sustain-o-meter tries to gauge the seriousness of an organization's commitment and actions. It is based on my reading and review of lots of information on real, or imagined, activity and ranges from "eco-chic" styling of designer pants (organic cotton!) to totally zero waste, sustainable design and renewable resource companies.

The proposed "meter" is shown below with measures ranging from denial and indifference on one end to serious and effective on the other. I've tried to put stages of development of programs and systems

leading towards a sustainable enterprise. And, you will likely need to click on the image to read the details.

I am sure I will have missed something and the meter coverage does venture outside of my comfort zone of green and sustainable manufacturing. But, it accommodates a lot of what we've been discussing here.

The "steps to enlightenment" on the meter are:

- denial
- indifference
- "poking around" for someone else to pay for improvement
- outsourcing the problem
- asking smart questions and benchmarking (could be two categories here)
- measuring and tracking performance (with green metrics)
- engaging supply chain and customers (in identifying the challenges and potential solutions)
- defining solution "wedges" for low hanging fruit (see wedges below)
- define and implement technology wedges for more challenging problems (and recall the definition of technology wedges)
- proactive sustainable manufacturing (design/construction of manufacturing processes, machines and systems for sustainable production)
- proactive design for sustainability (for products)
- serious and effective

Sort of "Dornfeld's 12 steps to sustainable manufacturing."

The lower ratings on the left side would represent the "what happened?" zone of our Everett and Jones philosophy. The mid ratings, from "measuring and tracking" to "define solution wedges for low hanging fruit" would be typical of steps for greening manufacturing. These are sort of in the "watch things happen" although, frankly, that is a bit of an understatement. Finally, the right end, from "define and implement technology wedges for more challenging problems" to "proactive design for sustainability" is definitely in the "make things happen" category.

Next time we'll put some "meat" on the scale levels as an examples of what organizations are doing.

I also encourage you to think about this scale and a few examples of companies, organizations, or other enterprises and where they might fit into the scale. Send me a note if you think you've got some good measures!


  1. A measure of supply chain integration would be whether progress on chosen green metrics is part of supplier development and/or selection.

    Development of Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) that are first good process/business management tools but that can also be used for external reporting/validation is a mark of excellence and maturity.

    KPIs that are normalized for changes in production activity using not just revenue indicators but also indicators of the change in the use of material inputs requires detailed info but also lead to high-quality benchmarking.

    I am working as an advisor to the Environmental Defense Fund, assigned to assist Wal-mart in China with its initiatives to improve the environmental performance of its supply chain there. I think the EDF/Wal-mart approach comprises several good examples that might be useful to inform the Sustain-O-Meter.

  2. Terry-

    Excellent comment. I am familiar with some aspects of the EDF/Wal-mart work and you are right about that initiative offering some examples. We'll try to work some of those in.

  3. Sustain-o-meter sounds great!

    I would add on the end of green scale:

    - balanced, equal high performance on all 3 sustainability dimensions (economic, environmental, social)
    - report and 3-rd party audit of sustainability performance based on universally recognized standards to allow for the same credibility and comparison as financial reporting (in other words, internal and self-selected metrics are acceptable, but at the red end)

    I suggest changing -engaging suppliers and customers to engaging all stakeholders (the community in which a plant operates as is important, if not more, than a 3rd tier supplier in a distant market)

    On the Wal-Mart issue: is a low-cost, high-volume (excessive or artificial demand), market dominance business model sustainable?

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