Leading companies across the world have already implemented this process.

Businesses across all industries are incorporating sustainability into their business model, nurturing the development of sustainable manufacturing, which is “the creation of manufactured products that use processes that minimize negative environmental impacts, conserve energy and natural resources, are safe for employees, communities, and consumers and are economically sound,” according to the U.S. Department of Commerce.

A Closer Look

Essentially, sustainable manufacturing is a process put in place to ensure revenues and global leadership are maximized all the while natural resources are conserved, and the environment is protected.

In order to foster sustainable manufacturing, the process involves incorporating the Internet of Things (IoT) via investing in:

  • sensor technologies
  • automation
  • IT
  • robotics
  • and software.

“Automation systems help manufacturing companies to successfully achieve the goals of sustainable manufacturing that include achieving high level of resource efficiencies, reducing energy consumption, and minimizing land, water, and atmospheric emissions and pollutants,” said Rajabahadur Arcot, automation consultant. All of this effort is to keep the circle of life intact.

The economy can also be viewed as circular. The purpose of circular economy is, at its core, the same as sustainable manufacturing. The concept is geared toward maximizing the efficiency of the economy in every area and scale, regardless of businesses size, location, or management.  

Described as being regenerative by design, the circular economy needs the cooperation of every industry it impacts so that it may most effectively enable the cycle of disassembly and reuse.

Sustainable manufacturing provides a much needed return loop required for a successful circular economy.  

Achieving Sustainable Manufacturing

Some of the world’s top companies have already begun to put processes into place meant to achieve sustainable manufacturing.

Adidas

Through its Manufacturing Excellence Program, Adidas gives the needed attention to reshaping its company culture into one that is focused on being the most resourceful. Examples of this are its investment in initiatives like DryDye—a technology where products can be dyed without the need for water—and the Speedfactory Project.

“Combining state-of-the-art information technologies with manufacturing processes and innovative products will be key in finding the answers,” said Jan Hill, Senior Development Engineer at Adidas.

BMW

By focusing on its shift to electric vehicles, BMW is working toward the long-term goal of reshaping its corporate strategy. This includes goals such as aiming to reduce CO2 emissions of its new European vehicle fleet by at least 50 percent by 2020.

“We take a holistic approach by implementing sustainability along the entire value chain. We see this as an investment in the future. It is our way of ensuring that sustainability is established as part of the very structure of the company, becoming an integral part of our day-to-day lives,” stated BMW.

Samsung Electronics

Samsung has built its sustainable management by incorporating environmental, social, and economic responsibilities to their corporate-wide vision and strategies.

The Samsung site states, “[a]t Samsung, our sustainability management aims to create integrated values. Not only do we create economic values by maximizing profits and shareholder values, but also we take on a stronger responsibility as a global citizen to create social values.”

This ethos is represented in its products as well as the manufacturing process that creates them. Social impact is a priority for Samsung and is expressed at every step of the value chain.

Coca Cola

Coca Cola Enterprises partnered with Cranfield University’s Sustainable Manufacturing Systems Center to better address their goals of achieving sustainable manufacturing. Through this acquired help, Coca Cola developed a report focused on mapping out how to better achieve sustainability in the food and beverage industry.

The Environmental Value of Sustainable Manufacturing

The process of manufacturing comes with many side-effects, one of them being that many of the materials that are processed produce substances that are harmful to the environment.

These toxic substances make manufacturing a huge contributor to water and air pollution. The threat was so great to our environment that regulations had to be placed in order to deter further damage.

Thanks to the Clean Air Acts of 1970 and 1990 and the Clean Water Act of 1972, sulfur dioxide was reduced from air concentrations by 76 percent, carbon monoxide has decreased by 82 percent, and lead in the air has declined by 90 percent. Additionally, an example of the efficiency of the water act is that there are now parts of the Wisconsin River where aquatic life could not inhabit in the 1970s.

It’s important to clarify that while manufacturing was a large contributor to these staggering statistics, they were not the sole reason.

With that in mind, sustainable manufacturing has the potential to impact the environment just as strongly, but in a positive way. Many companies are in the sustainability movement and have achieved success from their efforts—there has been significant environmental benefits as well. Expect to see this trend continue as the consumers of today demand conscious and socially responsible business practices.