In recent decades, “sustainability” has become a watchword in almost every industry. It’s gone from a trendy feature offered by alternative products to something customers have come to expect in almost every aspect of their lives, from cleaning products to construction materials. But is that expectation enough to warrant changes to complex procedures? On its own, perhaps not, but the concept of sustainability encompasses more than just creating an eco-friendly product.
Consider the Triple Bottom Line model, a commonly used method to examine sustainability from multiple angles. It consists of three areas: people, planet, and profit. The goal is to maximize benefit in each of these areas without causing undue expense to any of the others. For example, a factory may switch to a more streamlined production method to cut down on emissions. This may also be better for employees, who are able to work more comfortably and with increased efficiency, which thus increases profits.
With that concept of balance in mind, here are just a few of the ways that implementing sustainable manufacturing methods could directly benefit your business.
1. Customer Demand
Perhaps the most obvious reason for switching to more sustainable manufacturing processes is to meet the demand for them. Customers are actively seeking out brands with less damaging environmental impact, and they’re getting smart about it. The days of getting away with a little “green-washing” to make a product appear more eco-friendly are long gone. Customers are savvy and putting in the research to make sure they’re getting what they pay for—and they’re willing to pay more for it. A Nielsen report indicates that up to 77% of people are willing to pay a higher price for a product from a more sustainable brand.
2. Reduced Waste
By improving production efficiency, not only can you decrease your expenses for raw materials (and slightly more nebulous resources like manpower and utilities), but you can also reduce the expense of handling residual material left over. Less waste means less to dispose of, and that means less cost. You may also find you’re able to save on disposal by switching to less hazardous materials. The dry cleaning industry is a great example, with many cleaners switching from processes using hazardous materials to “green” methods that use water and non-toxic solvents.
3. Response to Increased Regulation
And speaking of toxicity, customers aren’t the only ones with an eye on the environmental impacts of production. Local, state, and federal governmental regulations continue to grow increasingly specific, and making sure your methods are as eco-friendly as possible now can spare you a lot of hassle and potentially even fines in the future.
4. Reduced Staffing Costs
This benefit may not be as immediately obvious, especially given the usual association of “sustainability” with eco-friendly processes, but remember that Triple Bottom Line—in which people figure just as prominently. By creating an environment that encourages employee longevity and reduces turnover, you can build a highly skilled and dedicated staff that is not only more efficient than less experienced new hires, but also reduces the time, cost, and lost productivity involved in finding and training additional staff.
5. Access to Additional Resources
While government at every level is increasing regulatory pressures that make some traditional methods challenging, you can also find government-sponsored benefits for switching to greener processes. Programs like the Environmental Protection Agency’s E3 Challenge, which provides guidance, support, and other resources, can help make converting to sustainable processes easier in the short term as well as providing long-term benefits.
6. Business Sustainability
Creating products that are eco-friendly, and doing so in an eco-friendly manner, isn’t the only end result of creating a sustainable manufacturing process. The entire goal of the process is for it to be capable of being continued in perpetuity, and it passes that stability on to your business. When profits aren’t considered the sole metric of a company’s success, it becomes easier to see the health of other factors that contribute to its long-term viability: the stability of its workforce, the availability of necessary resources—even the support of its customer base.
Sustainability may initially look like a trendy marketing angle, but in truth, its benefits for your company can be considerable and long-lasting. Are you taking full advantage?
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