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Could Green Manufacturing Save Your Business?

smokestackGreen manufacturing is much more than a fad or a buzz word. The real motivation behind green manufacturing is sustainability – whether activities a company undertakes today can be sustained without being overcome by ignoring their long term negative effects on health, the environment or, ultimately, its own finances.

The Industrial Revolution

The Industrial Revolution brought immense benefits to mankind but in the heyday of development, the long term effects to these important areas were often overlooked. Green manufacturing was the last thing on the industrialists minds. Industry and the technologies and business practices that drive it have now matured to the point that all of us, whether business, consumers or politicians, need to constantly review what we are doing in the light of whether it’s a sustainable activity or not.

The Green Revolution

We are now in the midst of a Green Revolution. There are many places where past excesses that took no account of their long term effects have come back to haunt us, ranging from the effects of pollution to the depletion of many resources.

In many cases the repercussions have been serious, leading sometimes to loss of life and loss of the business. In other cases the effects have been perhaps more serious but over a longer time, less noticeable at the time.

The use of PCBs in electrical transformers is one example, as is air pollution from the millions of combustion engine powered vehicles that power our daily lives.

Solutions Being Developed

At the same time many green manufacturing solutions have been developed and are beginning to be implemented.

More and more solar panels are seen. Cars have become much more fuel efficient than in the past and dependence on foreign oil is dropping. Waterways are cleaner than they were twenty or thirty years ago. Acid rain, once a scourge of many forests in my area, is no longer talked about.

Renewable and Clean Manufacturing

But there is still much to do. Manufacturing has a major part in this process, because manufacturers bring many forces and resources together into a single location, with the potential for harm if proper stewardship is not practiced.

Of all players in the economy, manufacturers have some of the greatest responsibilities to exercise good judgment in their activities. Use of renewable resources and clean technologies must become a standard by which every industrial activity is to be measured, if we are to continue with the living standards we have come to expect.

Years ago the word “ecology” was used in relation only to flora and fauna but it really encompasses the entire environment, including the financial environment, the health and welfare of stakeholders and the urban areas many manufacturers are dependent on.

Manufacturers are not “Evil”

I am not a subscriber to the “manufacturers are evil” crowd. Modern manufacturing lies behind our way of life and no one wants to return to subsistence living, where everyone only produced what they needed for their own use. Specialization in production is what has lifted us out of the relative poverty of previous ages, but it implies a concentration of resources and activities that have the potential for harm, hence greater responsibility.

Good Corporate Citizens

solar panelSo the management of manufacturing firms have a duty to the world at large, but also to their own stakeholders – customers, suppliers, employees, families and even their shareholders – to be good corporate citizens and measure all their activities by asking, Is this sustainable? Are we depleting resources to the detriment of our children and the children of our stakeholders? Is our process designed to be both environmentally and socially sustainable, so that it can continue to provide jobs to the next generation of young people and the ones following?

Green Technologies

There are many specific technologies that come under this new “Green Manufacturing” category, ranging from eliminating waste under Lean systems to technologies such as solar, emissions control and renewable energy, and including policies such as product lifecycle management, whereby a producer takes responsibility for disposal of the product at the end of its useful life and not simply pushing it out the loading dock at its beginning.

Manufacturers as Responsible Stewards

By becoming fully aware of duty of responsible stewardship manufacturers have the opportunity to become a driving force for good through “Green Manufacturing”, which will ultimately also have a beneficial effect on the bottom line.

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