Sustainability’s Vital Role in Modern Manufacturing

Sustainability has become more than just a buzzword in manufacturing circles: it’s a fundamental consideration and often the cost of doing business.

The government lodges heavy fines, people protest and boycott the companies, and there are costly lawsuits against companies and prison sentences for executives. So how can your manufacturing operation embrace sustainability and still make it appealing and even profitable?

Regulatory Compliance and Doing it Right

Sustainability is no longer a choice for manufacturers. Failure to practice it can lead to legal troubles with various regulatory bodies, including OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) and various state and local environmental authorities. Non-compliance often results in costly fines and penalties, making sustainability a critical priority from the outset.

Manufacturing sustainability can help your company weather the coming automation and AI storm that's going to sweep over most manufacturing in the world.
And the importance of getting it right the first time cannot be overstated. Trying to fix sustainability issues after a more polluting system is in place can be time-consuming and expensive. It’s much more cost-effective to include sustainable practices in your operations from the beginning, which will prevent unnecessary complications down the road.

Subaru’s Zero Waste Commitment

A great example of a company’s dedication to sustainability is Subaru’s plant in Lafayette, Indiana. They set out to become a zero-waste plant, which they have pursued successfully for several years. Their high level of sustainability has resulted in numerous financial and ethical benefits and given them a lot of PR coverage that they might not have otherwise gotten.

Subaru’s commitment extends beyond cost-saving measures; it stems from a genuine sense of responsibility toward the environment. Their efforts have contributed to its reputation as an environmentally conscious entity, which in turn, attracts consumers who prioritize environmental values when making purchasing decisions.

Innovative Waste Management

To achieve zero waste, Subaru has employed an innovative approach. Waste that cannot be recycled or reused is sent to a facility where it is burned to generate electricity for Central Indiana. This allows the company to claim carbon offset credits for diverting waste from landfills, simultaneously reducing their environmental footprint and generating additional revenue.

Supplier Involvement and Enhanced Reputation

Subaru’s sustainability efforts also extend to its suppliers, who must meet specific standards to do business with them. Standards like avoiding single-use plastics and ensuring their sustainability practices are baked into the entire supply chain. This not only reinforces Subaru’s commitment but also has a ripple effect throughout the industry.

Balancing Costs and Benefits

If you want to know whether sustainability is working for you, you have to measure its impact on your bottom line. That means your operations and marketing teams have to evaluate the financial benefits of your initiatives. This way, you can see whether your sustainability costs are offset by increased sales and market share, making it a wise business strategy rather than a financial burden.

Avoiding the Zero-Sum Game

But tread carefully. Avoid turning sustainability into a zero-sum game where costs outweigh benefits. Focus on smart, cost-effective sustainability practices that positively impact your business while minimizing unnecessary expenses.

I’ve been a manufacturing executive, as well as a sales and marketing professional, for a few decades. Now I help companies turn around their own business, including pivoting within their industry. If you would like more information, please visit: 

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