A Manufacturer’s Path to Sustainability Starts with Tomorrow’s Solution
Sustainability is redefining today’s business model as arguably the top area of focus for corporations. The building products manufacturing industry, in particular, carries a large responsibility to the environment, and a key role in ensuring a viable and safe world for future generations. What is produced today must not only exist tomorrow, next year, and many years beyond – it must live and provide purpose.
Operationally, manufacturers encounter some of the biggest environmental issues and must manage resources and waste efficiently. These companies must possess superior insight, knowledge and transparency regarding the products society uses today, which will have a major impact on our future. With the opportunity to design and produce solutions that fit market needs, manufacturers must have sustainability at the core of their purpose, offerings, strategies and infrastructure to deliver true value to customers, stakeholders, employees, society and the environment.
That said, companies mustn’t be influenced by the often-misinterpreted term, “sustainability.” Sustainability is not green, grey, blue or any other color. It is not necessarily about LEED credits and “eco” terminology, but it is about the longevity and lifetime value of a product or process as a practical solution for today and the future. Ensuring the presence of quality, solution-driven products and processes requires a shared sustainability vision within an organization and a program that is unique to what we’ve seen in sustainability attempts thus far.
Vision, leadership, partnerships and continuous communication are inextricable to each other and are key pillars for a successful sustainability program.
Define a sustainability vision that includes the opinions and ideas of your entire organization and the education process will be easier and more productive. Your employees need to understand the need for sustainability as well as its internal, external and competitive benefits. Encourage voluntary certification programs that contribute to your sustainability goals, strengthen and add value to your organization and differentiate you from your competition.
Using a cross-divisional and cross-functional team to develop and further integrate your sustainability vision will assist in ensuring your message is carried throughout your organization. Your vision statement will be inherently unique because it was built by your team, for your team and is specific to the industry in which you work, the products you manufacture and the impact you have on your communities and the environment.
Create a sustainability task force, consisting of positions in all departments, from management to operations, with the role of defining and monitoring measurable metrics for your organization’s sustainability goals. Strong leadership will promote:
- Improved operational efficiencies and saved resources
- Innovation that is targeted on market needs
- Internal advocacy and better productivity
CSR and Industry Collaboration
More and more companies have a social responsibility policy, but the right match is important. Foster relationships with organizations where you can truly make a difference. Align capabilities and evaluate benefits for both parties.
Collaboration and continuous communication with your customers, suppliers and key audiences is important to further understand market needs, design better solutions and continue education on the benefits of your service.
A manufacturer will know it is operating sustainably when:
- The definition of sustainability is understood, integrated and visible throughout the organization and its culture, without the need for forced policy
- The terms “product” and “solution” can be used interchangeably
- Innovation and strategies are a direct result of actual market needs and external collaboration
- There are improvements in health, safety and operational efficiencies such as reduced accidents, saved energy and resources and the elimination of waste.
When an organization sees positive outcomes in its people, planet and profit, it is evident it has made a change for the better and has exponentially increased its value.
Achieving sustainability within the manufacturing industry will require a strong focus on quality solutions for the future, a true culture change and a transparent approach to the way we operate. Building products manufacturers in particular should administer a sustainability program that fits within their organization and supports the overall goal of improving our nation’s infrastructure and ensuring a promising future for generations to come.
Richard Manning is the president of Hanson Building Products North America, a leading manufacturer of concrete gravity pipe, concrete and steel pressure pipe, concrete precast products including bridge and structural components, roof tile, brick and hardscapes. For more information, please visit www.hansonbuildingproducts.com
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