Waste into Profit: The Next Phase of the Sustainable Supply Chain
The revival of US manufacturing is evident, with reports this past summer showing steady growth and factory production reaching its highest level in over two years. This expansion offers tremendous promise for our economy and is being fueled by a number of factors, including abundant sources of energy, historically low interest rates and improved lean processes.
With this resurgence, however, comes increased stakeholder scrutiny.
Stakeholders are demanding higher standards when it comes to sustainability at all stages of the value chain—from the sourcing and production of goods to the end-of-life impacts of these products. This heightened expectation will help drive a new era of US manufacturing and create new opportunities for differentiation in the marketplace, especially through the use of reclaimed waste.
As companies strive to achieve improved sustainability performance in their operations, we have seen the continued evolution of the Sustainable Supply Chain (SSC) as a critical element of the 21st century business.
Sustainable supply chains operate at the intersection of productivity and sustainability, providing manufacturers measurable ways of differentiation—from cost savings in material procurement to tangible environmental reductions achieved through lean processes.
The next logical extension of the SSC must operate at the intersection of the waste industry and material procurement.
The reclamation and repurposing of end of life materials offers an innovative solution that powerfully addresses the elusive triple bottom line—profitability, impact on the environment and social benefit.
Noncyclical solutions to waste are landfilling and incineration—both of which are singular, releasing toxins into the environment and wasting most of the inherent value of the raw material.
A great example is recycled rubber. Rubber is engineered to never decompose or degrade. It is a perpetual resource that would either reside permanently in a landfill or be burned, thereby destroying any and all of its inherent performance value.
Therefore, tremendous economic opportunities exist for manufacturers to develop innovative solutions that recapture waste in a meaningful way and incorporate end of life materials into finished products.
Companies that rely on truly sustainable supply chains will do business for far longer than competitors that do not—not only because of the cost-effective nature of the process and ability to achieve environmental goals, but also through the commercialization of new and innovative products.
These cyclical solutions not only benefit the bottom line, but more importantly are spurring innovation in modern manufacturing.
I believe that customers and consumers will continue to demand increasingly higher standards when it comes to sourcing, manufacturing and the end-of-life usage of products—and that there are tremendous opportunities to continuously improve and innovate throughout the reclamation and commercialization of waste.
The future of 21st century manufacturing will rely on collaborative and sustained partnerships at every stage of the value chain to ensure that shared sustainability objectives are met and that quality and performance are not compromised. The next phase in this evolution must include broader consideration and innovations in the ability to manufacture products using post-consumer and post-industrial waste to create valuable inputs in a sustainable supply chain
Sustainable supply chains can play a major role in addressing the sustainability goals of all chain participants—while helping each to reduce impacts, improve financial performance and deliver high quality products. Taking the supply chain a step further and shifting our focus to the use of post-consumer and post-industrial waste to create valuable inputs not only makes business sense, but, more importantly, will spur increased innovation in U.S. manufacturing—helping companies meet the growing expectations of stakeholders and contributing to the sector’s continued resurgence.
Art Dodge is CEO of ECORE International. ECORE has built its business by creating innovative, go-to market products by repurposing rubber waste. We have successfully created a portfolio of flooring solutions that marry quality and performance through the use of reclaimed rubber, and have achieved triple bottom line results in the process.
By reclaiming almost 100 million pounds of rubber waste each year—equivalent to approximately 2,000 trailer loads of discarded tires—we are able to transform materials that would otherwise be sitting in America’s landfills into the surfaces that you play on, run on and work on every day. With almost 30 years of experience in recycled products technology, ECORE is just one example of how implementing a successful, sustainable supply chain can drive topline growth, achieve significant environmental reductions and deliver state-of-the-art products to customers and consumers.
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