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Manufacturers: Sustainability is Everyone’s Responsibility

SustainabilityManufacturers discussed their efforts to work within the sustainability supply stream and urged both upstream and downstream manufacturers to do the same at the Sustainable Manufacturer and Water 2.0 Conference & Exhibits in Chicago, according to Sustainable Manufacturer Network.

Speaking at the panel, “Your Role in the Sustainable Supply Chain,” Phil Baerenwald, president, J.L. Clark, said that manufacturers have to find a balance between their role in the sustainable supply stream and customer expectations. For food company clients of J.L. Clark, this balance can be tricky. For example, Baerenwald noted that many of its food company clients want their plastic to contain recycled content, but it is extremely difficult to offer recycled plastic that is pure enough to receive FDA approval.

In addition, some of J.L. Clark’s clients, such as Burt’s Bees, Energizer and McCormick, want to be certain that their suppliers don’t mar their green reputations or standings in national green ranking lists.

Sue Max, EHS manager for Metcam, emphasized that a manufacturer’s suppliers and vendors also need to be part of the sustainability effort. She cited a case where Metcam wanted to replace the solvent-based paint on its machinery with a powder coating, which involved not only replacing the coating, but the entire coating equipment line as well. However, the change enabled the company to transition from a large-quantity hazardous waste generator to a conditionally exempt small-quantity generator.

At Steelcase, proper sourcing of raw materials has been one of the company’s priorities, according to Mary Ellen Mika, supply chain management. Steelcase is actively seeking to improve human rights by identifying the upstream sources of its materials and refusing to source from conflict mines. Other supply chain efforts by Steelcase include partnering with suppliers, which has made it possible for the company to cut its water and energy consumption in half.

Josh Gibson, senior manager with Kerry Ingredients, noted that as more customers are becoming interested in sustainability practices and strategies, the demand for documentation has increased significantly. To work with customer requests, Kerry developed a supplier data exchange bank that contains all information that a customer could want. Kerry made this transparent, so that the audit is done once and shared multiple times, thus eliminating costly duplication while also increasing efficiency.

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