Almost all 12 companies, which included Eli Lilly, Proctor & Gamble, Cummins and General Dynamics, surveyed for a study on sustainable manufacturing were surprised to learn that among the biggest unforeseen benefits were meaningful economic gains and attracting new talent.
The Success Paths to Sustainable Manufacturing study conducted by Indiana University’s School of Public & Environmental Affairs analyzed which factors contribute most significantly to successful sustainable manufacturing efforts and common barriers to implementing them.
Companies said they pursued sustainable manufacturing efforts largely because of customer demand. The media attention and awards these companies garnered for their sustainable manufacturing efforts, in turn, helped build consumer trust and brand loyalty.
Companies surveyed gained more than consumer loyalty. Many reported saving money and using fewer resources through physical waste, water, energy and sustainable manufacturing initiatives. One unnamed company said it saving about $7 billion due to its sustainable manufacturing initiatives while growing 40 percent over the last 15 years. Another said it reduced its manufacturing footprint in North America from 15 million square feet to 5 million square feet even as the company grew. As a result, the company used less heating and cooling, which lowered its energy costs.
Setting flexible goals through benchmarking and applying appropriate metrics, effective communication and creating a culture of corporate sustainability are among several best practices the surveyed companies said led to success. Creativity and innovation is needed to ensure a sustainable manufacturing initiative is successful, according to respondents. Reporting through frameworks such as Global Reporting Initiative or frequent reports is essential to accountability and effectiveness, according to the survey.
Earlier this year, ASTM International proposed a standard aimed to enhance resource efficiency, considering environmental impacts, at the manufacturing process level. Primary users of WK35702, once it has been approved, will be small- and medium-sized enterprises looking to implement more sustainable and environmentally friendly practices into their production line. WK35702 is being developed by Subcommittee E60.13 on Sustainable Manufacturing, part of ASTM International E60 on Sustainability.