Gavin Collier, JD, is co-founder and principal of Dynamic Blending Specialists, a global cosmetics manufacturing company.
As sustainability becomes a rallying cry within personal, political and professional spheres, brands are taking different approaches. Some have revised their packaging in favor of recyclable options, some are donating money to offset their carbon footprint and others have started their own research to find new solutions. All of these actions are positive steps in the right direction, but they’re fragmented efforts. The impact could be significantly multiplied if they were focused at the source of product development.
Manufacturers Can Create Sustainable Change In Two Areas
Manufacturers have a lot to contribute to this aspect of the sustainability conversation. After all, these businesses operate large facilities and consume a massive amount of energy and resources. Beyond manufacturers’ active impact on the environment, these businesses also employ thousands of people and work with brands on developing new and better ways of creating things. Therefore, manufacturers have a clear role to play in a more sustainable future. Two ways businesses in this industry can make an impact is through their facilitt operations and employee education efforts.
Manufacturers’ facilities are the primary source of their environmental impact. Large factories can contribute to environmental pollution, energy consumption and wasted resources. In fact, according to the National Institute of Standards and Technology, 17% of American emissions come from the manufacturing industry. So, manufacturers could work to minimize their impact through cutting waste and utilizing clean energy.
There will always be waste when a large volume of raw materials go through the manufacturing process. But working to have the minimal amount possible is good for the environment and good for business. Most manufacturers track their scrap rate to maximize profits because lower rates help conserve important resources on a large scale.
The facilities themselves can also be turned into assets. Both factory spaces and warehouses have a huge footprint, so it can be dedicated to solar panels or rooftop gardens. The heavy machinery used to mass-produce things can be run on clean energy. Several manufacturing facilities across the United States are pledging to make the switch or have already started.
Because manufacturers are some of the largest employers in the economy, they can use their platforms to educate employeers and clients on ways to lead sustainable lives. There are several ways manufacturers can create a strong culture of sustainability in the workplace. For example, they could add electric car charging stations to their properties, provide time off for volunteering and support the surrounding community’s environmental health by planting trees or sponsoring clean-up efforts.
One of the strongest contributions manufacturers can make to true sustainability is educating their clients. Showing what’s possible in the sustainable realm is incredibly important. There’s a strong customer demand for recyclable products, less single-use plastic and responsibly sourced raw materials, and many consumers are waiting for technology to catch up with their desire to make better decisions for the planet. As a result, walking clients through the process of getting there should be a priority for manufacturers.
In some ways, manufacturers are the middlemen between brands and their customers. They help translate entrepreneurs’ ideas into prodcuts that their audience will love. To that end, manufacturers can, and should, be developing sustainable practices and technologies themselves. If they’re going to be the producers of all the world’s goods, they have a social and professional responsibility to safeguard the resources of our planet. This includes the raw materials used, the space manufacturers occupy and the health of the communities they serve. When it comes to the movement toward sustainability, as an industry, manufacturers can lead the charge.