Environmental Sustainability for Manufacturers in 2012: Part I

First, the good news: Companies are making progress in environmental sustainability.

By ·

Editor’s Note: This is the first of a two-part forecast written by Kimberly Knickle, practice director, IDC Manufacturing Insights.


First, the good news: Companies are making progress in environmental sustainability. In IDC’s fourth annual Green IT and Sustainability Study (October 2011), 40 percent of U.S. respondents indicated that their company has a sustainability report, meaning sustainability is increasingly a corporate-level priority and companies are documenting their sustainability performance. Companies need and want data to back up those reports, not just for reporting their performance and setting corporate goals but also for making sustainability improvements in manufacturing operations, in the supply chain, and across the product portfolio. But here’s the challenge – in a world where manufacturers often don’t know the profitability of individual products, how likely is it that they can calculate the sustainability pros and cons of that same product? Not likely is the current answer, and that’s too bad for a number of reasons, but if manufacturers aren’t getting to a product-level measurement of sustainability, then what are they working on?

Energy Consumption – An Area of Focus for Sustainability Investment Now
Much of the sustainability investment appears to be focused on energy management. For several years, manufacturers have been reviewing their energy consumption in the factory and making improvements or even capital investments that show clear payback from energy cost savings. The end result has been more productive energy management — in other words, producing goods at lower energy cost per product. It’s easy to understand why cost-saving initiatives appeal in our economic environment.

Lean and Green – Combining Sustainability and Continuous Improvement in the Plant
Bringing sustainability into the plant, lean and green is an increasingly popular mantra, with sustainability embedded into continuous improvement programs and once again, usually with an energy component. More importantly, this connection between lean and environmental sustainability has provided a path for moving forward with green improvements without new projects. Lean and green means that manufacturers are getting the most they can from their own operations and increasing their return on assets. The most advanced manufacturers are able to share green best practices across the factory network to lower their overall corporate footprint even more.

Technology and Sustainability - A Great Combination
Some more good news: Technology (IT) has certainly been an enabler in manufacturers’ progress in sustainability in many ways, including energy management or sustainability software and more automated data collection within the factory. We’re seeing increasing investment in Smart Buildings combining IT with more traditional HVAC and lighting systems, although adoption of this concept is primarily focused on general facilities such as office buildings, not necessarily production plants. (Learn more from our IDC Energy Insights research.) IT-based compliance with EHS (Environment, Health, & Safety) regulations and product safety and stewardship regulations such as RoHS and WEEE is also improving. But there’s more that IT can do for manufacturers in the area of sustainability.


About the Author

Patrick Burnson, Executive Editor
Patrick Burnson is executive editor for Logistics Management and Supply Chain Management Review magazines and web sites. Patrick is a widely-published writer and editor who has spent most of his career covering international trade, global logistics, and supply chain management. He lives and works in San Francisco, providing readers with a Pacific Rim perspective on industry trends and forecasts. You can reach him directly at [email protected]

Subscribe to Logistics Management Magazine!

Subscribe today. It's FREE!
Get timely insider information that you can use to better manage your entire logistics operation.
Start your FREE subscription today!

Article Topics

All Topics
Latest Whitepaper
B2B Sellers Prefer a Unified Approach for Ecommerce
A new study from Forrester Consulting, commissioned by NetSuite, found that many midmarket, B2B sellers say their ecommerce solutions have contributed to their growth in sales, new customer acquisitions and improved customer relationships.
Download Today!
From the August 2016 Issue
A growing number of low-cost lift trucks offer new avenues for pairing equipment and applications, but less cautious buyers might find that small up-front costs come at a steep price. Selecting the proper lift truck, lift truck tips 2016, Choosing the right Lift Truck
Megatrends in ocean freight
Ocean Cargo Roundtable: What’s in store for 2017?
View More From this Issue
Subscribe to Our Email Newsletter
Sign up today to receive our FREE, weekly email newsletter!
Latest Webcast
Getting the most out of your 3PL relationship
Join Evan Armstrong, president of Armstrong & Associates, as he explains how creating a balanced portfolio of "Top 50" global and domestic partners can maximize efficiency and mitigate risk.
Register Today!
EDITORS' PICKS
2016 Quest for Quality: Winners Take the Spotlight
Which carriers, third-party logistics providers and U.S. ports have crossed the service-excellence...
Regional ports concentrate on growth and connectivity
With the Panama Canal expansion complete, ocean cargo gateways in the Caribbean are investing to...

Digital Reality Check
Just how close are we to the ideal digital supply network? Not as close as we might like to think....
Top 25 ports: West Coast continues to dominate
The Panama Canal expansion is set for late June and may soon be attracting more inbound vessel calls...