Manufacturers are increasing their focus on sustainability as they realize that there is a strong business case that comes with the commitment. A primary contributor, from a financial perspective, is from improved resource utilization, which boosts overall productivity and profitability.

A commitment to sustainability also often leads to product and service innovations that extend beyond their impact on an environmental footprint, such as 3-D printing and digital design. In addition, major retailers, such as Walmart, and leading manufacturers, like Oshkosh Corp., are proactively measuring and evaluating their sustainability impacts and requiring the same of their suppliers.

Just as important, employees, especially millennials, are much more aware of and interested in a company’s sustainability efforts and consider this factor in their career decisions.

Two organizations viewed as pioneers in this space, the Wisconsin Sustainable Business Council and the Wisconsin Manufacturing Extension Partnership recently joined forces to leverage their efforts at advancing sustainable business practices.

The Council is a network of Wisconsin businesses and organizations that are interested and actively engaged in the challenge of sustainability. It provides businesses with the tools they need to understand their sustainability progress and help them strive for continuous improvement. With direction from the business community, the council developed and oversees the Green Masters Program, the state’s largest and most visible sustainability assessment and recognition program. Each year, nearly 200 businesses apply to the Green Masters program, with the top scoring businesses recognized at the Council’s annual conference.

The WMEP, through its Profitable Sustainability program and other related services, helps organizations identify and realize improvements that drive profits while also reducing environmental impacts. “Sustainability is the right thing to do, and it is good for business,” said Tim Wiora, CEO of the Wisconsin Manufacturing Extension Partnership, a nonprofit consulting company that has helped 154 businesses save about $20 million through sustainability practices while saving about 85 million kilowatt-hours of electricity use and the consumption of 193 million gallons of water. Those same businesses generated $22 million in new revenue from green products.

When the Council’s founder and executive director Tom Eggert announced his retirement earlier this year, he contacted Randy Bertram, WMEP’s Director of Sustainability and Operational Excellence services, to discuss the potential of hosting of the Council’s work at the WMEP.  The WMEP was one of several organizations invited to submit a proposal, and was ultimately selected by the WSBC Board of Advisors. The two organizations made it official at the Council’s recent Sustainability Conference while announcing that the WMEP’s marquee manufacturing event, Manufacturing Matters! would be offering a full track on sustainability.

“Environmental stewardship, resource efficiency and productivity go hand in hand,” Bertram said. “Linking the council with Manufacturing Matters! solidifies this linkage, helping attendees develop an integrated comprehensive strategy in response to an ever- expanding list of stakeholder interests.”

Jessy Servi Ortiz has been appointed to serve as the Council’s new Managing Director.

“The Council is excited to have a presence at Manufacturing Matters! this year to engage the manufacturing community in the conversation about sustainable business practices and continuous improvement,” Ortiz said. “This synergy can help advance conference attendees’ understanding, programming and results in sustainability across business functions. It’s beneficial all around.”

The sustainability track is called “Leveraging Sustainability” and consists of three breakout sessions focused on topics of interest to Wisconsin manufacturers and other businesses. The tracks are:

  • “Green Masters: Assessing and Recognizing Your Sustainability Performance,” describes the Council’s highly successful Green Masters program and highlights the sustainability work of Kohler Co. that led to its Green Masters designation.
  • “The Sustainable Supplier,” features presentations by Oshkosh Corp. and MillerCoors that share how investors’ and key stakeholders’ sustainability expectations are translating into supplier requirements downstream.
  • A final session will focus on the emerging water risk many companies are facing as water shortages are expected to intensify across the country. By 2025. financial water risk is expected to affect $145 trillion in business assets. This session, which features presentations by Butter Buds, Grande Cheese, and Matt Howard, Director of the Alliance for Water Stewardship North America, will discuss how to manage water risk and understand water opportunities.

The WMEP and the Council will present these sessions at the 2019 Manufacturing Matters! Conference at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Milwaukee on February 21st

“The WMEP is committed to assuring the legacy of the Wisconsin Sustainable Business Council as it continues to grow and thrive, and we are honored to have been selected by the WSBC to carry this legacy forward,” Wiora said. “The WMEP has been a national leader in developing profitable sustainability solutions for manufacturers and we look forward to the expansion of the Council and the sustainability ecosystem in Wisconsin.”