mcdermid-230by Mark McDermid, WMEP Manufacturing Specialist

Most companies pursuing sustainability have a common attribute.  When they hear sustainability, they think about the expense. The good news is that if your operation incorporates the principles of continuous improvement, has performance metrics in place or capitalizes on stewardship opportunities, your business is already on its way to sustainability. Profit and sustainability are inextricably linked as demonstrated by the participants in the Profitable Sustainability Initiative.

Sustainability barely made it to the business agenda a few years ago.  Now sustainability is a key strategic goal 70% of major businesses.  This focus extends to the supply chain and this means that sustainability is or will soon be on the agenda of small and mid-sized manufacturers.  The best snapshot in the US is the State of Green Business Report 2013 that looks at data from over 1600 businesses (http://www.greenbiz.com/microsite/state-green-business).  The best Wisconsin snapshot is the Sustainable Business Survey produced by the Wisconsin Sustainable Business Council.

The drivers for manufacturers on their sustainability journey and those getting started are pretty straight forward:

  • Customers – it is no longer a matter of “if” it is a matter of “when” a customer will ask you for your sustainability information
  • Markets – the new markets driven by sustainability are conservatively estimated in the trillions
  • Opportunities – firms looking at themselves through the sustainability lens that consistently find profits, brand protection, competitive advantage, new markets and/or reduced risk.
  • Employees – sustainability, given competitive wages and reasonable working conditions, could be the difference in attracting the 18-44 year olds that are critical to a company’s future
  • You – your brand and your efficiency by comparison to competitors could be determined by how well you measure sustainability and how prepared you are to respond to internal and external expectations.

The OECD Toolkit (http://www.oecd.org/innovation/green/toolkit/48661768.pdf) provides a great template for getting started, especially for small and mid-sized manufacturers.  There are a limited number of slots for participating in this round of the Profitable Sustainability Initiative and we are working actively with companies developing sustainable manufacturing practices.

I encourage company leaders to contact me to review their sustainable practices and to determine whether they are a good candidate for the Profitable Sustainability Initiative.  Just e-mail me at [email protected]