Green manufacturing grows in value as ROI becomes tangible
Commercial pressures are driving green manufacturing up the agenda with early adopters already reaping attractive benefits, according to new research.
A report from sustainability think-tank The Crowd released last month pooled thinking from more than 150 CSR experts on emerging models of green manufacture as part of an in-depth crowdsourcing exercise.
It found that 68% of respondents believed returns generated by green investments have been "attractive", versus 7% who felt they have been "disappointing". A recognition of the business case, rather than a sense of benevolence, was identified as the primary driver in adopting such models.
More than half of respondents (53%) felt the best opportunities for progress in greener manufacturing over the next four years were resource-efficient production processes, followed by supply chain collaboration (49%) and designing products that use fewer resources when in use (44%).
Interestingly, experts rated green manufacturing's role as a catalyst for innovation as having greatest value. Among them was Lego's director of environmental sustainability Tim Brooks who said: "Green manufacturing is the ability to see an engineering, design or production challenge from a different angle. A 'green' lens will often uncover a real win/win business case we would not have otherwise found."
One instigator for innovation, the circular economy, was also picked up by respondents as having a valuable role to play - 29% felt it was now the main driver of green manufacturing change.
Assessing the cost and impact of greater circularity, ERM principle partner Simon Aumonier said that manufacturers must now "must measure the efficiency of production in terms of resource depletion, as well as social, financial and environmental impacts and benefits" to establish not only how circular the current economy is, but how quickly they can make progress against that benchmark.
Smaller, more nimble enterprises were also identified as having a vital role to play in driving the transition to a circular economy. A collaborative approach and supply-chain engagement were both felt to be key enablers of greater innovation.
Meanwhile Dr Greg Lavery, CEO of Lavery Rennell, underlined the importance of mindset. "Sustainability improvements can be made by manufacturers at many points. The key question is: which interventions create the greatest benefit and should be prioritised?" he said.
"The slight preference for resource efficiency in the production process suggests it's recognised as the area which can be addressed most easily, or, where substantial improvements remain to be made."