Sustainability has been ranking higher and higher in consumer trends in the past years. An increasing number of people, especially younger ones, would rather replace fast-fashion and single-use plastics with alternatives that promise to stall climate change and help save the planet. Organic cotton and electric cars are on an upward trend, but sustainability is by no means limited to retail.
Let’s see together what the manufacturing industry can do to become greener and have a positive impact. After all, sustainable companies are more attractive not only to their customers but to employees as well.
1. Use eco-friendly packaging
Whenever possible, opt for reusable and recyclable packaging. Cardboard packaging solutions, although not suitable everywhere, have a smaller carbon footprint than plastic. You can also opt for cellulose, mixed cardboard or bagasse (sugar cane residues). Since bagasse is water and grease-resistant, it is a great alternative to plastic, especially in the food industry, and it is 100 percent biodegradable and compostable.
2. Comply with the REACH standard
REACH is an EU regulation that stands for Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals. Although intended for the European Union, it can serve as a guide anywhere else in the world as it addresses substances that could impact human health or the environment. If you want to walk the sustainability path, you should go that extra mile and try to fulfill all reporting of substances of very high concern (SVHC) when customers request that, even if you don’t have that obligation.
3. Manufacture with bio-based materials
To lower the carbon footprint with zero compromises on quality, research if you can replace any of your current materials with bio-based ones. For instance, top o-ring manufacturer Apple Rubber is looking into bio-based rubber for automotive applications. The eco EPDM rubber they are considering is based on ethanol from Brazilian sugar cane and would be a sustainable alternative to crude oil.
4. Source locally as much as possible
By replacing overseas supplies with local ones, you reduce CO2 emissions associated with long-distance transport. This is valid both for manufacturers when they buy raw materials and for other companies when they choose suppliers for recurrent purchases. Sourcing locally can also turn out to be cheaper despite the initial mirage of lower prices abroad, as those have hidden costs and risks in terms of quality, lead time and transport.
5. Use renewable energy
Manufacturing facilities are big energy consumers and every renewable energy effort matters, be it solar panels, wind turbines, hydropower or biofuels. In fact, given the global rising prices for non-renewable energy, there may be more to these than just sustainability — lowering manufacturing costs.
6. Switch to hybrid or electric vehicles
Did you know that electric Class 8 trucks have zero emissions and an estimated operating range of 150 miles? Explore the hybrid and electric vehicle options for delivering your manufactured goods to clients and replace diesel company cars with ones that are more environmentally friendly.
Make a Positive Impact on the World
To really make an impact on your sustainability efforts, you should look at the other industries, get inspired by what they are doing to lower their carbon footprint and see what you can adapt to your niche to make a difference. Integrate as many eco-friendly options as possible in terms of packaging, materials, transport and energy usage in the manufacturing process. Opt for local sourcing and encourage potential customers to do the same and to choose you over companies abroad.