Avoid 4 pitfalls in launching manufacturing sustainability initiatives

  • Posted on August 30, 2022
  • Estimated reading time 3 minutes
Avoid sustainability pitfalls

Sustainability is quickly becoming part of the everyday vernacular in the manufacturing sector, and consumers and employees alike want to align themselves with environmentally and socially responsible companies. But, whether it’s an intentional improvement to your company footprint or a legislative-driven initiative, programs can get off track quickly if they aren’t grounded in the right principles. Here are four pitfalls to avoid when implementing or revamping a sustainability program:

1. Ignoring United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UNSDGs)
Companies that tie each of their initiatives to one of the 17 UNSDGs can report results in a format consistent with other companies, ideate as they identify gaps, and amplify progress. Many manufacturers don’t realize that they already have continuous learning, internship programs, and training that tie to SDG #4 – Quality Education. A PowerApp will enable employees to submit ideas and leadership to consider them and tag them to a UNSDG. And some of those ideas may end up being scalable to the underserved in the larger community.

2. Lack of targets, measurability, and amplification
Understand the measurable targets available for your industry and document their averages for a relative starting point and trending. A f. Technology, such as Microsoft Power BI reporting solutions, enables manufacturers to benchmark and provide more meaningful data to share with customers and employees. And speaking of sharing, promote the program and results to your stakeholders and ecosystem. If you’ve reduced your carbon footprint, changed to a local supplier, modified packaging…posting to LinkedIn and Twitter and using other marketing channels is a very easy way to put your company top of mind with prospects, customers, and potential employees.

3. Thinking solely within your four walls
Most manufacturing companies will rightly focus the bulk of their sustainability initiatives within plants and on end products. However, with the recent disruption to how we all work, there are measurable sustainability activities most companies should be counting towards their results:
a. Moving some employees to remote work brought savings in commuter emissions and perhaps a smaller office footprint and lower electricity utilization.
b. There are measurable activities in supply chain beyond the obvious recycling and green materials such as sourcing closer to your manufacturing destination, ordering full containers vs LTL, and reducing overnight/air freight.
c. On the manufacturing floor, consider chip recycling, using a higher quality coolant with fewer changeovers, reworking tooling rather than buying new, bringing outside operations in house, and limiting transfers from site to site.

4. Keeping it a leadership-only initiative
While any active program at an organization needs the political (and sometimes financial) willpower of organization leadership to develop and advance, many of the executable ideas are already incubating with your employees. Shop floor and office support know where a company could implement a sustainability initiative. Are pallets being reused or recycled? Are lights on in an underutilized area? Are doors open year-round allowing energy to escape? Are short-ship and partial orders consistently received on the dock, or are trucks idling in the yard for longer than they should? Ask your employees and reward them for their feedback with recognition on your platform and something tangible for the team (shirt, bonus, gift card, etc.).

Clearly, there are lots of flavors and scale to a sustainability program. And although every company is at a different spot on the maturity spectrum with their efforts, they share a common desire: to make a genuine impact. Utilization of Microsoft PowerApps and Power BI and case application within an ERP such as Microsoft Dynamics365 will help you avoid pitfalls that undermine your efforts and unlock the quality of flow, management, and reporting that demonstrates sincere efforts and generates excitement.

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