Industrial waste and its hazardous nature has been sparking debates among various stakeholders across the globe. For most businesses around the world, Sustainability is an unconventional direction that encourages the business to rise high from the tradition of standardizing business development only in terms of cost-cutting and profiteering.
But what if we consider that this intervening hurdle of sustainability in reaching profits is paving a more cost-efficient road? If this sounds unrealistic or unbelievable, this article is going to change your perspective!
Myth Busted: Sustainability Need Not Be Expensive!
One major point of contempt for critiques of incorporating sustainability in business and manufacturing practices has been the positive statistics -- less than 10% of the industrial waste in the US is hazardous -- which indicates that over 90% waste can be either reused, recycled into something more useful, or be reduced to a biodegradable, safe form.
The 4Rs: Your Company’s Sustainable Cost Saving Weapon
One of the most effective methods to cut down costs along with being environmentally friendly is to reduce unnecessary and excessive usage of materials. Organizations all over the world have been recognizing the presence of redundant toxic or non-toxic materials in manufacturing, obsolete steps in processing, and needless constituents in generating revenue that they can easily do away with.
One prime example is the unnecessary and elaborate packaging used for orders that can be extremely harmful to the environment at disposal. Using just the required amount of material for the packaging saves a lot of time, material, energy, besides tackling pollution. Manufacturers can also cut down on plastic usage for their products which is a huge step towards causing less pollution.
Mainstream companies like Coca-Cola and Mcdonald’s are playing a huge part in reducing the plastic waste generated through their factories and have come up with and implemented methods to reduce both; plastic usage and wastage. Smaller ventures and food-based startups are taking conscious efforts to encourage consumers to opt for a low packed, eco-friendly cutlery delivery as an endeavor to reduce material consumption and after-sales waste.
Perhaps the most misunderstood of them all, industries have been for decades under the covert impression that replacing what’s admittedly toxic to the environment with sustainable, greener alternatives will cost a bomb. Surprisingly, eco-friendly alternatives to right about everything -- from plastic to cement -- are being experimented with, and the resulting product is much more efficient and cost-effective!
The key is to measure the overall expense factor rather than just the initial cost of the raw material. For instance, polystyrene (one of the most common base materials in everyday plastic) is dangerously toxic to humans and the environment. Replacing it with the safer alternative of PET plastic may look like a slightly costlier solution on the face value. However, the increased recyclability of PET makes it a one-time investment which need not disturb the environment or our budgets.
Companies like Novamont have initiated path-breaking endeavors in this area and the results are there for the world to see. Its biodegradable, sustainable, and renewable alternatives to harmful materials like regular plastic are being used worldwide and are trusted by associations like Olympic for cost-effective, green-protective solutions.
What you cannot reduce, reuse. Tons of necessary elements like paper, plastic, and other materials are irreplaceable and cannot be reduced during production; that’s when this step comes in by the virtue of their reusability.
Some manufacturers, in their products and sales, have launched programs to educate their customers against disposing of reusable materials and preventing wastage of valuable things. They have created specialized outlets to drop off redundant but reusable accessories or equipment. This initiative not only helps them save on material costs, curtail pollution but also to increase sales due to positive sentiment towards this eco-friendly practice.
Companies such as Nudie Jeans have offered to renew the jeans in their shops instead of disposing of them away to cut down water wastage and chemical waste generation. Companies like Patagonia have also made DIY videos available to repair their jeans.
Research suggests that out of all the million tons of waste we produce, 75% is recyclable, which means 3/4th of these materials being produced from scratch and the processes involved are obsolete! However, only 30% of the portion goes to recycling, and as long as there’s no change at the root level -- the manufacturing -- the figure is here to stay.
Manufacturers use many such materials that can be recycled and used again multiple times. Materials such as glass, paper, cardboard, metal, plastic, can, with the right use of technology, give rise to a better product on recycling with close to zero raw material costs! It’s a clear win-win in terms of profits, waste reduction, and pollution control.
Multinational companies such as Accenture, Intel, and Eaton have recycled more than 85% of their waste and are working towards more environmentally friendly methods. They have not only created less waste but also decreased the amount of carbon dioxide emissions and taken every effort to control carbon footprints.
Socially Responsible Procurement And Sustainable Supply Chains
Procurer’s dilemma between social responsibility and business economics has been decades-long but science and conscience have been making things clearer lately.
The B2C market was first seen to adopt the philosophy of sustainability and eventually, the B2B supply chains have recognized the need to move towards the same. The P2P (Procure to Pay) process of business was refined in a way to research for more sustainable alternatives for each step of the existing production process ranging from raw materials to packaging, warehousing, and dispatching to the end consumers.
Apart from adopting the above-mentioned framework, being socially responsible, in its true sense, refers to adopting purchasing policies in a way that benefits not only the organization but also small businesses and communities as a whole. It is only going somewhere if every initiative is taken with the intention of collective effort.
The key is to find the perfect trade-off between the entity’s economic goals and its social responsibility towards the society. It is vital to devise schemes that take into consideration various aspects such as natural rights, human rights, overall ecosystem safety, and environmental protection along with other economic factors.
Because sustainability is far more far-fetched and expansive than just striving towards lower pollution. It’s about striving towards thriving living conditions for generations to come, and supply chains stand at the very foundation of this endeavor.