Australia is one of the few countries in the developed world that genuinely experiences the injurious effects of climate change first hand. We see it in our landscapes, we feel it in our resource-based industries, and god knows we suffer it in our economy. Our agricultural industries are invariably the first sectors taking the hit: just in recent years, droughts have depleted reservoirs, destroyed crops and wiped out livestock by the thousand. Yet the ripple effect across the whole of our economic sphere is hard felt — and inevitably.
The cause of climate change is a hot topic for dispute for laymen, the science community and the business world alike (see the Stern Review).
But, whether or not you believe that the warming planet is a result of man-made greenhouse gas emissions, is, frankly, irrelevant. The only thing that matters to your company’s success is what the consumer believes. You must gain the consumer’s confidence.
A new area of competition
You must prove to the consumer that your workshops and warehouses are committed to doing everything in their power to cut down, cut out, or offset any activities deemed to be contributing factors to climate change. Why? Because, like it or not, rhetoric built up by environmental campaigners over the years has succeeded in persuading consumers that production methods used in manufacturing companies like yours – whether you’re in motors, plastics, metals, timber, chemicals or anything else – are significant components in the slow-burning global disaster that is climate change.
There is no escaping: it is embedded into the national – nay, international – consciousness. If you don’t take steps to show that you’re doing your bit, then you can bet your bottom dollar your counterpart across the street will be.
The consumer, now, holds over you an expectation to produce sustainable and traceable products and services. They will only choose your goods if they meet the mark. What’s more, the best employees will only be driven towards you as an employer if you can prove that you are an environmentally responsible and respected manufacturing business.
Take the initiative
So, what do you need to do?
Firstly, get yourself wise to the issue. National Manufacturing Week is coming up in May, and this year’s convention, held in Melbourne, features a brand-new section dedicated solely to sustainable manufacturing. Go there, meet other manufacturers trying to tackle these same issues, and come away with the confidence to build your own action plan. You would also be doing yourself a favour to read Manufacturing Skills Australia (MSA) ‘Sustainable Manufacturing Report’ to get the extensive rundown on what the difficulties are, the new challenges, and the latest innovations to confront these challenges.
Secondly, take a good look at your production and consider what you can do to minimise waste. Now, undoubtedly this is something you already do, as waste minimisation is absolutely fundamental to any business plan. But you need to start looking at the waste you produce in a broader sense. Some waste is inevitable, but what you should be asking yourself is how well you perform under the principle of the “four R’s”: reduce, recycle, reuse, repair. So – how well do you score?
Thirdly, the four R’s is a principle that even the smallest business can set into action. It is a great place to start, but larger plants will also need to take these into consideration: fuel and energy sources, carbon reduction, eco-friendly and non-toxic biodegradable materials, staff training and re-skilling, and your heating and cooling processes. Undoubtedly these could mean some costly changes, but it would be a false economy to ignore them — because consumer demand dictates.
Finally, tell people what you’re doing. Let everyone know about the fantastic new green initiatives you’re taking to improve your carbon footprint. These days, everyone validates a company by doing a quick Google search. Make sure your homepage is singing loud and clear about how you’re embracing sustainable manufacturing. And it wouldn’t hurt to have a separate page dedicated to the cause, detailing exactly the steps you are taking.