Surabhi holds a MA in Economics from Fergusson college and is currently pursuing PhD in environmental economics from Gokhale Institute of Politics & Economics, Pune.
Increasing numbers of manufacturers are realizing the financial and environmental benefits of adopting more sustainable and eco-friendly manufacturing practices. Historically, the manufacturing industry is one of the top contributors of greenhouse gas emissions. It is also one of the major contributors to rising air and water pollution. As the consumers become more aware about the environmental impact of their purchases, they demand a more sustainable product. A 2015 global survey from Nielsen found that 66 percent of consumers were willing to pay more for a sustainable product. As increasing numbers of shoppers prefer to purchase a product that is more environmentally friendly and demand more transparency in how the product is made. According to the recent article by Harvard Business Review, the next generation employees care more about sustainability at the place of work therefore affecting employee satisfaction. Thus, it is essential to adopt the end to end eco-friendly manufacturing practices for businesses to stay relevant in the long term. Let’s explore some simple changes that a manufacturer can adopt to make their manufacturing unit more eco-friendly.
A manufacturing unit can install solar panels and take advantage of the net metering system of state electricity boards. Use of solar panels can reduce dependency on non-renewable electricity sources. Using energy efficient electrical fittings like LED lights help reduce the electricity consumption and result in financial savings. The plant, machinery and equipment must have timely maintenance checks to ensure that they don’t consume more energy than required.
The manufacturing processes should be optimised to consume minimal to no water. Most of the water consumed in the manufacturing process flows out with very high levels of contaminants. More often it is let out into the environment via drain lines without any treatment. Historically, this practice has polluted many of the water bodies in India. One of the most appalling examples of irresponsible wastewater handling is of River Ganga. Every manufacturing plant must treat the wastewater generated within their facility to prescribed quality standards and reuse it within the premises as much as possible. Business must also innovate more water saving and conserving technologies. As water starts trading on Wall Street, it is set to be even more valuable than oil in manufacturing industries.
Process & Resource Use Efficiency
Manufacturing processes must be redesigned for optimal utilization of resources. It not only saves valuable raw material from wastage, but also prevents loss of resources from the production cycles. It makes a complete economic sense to optimize the process to achieve the lowest manufacturing cost in the long run. An optimized process ensures best resource utilization and reduces the overall impact on the environment. The manufacturers must also focus on using more of renewable resources and increasingly substitute the non-renewable resources from their manufacturing processes.
Manufacturing units can adopt digital technology to reduce the use of paper as much as possible. With technological advancements, most of the internal communication can be done digitally. This saves industries tons of paper. It not only reduces the financial costs but also reduces the impact on the environment.
Human Resource Management
Human resource is one of the most important parts of the manufacturing process. The small decisions that the employees make throughout the manufacturing process contribute to how eco-friendly and sustainable the manufacturing process can be. Businesses must conduct training and workshops for their employees to make them understand the importance of adopting efficient manufacturing processes. It is vital for the employees to have an eco-friendly and positive attitude towards their job for better results.
The final product of manufacturing should be packaged with minimal packaging. It is an equally important aspect of eco-friendly manufacturing. Businesses must use recyclable materials that reduce the overall carbon footprint of the product even towards the end of its lifecycle.
Adoption of 3R policy and Circular economy principles
A simple policy of Reduce, Recycle and Reuse must be adopted wherever applicable. The 3R policy shows better economic and environmentally gain in the long run. It also paves the way for adoption of circular economy principles. The circular economy principles entails eliminating all the leakages or wastage from the production process. Even if the manufacturing unit is not equipped to adopt a circular production process, it can be a long term goal to achieve the same. A proper policy for waste management and end of the life product must be in places. The manufacturing units must make sure to recycle and reuse as much resources as possible. Businesses must have a sustainability policy in place for better implementation.
Pollution Control Infrastructure
The pollution control infrastructure is a must for every manufacturing unit. The units which produce smoke must have dust filters and air purifier in place. Similarly, if the unit produces polluted waste water, it must have an effluent treatment plant to treat the wastewater. Businesses must aim to achieve zero liquid discharge by reusing all the wastewater for various secondary purposes.
A sustainable and eco-friendly manufacturing unit can enjoy reduced environmental risks, lower economic costs and lower carbon footprint in the long run. It also creates better value for owners, investors, employees, customers and all other stakeholders including the planet and future generations. In words of Mahatma Gandhi, “The earth, the air, the land and the water are not am inheritance from our fore fathers but on loan from our children. So we have to handover to them at least as it was handed over to us.” “There is a sufficiency in the world for man's need but not for man's greed.”