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The Investments Manufacturers Can Make For Greener Operations by 2023

The Investments Manufacturers Can Make For Greener Operations by 2023

Manufacturers are critical in enabling the growth and success of many sectors, but they must heed increased environmental concerns among consumers.

One day — and hopefully before too long — the term “green manufacturing” will be almost meaningless.

Not because operating in a way that protects the environment becomes any less important.

Instead, sustainability will become such a core, common best practice across the industry that the “green” in “green manufacturing” can be assumed.

We’re not there yet, of course. Whether in Canada or many other highly industrialized countries, factories continue to burn toxic materials and gases, including carbon dioxide and methane, and later pump it into the atmosphere.

Manufacturers have also historically depended upon making extensive use of natural resources including water and electricity to power their operations. The level of waste produced through manufacturing has been another ongoing concern.

At the same time, there is no doubt that manufacturing is critical in enabling the growth and success of many other sectors. These include retail, transportation and utilities. The goods produced by manufacturers are key assets in the supply chain that brings products from businesses of every size to their customers.

The pandemic has further complicated the situation for manufacturers, creating huge disruptions and in many cases a need to make up for revenue lost over the past two years.

Even as they attempt to do so, however, they have to bear in mind the increased awareness and concerns among consumers about whether their purchases are supporting green manufacturers. According to a 2021 report conducted by World Wildlife and the Economist Intelligence Unit, for instance, online searches for sustainable goods have risen 71% in the past five years.

Consulting firm EY’s Future Consumer Index Survey, meanwhile, found 69% of Canadians expect companies to solve sustainability issues.

While this could seem a daunting task for Canadian manufacturers to face, there are plenty of opportunities available to them to make their operations “greener” over the course of the next year:

1. A Shift To Clean Energy

Fossil fuels may have helped the manufacturing sector achieve its initial level of growth, but its future lies elsewhere.

Clean energy offers the opportunity for manufacturing firms to transition to power that comes from renewable sources. These range from wind, biomass, geothermal, solar, ocean and hydropower energy, to those from municipal solid waste.

The clean energy movement isn’t limited to renewal power alone, however. In a report last year called The New Reality, Clean Energy Canada noted that the sector also includes organizations focused on reducing pollution.

Many Canadian companies are already involved in developing zero-carbon strategies or reducing the amount of energy in the goods they produce. This could lead to more than 208,000 jobs, far outpacing fossil fuel-related rolls that might be lost, the report said.

2. Increased Visibility And Transparency In Material Selection Processes

All manufacturing processes have to start with some kind of raw materials, but going green means being more intentional about where they come from and how they are used.

Ethical sourcing isn’t limited to choosing materials that won’t create excess waste or otherwise harm the environment. It also means improving traceability as materials and goods move through the supply chain and minimize effects such as their carbon footprint.

A report last year from consulting firm Deloitte noted that advanced technologies such was blockchain can help here. Diamonds, for instance, can be given a global ID that is stored in a digital ledger to assure both manufacturers and consumers that the final product is natural and ethically sourced.

3. Adoption of Eco-Friendly Equipment And Materials

Doing the right thing can, in fact, do wonders for the bottom line. Just look up within many factory settings and you’ll see a perfect example.

Switching from incandescent lights to LEDs can mean using far less energy. They can also last 15 times longer, according to data from Natural Resources Canada.

Other ideas include digital temperature control to better manage energy use, or purchasing thicker, higher-quality rubber for factory tracks that dines’t need to be replaced as often.

4. Technologies Track Progress And Allow Continuous Monitoring

Last year NRCan published Canada In A Changing Climate: National Issues Report, where it pointed out that one of the often-overlooked steps in going greener is having a way to see and evaluate how well sustainable practices are being adopted. If they are, it’s just as important to see whether they are moving the needle in terms of conserving resources and saving the planet for future generations.

The report talked about how some organizations are developing customized dashboards for this purpose. However, Salesforce has made this easier than ever through platforms like Net Zero Cloud, which allow organizations to measure their carbon footprint and take a data-driven approach in how they improve.

5. Tools And Techniques To Assist With Waste Reduction And Recovery

Automation and increased use of data within manufacturing can do everything from reducing the use of paper to ensuring companies only order what they need in terms of materials.

There are also a number of emerging methods, as outlined by Conserve Energy Future, that would help firms to recover what is normally wasted through manufacturing processes. This includes the use of better filtration systems, reverse osmosis, electrolysis, centrifugation and more.

Final Thoughts

Sustainability and going green has risen to the top of the political agenda in governments around the world. The same thing is happening in corporate boardrooms as organizations recognize the urgent need to change long-established practices.

As one of the most important sectors of the economy, Canada’s manufacturing industry is poised to lead by example and prove business can truly be the best platform for change. In other words, it’s time to give greener manufacturing the green light.

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