Being eco-friendly is increasingly considered a social, political and economic advantage in U.S. business and industry — and, therefore, a competitive edge. Forward-thinking companies are using environmental initiatives and dedication to sustainability to create advantageous public opinion. Cutting edge, eco-friendly solutions gain customers. The extreme, sometimes almost rabid, level of dedicated customer loyalty, despite sometimes higher consumer costs, has been an unexpected benefit. An increasing number of ecologically-concerned Americans are willing to pay more for products and services that protect or sustain the environment. Interestingly, consumers view this as a way of partnering with industry to save the environment.
More industries are pursuing sustainability to reduce the life-cycle costs of parts, equipment and processes (see our July 9 post). “Anything not in a product is considered a cost; it’s a sign of poor quality,” say the authors of Green to Gold in explaining 3M’s Pollution Prevention Pays program. “As 3M execs see it, everything coming out of a plant is either product, by-product (which can be reused or sold), or waste. Why then should there be any waste?” As the authors point out, 3M views waste as unrecouped expenses and something to be avoided. The company’s goal is 100% sustainability.
Sustainability is not limited to the direct costs of business and industry. Savings can also be realized in indirect costs such as packing, transportation and other logistics considerations. Eco-friendly smart packages that reduce cardboard and filler save resources and money. Replacing gas-guzzling forklifts with energy-smart electric and motorized carts and tugs is another environmentally smart way to cut costs. Optimizing shipping loads and delivery strategies can result in significant cost savings given skyrocketing fuel prices.
Implementing a sustainable supply chain also eliminates or reduces the amount of money spent on disposal of harmful by-products, scrap and adherence to regulatory issues. In many instances, by-products previously disposed of as waste are now generating viable revenue sources for environmentally-conscious companies. Sustainability is already being used to competitive advantage by many companies who have found it a profitable way to grow market share in their industry.