It’s Not Easy Being Green
There are a lot of green manufacturing success stories out there, and there are going to be more as green technology becomes more sophisticated and market forces gain the upper hand over government regulation as a motivator for “going green.”
After all, who really wants air that makes children sick or rivers that can catch fire? Being against the environment is pretty much like being against motherhood and apple pie – especially when there are green opportunities that will reduce costs and increase profitability – and don’t involve one page of government paperwork.
As I reported in a previous post that touched on green manufacturing, a coalition of about 90 companies in the Chicago area, The Waste to Profit Network, has created over $4 million in wealth (profit plus cost avoidance) by helping members sell their waste and scrap to each other. (In the process, they’ve also diverted over 20,000 tons of solid waste from landfill.)
A company I happen to be familiar with, Faronics, sells technology that lets educational institutions and corporations turn their desktop computers off automatically when not in use. The demonstrable savings from this practice alone amount to thousands of dollars per year.
There are all kinds of green opportunities. But there are also two important barriers to green.
The first is lack information. It is not exactly easy to find out about green opportunities, advisors, or technology. I talked to a highly knowledgeable carbon footprint expert recently, someone who really knows what he’s talking about, and when I asked if there were a central clearing house for information about green programs or opportunities, he said, “It’s all over the place. Look on Google.”
This is not a satisfactory answer for business owners who, according to management work hour statistics I published in January, are highly likely to be working weekends and holidays already and don’t have a lot of free time to surf the web.
The second barrier is inertia. People running businesses have so many problems to deal with on a daily basis that it’s hard to plan for making any kind of change. And, if you haven’t noticed, people in organizations tend to resist change, so making the decision to go green in some area of operations probably means fighting some battles.
In spite of these obstacles, I think forward looking people in manufacturing need to become knowledgeable about green opportunities, again for two reasons: Firstly, consumers are becoming increasingly sensitive to the issue. So if you sell directly or through giant chains, you’re going to need to think about the effect being green (or not being green) has on your sales efforts and market share. Secondly, if you’re part of a larger supply chain, you’re almost certainly going to start feeling pressure to implement green practices from your customers.
I can recommend one source of help: Your local college or university. Many business schools and engineering departments are at the cutting edge of green manufacturing, and offer programs, seminars, etc. specifically designed for small manufacturers. I have talked to many of the individuals behind these programs, and I can assure you that they’re practical people who understand the difficulties of change not ivory tower academics.