Posts Tagged ‘sustainable’

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Online Toolkit Helps U.S. Manufacturers Go Green

November 1, 2011

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The Sustainable Manufacturing Toolkit, a new, free online resource developed with input from the International Trade Administration, can help U.S. businesses measure their environmental performance and thereby become more competitive.

by John Ward, a writer in the International Trade Administration’s Office of Public Affairs.

This start-up guide is part of the new Sustainable Manufacturing Toolkit, an online resource created with input from the International Trade Administration.

This start-up guide is part of the new Sustainable Manufacturing Toolkit, an online resource created with input from the International Trade Administration.

Sustainable manufacturing—that is, the creation of products in an environmentally and socially responsible manner—has become a business buzzword lately. But as companies face increased costs for materials, energy, and regulatory compliance, sustainable manufacturing has also come to be recognized as a smart business practice, as more and more manufacturers realize that “greening” their processes can be a key strategy for achieving global competitiveness.

It was in response to a dearth of internationally comparable performance indicators for sustainable manufacturing that the International Trade Administration (ITA) joined with the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), an international body headquartered in Paris, France, to develop the recently released Sustainable Manufacturing Toolkit.

Guide and Portal

The toolkit consists of two parts: a 52-page start-up guide, which provides a step-by-step approach to measuring and benchmarking environmental performance, and a web portal, which supplements the guide with more technical guidance, data tools, and useful links.

The heart of the start-up guide is a series of seven steps that companies can take to prepare, measure, and improve their sustainable manufacturing processes. The discussion of these steps is enhanced by seven “good practice” profiles that highlight successful efforts undertaken by manufacturers from around the world, including three located in the United States.

The inclusion of the real-world examples is an important element, notes Andrew Wyckoff, director of the OECD’s Directorate for Science, Technology, and Industry. “We think it is important for [companies] to have the right tools, but also to be informed about what works. That’s why we have included .… [these] best practice case studies that illustrate the many benefits of sustainable manufacturing.”

How to Access the Toolkit

The Sustainable Manufacturing Toolkit is available online at www.oecd.org/innovation/green/toolkit. Resources available on the site include a downloadable booklet, Start-up Guide: Seven Steps to Environmental Excellence, as well as a variety of links to technical advice and examples of good practices.

Focus on Needs of Smaller Enterprises

The global market for low-carbon products already exceeds $5 trillion, according to the OECD. Companies that can demonstrate green credentials will enhance their viability in the marketplace. But this can prove a particularly daunting challenge to small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). According to the OECD’s Wyckoff, while SMEs account for approximately 99 percent of all enterprises, and two-thirds of employment, in the 34 countries that are members of the OECD, many have not yet embraced the opportunities that come with the adaptation of sustainable manufacturing processes. “They may be struggling with their short-term survival, or cost pressure from clients, or lack of knowledge and resources to invest in environmental improvement, or simply not know where to start.” Thus, the toolkit was especially designed with the needs of small manufacturers in mind.

Close Collaboration

The development of the toolkit was the result of a close collaboration between ITA and the OECD that began in 2006. The OECD was well situated to develop the toolkit due to its access to a wide array of public and private stakeholders and its unique collection of statistical data from around the world. This allowed for an unparalleled degree of comparability and applicability across borders.

For its part, ITA was able to draw on the knowledge and experiences of a large number of U.S. experts through its leadership in the OECD’s Committee on Industry, Innovation and Entrepreneurship. By providing access to both business practitioners and academic specialists active in the field of sustainable manufacturing, ITA was able to facilitate the development and refinement of the toolkit, thus assuring that it was both user-friendly and met the real needs of industry.

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Sustainability and U.S. Competitiveness Summit

November 2, 2009
 

 

 

 

Morgan Barr is an International Economist with the Office of Trade Policy Analysis.  She has been working on the Sustainable Manufacturing Initiative for two years and started in the office as a SCEP focusing on earning her MBA and MA in international affairs from the George Washington University.

On October 8, our Sustainable Manufacturing Initiative team hosted the Sustainability and U.S. Competitiveness Summit at the Commerce Department.  The event was a complete success.  We had more than 120 representatives from private industry, industry associations, non-governmental organizations, academia and major federal agencies in attendance.  The Summit was a follow up to a similar event we held in 2007, and we wanted to report to our stakeholders on the work we’ve done since then.  We also wanted to gain input from attendees on possible areas of future work for our initiative.

Sustainability Summit Event Poster

Sustainability Summit Event Poster

The enthusiasm from the attendees was tremendous.  We had two extended coffee breaks and a lunch session where attendees could network and meet with representatives from various government agencies to learn about the programs and resources that are available to help them.

The event began with opening remarks from Secretary Gary Locke, who stressed the importance of manufacturing as a source of well-paying jobs and emphasized the role that sustainable practices can play in lowering costs and making manufacturers more competitive.  The Secretary was followed by Gary Guzy, Deputy Director and General Counsel for the White House Council on Environmental Quality, who discussed the plans for the development of the “green economy”.

Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke speaks at the Sustainability Summit

Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke speaks at the Sustainability Summit. (U.S. Department of Commerce photo)

Then our team presented its work.  In the past two years, we’ve created an interagency group on sustainable manufacturing to coordinate action across the government, and we’ve also held a series of regional facility tours—or SMARTs—to promote the adoption of sustainable practices. Our newest deliverable is our Sustainable Business Program and Resource Clearinghouse—a searchable central database that includes numerous federal government programs and resources to support sustainable business and manufacturing practices.

We’re also working on a study being conducted in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) on simplified metrics for sustainable manufacturing.  Michael Bordt of the OECD presented his work to date on the study, which will include an easy-to-use toolkit with a simplified set of metrics and guidance on how companies can use them to help make business decisions about improving their environmental performance.  You can read more about the study and our other projects on our website.

Attendees at the Sustainability Summit exchange explore the displays in the Commerce Department's lobby

Attendees at the Sustainability Summit exchange explore the displays in the Commerce Department’s lobby. (U.S. Department of Commerce photo)

In the afternoon, Andrew Winston, co-author of Green to Gold, and author of Green Recovery, gave an excellent keynote address on the linkages between sustainability and competitiveness.  His address really set the stage for the afternoon breakout sessions where attendees met in smaller groups to discuss the morning’s presentations, the challenges they’ve faced implementing sustainable business practices, and areas where the government can potentially aid the private sector in its endeavors. The discussion in the sessions was excellent, and we’re going to use the individual input, along with other factors, when we’re planning our future work on the initiative.

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Sustainable Manufacturing Tour

July 15, 2009

(This post contains external links.  Please review our external linking policy.)

Acting U.S. Commerce Assistant Secretary for Manufacturing and Services Mary Saunders is leading a tour of four Seattle-area manufacturing facilities as part of the department’s Sustainability 360 initiative. The tour, Sustainability 360: An Aerospace Supply Chain Event, is designed to showcase the benefits of sustainable manufacturing throughout an aerospace manufacturing supply chain.

Sustainability 360

We just concluded our first Sustainability 360 event here in Seattle and the experience was outstanding – lots of good practical examples of how implementing sustainable manufacturing practices can reduce environmental impact and improve the bottom line for businesses.  Sustainability 360 is what we are calling our regional tours of manufacturing facilities operating at various points in the supply chain, in this case the aerospace supply chain.  Our sustainable manufacturing and aerospace teams in Manufacturing and Services worked with the U.S.  Export Assistance Center and Washington Manufacturing Services, the Manufacturing Extension Partnership Center in the area, to put together a tour of four companies who are at various stages in their sustainability journey, to share their lessons learned and best practices with other local companies.

Participants visiting the new facility of Tyee Aircraft, a producer of aerospace components.  Tyee has incorporated sustainable principles into its lean manufacturing practices with zero waste water release, energy efficient lighting, and recycling programs.

Participants visiting the new facility of Tyee Aircraft, a producer of aerospace components. Tyee has incorporated sustainable principles into its lean manufacturing practices with zero waste water release, energy efficient lighting, and recycling programs. (U.S. Department of Commerce photo.)

We toured Puget Sound Energy, Tyee Aircraft, Goodrich Aerostructures and The Boeing Company, along with 24 local company representatives.  And we learned a tremendous amount.  For instances, successful companies are those that are “purpose driven”, with management and employees working toward a common goal.  Sustainability takes into account the interest of the company itself in becoming more competitive; as well as the interests of investors, suppliers, customers and the community in which it operates.  Ideas for improving sustainability can come from anyone in the company and even from suppliers and customers.  There are no bad ideas.  Sustainable Manufacturing practices save money and help grow business.

I have toured factory floors before, but I have never seen this much energy and enthusiasm, in companies ranging in size from a little more than a 100 employees to several thousand.  Today’s program reinforced the practical value of the departments’ Sustainable Manufacturing Initiative and the value of public-private partnership in advancing the competitiveness of U. S. industry.  What a hands on- way to spread the message to U.S. manufactures nationwide that sustainable manufacturing practices can deliver triple-win solutions that benefit U. S. firms, the communities in which they operate and the environment.

Mary Saunders giving her opening remarks for the Sustainability 360 event at utility Puget Sound Energy. PSE's 2008 energy efficiency work will result in annual savings for its customers of $30 million a year.

Mary Saunders giving her opening remarks for the Sustainability 360 event at utility Puget Sound Energy. PSE’s 2008 energy efficiency work will result in annual savings for its customers of $30 million a year. (U.S. Department of Commerce photo.)

Sustainable manufacturing is an area where the U.S. maintains a global competitive advantage.  Not only are we the largest producer of clean technologies globally, we are also a leader in creating cutting edge, lean and clean manufacturing practices throughout industry  supply chains.  I am looking forward to our continued work in helping to spread the sustainable manufacturing message nationwide.  For information on this initiative and its three components, take a look at http://www.manufacturing.gov/sustainability.  Let us know what you think.

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