Making your mark on the planet

Manufacturing Insights

Making your mark on the planet

Making CSR Work For Your Manufacturing Business

It’s no secret that when it comes to the environment, the entire manufacturing industry has a not-so-stellar reputation. You might be tempted to remind people – rightfully so –  that without your input, we’d probably still be in the coal ages – literally. It is because of industrious manufacturers throughout history that our lives today are so much easier and less labor-intensive than those of our predecessors. Manufacturers convert raw materials into items that make our lives better – think cars, laptops and even your overworked-and-underappreciated washing machine. You might like to think that your contribution to society is obvious and much appreciated by all but, unfortunately, that is not the case.

Let’s not forget that we are living in the age of Millennials and gen Z. These people don’t just buy things because they like them or feel like they need them. They actually want to understand who they are buying from. If your values don’t resonate with Ms. Millennial, she’ll probably just go off and buy her smoothie-maker from Mr. Sustainability down the road.  

In today’s competitive market, attracting and keeping loyal customers is as much about “speaking their language” as it is about creating great products.

Question: So how do you speak the language of today’s consumer?

Answer: Show you care about issues that affect all of us. Show you are committed to doing your bit to make life on the planet better.

Question: How do you do that?

Answer: Through CSR.

Just imagine how popular you would be with your 21st-century customers if you made a commitment to:

  • Ensure that 100% of your shipments to or from customers are carbon neutral
  • Maximize the use of recycled materials in your entire product-line
  • partner with nonprofits, local governments, and schools to launch projects that allow you to make a real difference in society

These commitments are actually doable. In fact, they were recently announced by mega-corporation, Google, who are blazing the trail, showing the rest of us how to do CSR in style.

Instead of seeing CSR as yet another thing you need to allocate precious resources to, you can look at it as an opportunity, like Google did, to impact society and the world, and to communicate your values to your customers fostering their loyalty and their trust.

It’s so easy to sit back and leave the hard work to the Googles of this world who are already running their own very successful CSR campaigns – but this would be a mistake not to mention, a missed opportunity.  Your customers want to hear from YOU. They want you to make a statement about your values and they want to see some commitment to environmental issues. Yes, really!

CSR need not mean doing something that is out of your comfort zone. It can simply involve contributing your expertise or resources in some very small way – the effect of which will ripple out to make a big impact.

Let’s see what we can learn from those who are already out there doing their bit…

In the Footsteps of the Giants

  • Cisco Systems: Cisco set a goal to positively impact 1 billion people by the year 2025. The San Francisco software company uses their resources to contribute to disaster relief around the world, healthcare system efficiency, and education in disadvantaged communities. After Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico in 2017, Cisco partnered with NetHope to bring in teams of volunteers to re-establish a reliable communication network in disaster-hit zones. Cisco leveraged their skills in the area of networking and communications to bring life-saving technology to a devastated part of the world.
  • Ford Motor Company: This iconic motor-car manufacturer announced plans to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by using the EcoBoost engine to increase fuel efficiency. It also plans to introduce  40 electrified vehicles (electric and hybrid) by 2022. In addition, American Ford dealerships rely on wind sail and solar PV systems to power their locations greatly reducing their use of electricity.
  • Bosch: Half of Bosch’s research and development budget is invested in creating environmental protection technology. By 2021 the company will have invested €50 million to support universities and research programs that are focused on the environment, energy and mobility.
  • GE: General Electric launched its Ecomagination project more than ten years ago. This incorporates a renewable business strategy whose mission it is to invest significant resources in clean technology and generate $20 billion in revenue from green products.
  • Coca-Cola: After realizing that their massive fleet of delivery trucks contributed 3.7 million metric tons of greenhouse gases to the world, coca-cola made major changes to their supply-chain practices including investing in alternatively-fueled trucks. They intend that this initiative will lead to a 25% reduction in their carbon footprint by 2020. Talk about learning from your mistakes!

CSR –  Action Steps For Manufacturers

So, now you get why CSR is so important for your manufacturing business and you want to get started on building your CSR program. Where do you begin?

A simple, “People, Planet and Profit” approach is a good place to start. This will ensure that your acting in the best interest of your employees, people in the local community, and the planet as a whole, while still maximizing the bottom line.

Here are some suggested pathways that might spark ideas of environmental innovations you can begin to implement in your own factory:

  • Control at the Source – If awareness starts with raw materials, it can go a long way towards preventing environmental damage. For example, you can adopt new and improved technologies and better train employees about safe use and disposal of potentially toxic waste as well as choosing the raw materials that are the most efficient and have the least chance of causing harm.
  • Site Selection – When you are choosing where to build a new factory, a special emphasis can and should be placed on the potential environmental impact and steps should be taken to ensure that any wildlife, plants, and people are not displaced or harmed.
  • Waste Treatment – It may not be the most appealing topic, but focusing on ways to appropriately handle and dispose of industrial waste can help you reduce pollution in a meaningful way.
  • Planting Trees – Increasing greenery by planting trees and other plants helps the environment both by increasing oxygen and air quality and also giving wildlife the homes in nature that they are used to and need in order to thrive.
  • Stricter Law Enforcement – It may sound counter-intuitive but there’s an opportunity for manufacturing companies to lobby for stronger enforcement of laws and rules governing pollution prevention. One way to incentivize companies to do this would be to advocate for stronger consequences for those who do contribute to pollution but also rewards for companies that strive to prevent pollution.
  • Environmental Impact Assessments – You should take it upon yourself to regularly assess their environmental impact and take corrective action to address any issues.

A Fine Balance

There is only one Planet Earth – it is up to us, as the human race, to take care of it. As manufacturers, we need to strike a balance between continuing to innovate and industrialize while also protecting our most valuable assets – the air we breathe, the water we drink and the land we live on. It is the challenge of all manufacturers to find that balance, take steps towards preserving the world’s natural resources and communicate about your efforts to our customers and followers. Yes, challenge is the word of the day but it’s also an opportunity –  one that could pay off big time when it comes to keeping your customers happy and your business viable for many years to come. We all want to see the manufacturing industry flourish, thrive and continue serving humanity as it has done for decades. Shifting focus slightly in the direction of environmental sustainability will help make this a reality.


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