18 June 2012
Why going green doesn’t cost the earth
Low-cost initiatives can deliver environmental ambitions, says DAK's Dennis McCarthy
In 2011, the Carbon Disclosure Project, which has been collecting data on greenhouse gas emissions for almost a decade, reported an 80% increase in the number of organisations responding to information requests. Evidence, if it were needed, that there has been an undoubted increase in momentum behind the green agenda.
The current philosophy is to use measurement and compliance with legislation as a stick to beat organisations into submission. This is like trying to lose weight by stepping on and off the scales when what's needed is a better understanding of diet and fitness. Unfortunately this is shaping the direction of environmental innovation towards quick-fix, prestige projects, new facilities and assets which take years to deliver a payback. In addition, the impact on the carbon footprint of manufacturing new greener assets and disposing of the old ones can take many years to balance out. Furthermore, such 'innovations' are frequently supported by grants and legislation (not true economics) to the detriment of established manufacturers in countries such as the UK.
Over the last few weeks I have spoken to representatives from over 20 manufacturing organisations about their approach to sustainability – without exception, each had a positive story of low-cost or even no-cost innovations that pay back in months if not weeks. This ranged from an engineer who had used his own initiative to reduce the amount of water lost in cooling ceramic pump seals to one-tenth of its previous level, to a passionate global senior manager who was freely sharing best practice ideas at a recent WM continuous improvement network meeting.
What is clear from talking to people at the frontline of manufacturing is that the environment is one of those topics that people will happily support. Previously, I've written about motivation and how not only is money the most expensive motivator but other factors have a more direct impact on motivation.
The green agenda is a positive motivator and trigger for true innovation but it would seem that this dimension is missed by governments, standards organisations and many top managers. There are established micro performance measures – such as OEE, which has a direct correlation with energy use and percentage added value – which are much easier to translate into improvement actions, and which can have a rapid impact on the green agenda and profits.
Dennis McCarthy, director at DAK Consulting
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