6 Small, Yet Mighty Changes Most Manufacturers Can Make to Improve Sustainability

Sustainability is more than just a buzzword — it has become a key facet of modern business. According to the Global Sustainability Study 2021, 85 percent of consumers have “shifted their purchase behavior towards being more sustainable in the past five years,” with younger generations being especially likely to actively seek sustainable options.

In the United States, 61 percent of customers cited sustainability as an important criteria in their purchasing decisions.

Regardless of the type of white-label products or private label products you want to produce, implementing changes to make your efforts more sustainable can have a significant impact on the environment — and how customers perceive your brand.

1. Develop a Company Sustainability Policy

Your sustainability initiatives need a clear focus and direction — just like any other action or initiative your company might undertake. Making sustainability a coordinated, formal initiative that is fully integrated into the rest of your operations will be far more effective than taking an informal, scattershot approach.

A documented sustainability policy will outline your goals and concrete actions you will take to reduce your carbon footprint. Getting insight from your workers can also help you with developing these efforts. Perhaps even more importantly, drafting an official sustainability policy will enable you to provide training to your staff to ensure they follow through on environmental standards.

2. Focus On the Supply Chain

Supply chain efficiency (or a lack thereof) can serve as a major source of pollution in the manufacturing process. For example, using USA manufacturing for your private-label products can reduce pollution associated with transporting goods from the manufacturing facility to your warehouse, or to your customers.

One of the best ways to maximize your sustainability efforts is to ensure that you are partnering with suppliers and vendors who are also committed to sustainability. Partnering with like-minded businesses that have similar environmental standards will greatly reduce the carbon footprint of manufacturing your products and getting them into the hands of your customers.

This is especially important when you use a third party to manufacture products, rather than producing them yourself (as is common with white-label products and private-label products). You may not have total control over the supply chain, but thoroughly vetting each potential partner’s sustainability practices will ensure your products don’t have a significant environmental impact.

3. Switch to Renewable Energy

Many businesses are seeking to offset their carbon footprint by switching to renewable energy sources. In fact, many major brands, such as Microsoft, Intel and Proctor & Gamble now get 100 percent of their electricity use from renewable resources, with many other organizations generating hundreds of millions of kWh from green power sources each year.

Renewable energy options include solar, wind, geothermal, hydroelectric and even tidal power. While not all of these renewable options would be available in every location, identifying which options are available in your area can help manufacturers and those who rely on them become more sustainable.

In the United States, businesses that invest in clean energy upgrades can also qualify you for the federal investment tax credit. This tax incentive currently provides a direct credit of 26 percent for such upgrades, but gradually drop down to a 10 percent credit by 2024.

4. Eliminate Unnecessary Energy Use

While the manufacturing process itself can consume a lot of energy, many facilities actually waste energy through less obvious means. Simple steps such as shutting down equipment at the end of the day, replacing incandescent lights with LED lighting, or using room occupancy sensors to automatically turn lights on or off can significantly lower electricity costs. For example, LED lights use 75 percent less energy than incandescent lights.

Manufacturing facilities can also improve sustainability by reducing water use through the installation of features such as low-flow toilets and water-efficient faucets. When possible, dry manufacturing processes that don’t require excessive amounts of water should be used.

5. Optimize Operations With Technology

Smart technology can drastically improve a manufacturing facility’s operational efficiency — and this, in turn, can greatly reduce how much energy is consumed each day. 

As Vincent Rutgers writes for Forbes, “In recent years, the implementation of lean processes using digital capabilities have boosted productivity, created safer workplaces, and reduced costs. What this automation through digital technology can also provide manufacturers is greater visibility into their production processes, equipment wear-and-tear, and, more importantly, energy usage. Armed with this data, organizations can then optimize production and improve predictive maintenance to diminish energy loads as well as reduce material and water waste—all key factors in building sustainability.”

6. Materials Matter

The materials that are used to manufacture your products are where much of the environmental impact of your operations occurs. Materials for white-label products and private-label products should be sourced sustainably. For example, timber that comes from a managed forest is more sustainable because at least one new tree will be planted for each tree that is cut down for manufacturing purposes.

The use of bio-based products in manufacturing can also lessen the environmental impact. For example, the use of bio-based alternatives for coatings, elastomers, lubricants and sealants that are used in manufacturing can greatly reduce the carbon output and pollution risk associated with manufacturing.

The same is true of industrial cleaning. Cleaning and maintaining equipment with bio-based cleaning products can have a much lower environmental impact when compared to harsh cleaning chemicals.

Your Sustainability Efforts Can Make a Difference

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), companies that invest in sustainable manufacturing are able to increase their operational efficiency, reduce waste, build long-term viability for their brand, remain compliant with regulatory concerns and strengthen their brand reputation as they engage new customers.

All of these factors combined can create a significant competitive advantage that will help you sell white-label products or private-label products in higher quantities and with a higher profit margin. Every effort to embrace sustainability can make a meaningful difference.

At Manufactured, we help make it easier to find sustainable vendors to produce your next product. With over 500 vendors to help launch your product, you can find product manufacturers who fit your priorities, such as sustainable or USA manufacturing.

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