As the world becomes more aware of the environmental impact of human activity, the term “sustainable manufacturing” is increasingly used. The concept has grown in popularity in the recent decade due to a growing demand for more sustainable products.
In this blog post, we will explore the concept of sustainable manufacturing, its benefits, and some ways companies implement it. We will also discuss some of the challenges associated with sustainable manufacturing and how marketing can help overcome them.
What is sustainable manufacturing?
Sustainable manufacturing focuses on minimising negative environmental impact while conserving energy and natural resources when manufacturing products. It is an approach to production that balances a business’s social, environmental and financial objectives.
Sustainable manufacturing practices usually combine processes, tools and technologies to drive innovation and minimise environmental impact. Some examples include employing lean and agile manufacturing approaches, integrating new technologies into production lines and designing products that consume fewer raw materials and minimise greenhouse emissions.
The mechanisms for sustainable manufacturing can look different from business to business based on their industry as well as their environmental and social responsibility policies, focus on innovation, and drive for continuous improvement.
The benefits of sustainable manufacturing
Embracing sustainable manufacturing practices can help businesses reduce waste and cost, improve competitive advantage, enhance regulatory compliance and boost operational efficiency. Sustainable manufacturing is a holistic approach to production involving collaboration and input across several departments in the manufacturing value chain:
Engineering: Consideration of both small modifications and major changes in product designs and processes
Sourcing: Ethical selection and sourcing of renewable and/or alternative materials
Production: Operational efficiency improvement initiatives and utilisation of smart technologies and green energy
Transportation: Incorporation of decarbonisation strategies in shipping and delivery (e.g. supply chain reconfiguration, rationalisation of trade routes and other emission-reducing activities)
Product lifecycle: Transition to a circular economy model to consider how products are designed, produced, sold, used, and disposed of
The impact of combining these can deliver business improvements in areas such as:
- the environment — reduced carbon footprint and better working conditions
- resources — less material and financial waste
- product longevity — reduced replacement frequency
These improvements often culminate in reduced production costs and therefore improved profits, benefitting businesses and their stakeholders.
In addition, by reducing its negative impact on the environment, a company can position itself as an ethical, responsible brand that focuses on the well-being of its customers and employees. Sustainable manufacturing practices can therefore add significant value to a company’s product and brand, which can improve customer loyalty and attract long-term business.
The challenges of sustainable manufacturing
While there are many benefits, there are also some challenges that can be associated with sustainable manufacturing in certain industries. Implementing successful sustainable manufacturing practices often calls for changes to be made to existing processes to reduce waste without affecting production levels.
This is sometimes achieved through the introduction of new technology, systems or processes, which can bring about business-wide challenges such as increased manufacturing complexity, higher costs and possible business disruptions. These changes can also impact the supply chain, making it more difficult to manage and potentially leading to longer product lead times, especially during the teething stages of implementation. And in the short term, some sustainable manufacturing strategies can drive up costs from the initial investment in new equipment or materials.
While sustainable manufacturing can carry challenges that sometimes discourage businesses from becoming greener, it is important to remember that the improvements from implementation could bring significant benefits in the long term. These benefits can be further boosted through focused marketing.
How can marketing help overcome the challenges of sustainable manufacturing
The potential costs and technical complexities of adopting sustainable processes can sometimes become barriers to implementation. Because of this, it is important for marketing to take an active role to help overcome some of these challenges.
In today’s environmentally conscious world, it is more important than ever to establish green practices. It can then become a great opportunity to promote the steps you have taken to deliver on your corporate social and environmental responsibility without losing focus on market and customer needs.
With 85% of consumers indicating that their purchasing behaviour has shifted towards being more sustainable and a third of the population willing to pay a premium for sustainable products or services, it is important to recognise how marketing can help tap into this shift in consumer behaviour. Intelligent sustainable manufacturing marketing can help businesses differentiate themselves from the competition and break into new markets to attract a wider target audience.
But it is not only in the consumer market where we are seeing shifting attitudes, investors are also weighing in on businesses and paying closer attention to how they deliver on their sustainability objectives.
It will be important for companies making the transition to sustainable manufacturing to clearly communicate the benefits of their new approach to help prospects and existing customers understand the benefits associated with their greener products. As part of your marketing strategy, you could promote, for example, your resource optimisation initiatives, waste reduction projects and better utilisation of renewable energy. You could also showcase examples of improved product quality in areas such as product longevity, recyclability, and how they might be made from consuming fewer resources. These are all great messages to promote to your investors, prospects and existing customers. This can be done through company communications, social media and advertising campaigns.
When done effectively, sustainable manufacturing practices offer a range of benefits to companies. These include improved business flexibility and agility, reduced risk and cost, higher profitability, and increased customer satisfaction. Promoting these positive messages as part of your marketing efforts can help boost the benefits you see from adopting these green approaches by demonstrating to key stakeholders how they can benefit from these changes. In complete contrast to “greenwashing”, which marketeers should avoid, effective marketing of genuine sustainability improvements enables more spending on better practices.
Please reach out to our team if you would like to explore how you can leverage your sustainable manufacturing practices to boost your marketing efforts.