Recovery, reuse, revenue fuel the Sustainability boom

Environmental awareness and social responsibility haven’t just geared up for the election year. They are dominant themes found in business initiatives that have been in place for decades.

By Carol E. Smith, Managing editor ( October 1, 2008

Environmental awareness and social responsibility haven’t just geared up for the election year. They are dominant themes found in business initiatives that have been in place for decades.Still, there is a boom surrounding green manufacturing practices—including design-for-environment and sustainability—which are evolving for good reason: Soon companies won’t be able to survive without them.Dedham, Mass.-based ARC Advisory Group sees a wealth of potential benefits from the adoption of sustainability best practices: a reduction in a manufacturer’s environmental footprint; lower energy and raw material costs; reduced risk; and in lower carbon or other emissions taxes.These reductions can lead to big gains in the plant and out into the supply chain. But don’t overlook the benefits associated with improved public image and increased customer acceptance as well.ARC says sustainability implies the ability to operate in a way that meets present needs while providing for the needs of future generations. In manufacturing, sustainability embodies three principles: design and produce environment- and resource-friendly products in environment- and resource-friendly plants with environment and resource-friendly suppliers and supply chain networks.

The best model for sustainable manufacturing takes an enterprisewide approach that involves all touch points for business strategy & planning, design & engineering, and operations.

According Greg Gorbach, VP of collaborative manufacturing at ARC, “Sustainable manufacturing is as much about improving business performance as it is about being environmentally responsible. In the future, a company’s market valuation will be directly tied to how well that company has mastered sustainable manufacturing practices.”One hurdle to achieving a real business plan for sustainability is a lack of relevant information and functional models that apply to real-world manufacturing environments. Companies that stand to benefit the most will take an enterprisewide approach that involves all touch points for business strategy & planning, design & engineering, and operations management (see graphic, below left).They’ll also need secure supply chain partnerships for every product they make—especially when it comes to materials. According to ARC, we are seeing the end of an era for cheap oil, copper, water, and other materials. The onus is on every manufacturer to audit, resell, reuse, and recycle to recover value; reduce costs; remain competitive; and grow a green, sustainable enterprise.That’s where global services provider Sims Recycling Solutions adds value through extensive asset management and precious metals and part/component recovery—all with an eye on manufacturer/supplier data security.Sims focuses on saving energy and minimizing the waste stream. As a key enabler of metals recovery, Sims performs a closed-loop process for precious and semi-precious metals by refining materials from manufacturing scrap and consumer and commercial electronics—e.g., printers, computers and monitors, and photography equipment.Components and parts with residual value can be identified and harvested by Sims technicians for return projects or resale—maximizing efficient use and recovery.

The Sims Recycling Solutions business model seeks to extend product life cycles and sustain product resources by handling materials in a way that is both responsible and cost-effective.

With its U.S. hub in West Chicago, Ill., Sims has 28 physical operations worldwide, encompassing all the processes for environmentally safe disposition of obsolete electronics. Its monitor-processing line in particular has enclosed conveyors, and extensive air extraction to capture and contain dust. Each processing system has its own dust collection system equipped with HEPA filters to maintain a healthy workplace and protect the environment.Morgan Johnson, Sims Recycling director of global service delivery, says Sims’ lessons and experience as a global services provider reveal the need to focus on at least the following three areas:• Recycling standards, whereby environmental benefits flow from landfill diversion and resource recovery completely, and near to where it originates;• Export restrictions enforcement to support standards, otherwise material will flow abroad with adverse carbon emissions impacts or will be recycled inefficiently in backyard cottage industries; and• Local reuse and reduced restrictions on movement in the EU, as well as restricting export activity from the U.S.Johnson believes that incentivizing “easy recycling”—i.e., extended producer responsibility, or EPR—does not in turn incentivize less resource-intensive manufacturing. “Only maximizing reuse addresses resource utilization,” he says. “The WEEE [Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment] directive talks about reuse, but there are no incentives.”Johnson says Sims ensures environmentally safe disposition of obsolete electronics with compliance solutions for WEEE, SB50, and other regional e-recycling laws. Sims also helps manufacturers avoid environmental liability, and protects companies from the risk of regulatory sanctions using a full complement of transportation management services.“During our recycle and recovery processes, everything is graded A-B-C-D, with anything lower than D being scrap,” says Johnson. “We’re working on B2B discards, moving materials‘from the hospital to the morgue,’ so to speak. We break down boards, wire, foam, plastics, and metals. We grind out copper from wire. CRT glass can be sorted into leaded and clean fractions for use by lead smelters and closed-loop CRT manufacturing respectively. Everyone gets a shot at using something here. There’s reuse in all of it.”New ISM statement on sustainabilityThe Institute for Supply Management (ISM) believes supply management decisions should be based upon the organization’s written strategic plan as well as its sustainability and social responsibility policies. ISM defines sustainability as “the ability to meet current needs without hindering the ability to meet the needs of future generations in terms of economic, environmental, and social challenges.”ISM encourages supply management professionals to foster a thorough understanding of sustainability and social responsibility concepts and policies, including their roles within those policies to work with suppliers to achieve certain goals and build business competitiveness.Supply professionals interested in developing and integrating sustainability and social responsibility initiatives within their own organizations and supply chains may want to consider attendance at the inaugural Conference on Sustainability and Social Responsibility , Nov. 6-7, at the Marriott Inn and Conference Center in Adelphi, Maryland.For more information, including ISM’s Principles of Social Responsibility, visit .