Sustainability: It just makes sense
By Gregory Hale, InTech, Editor
A homeowner’s monthly budget is a pretty simple concept. You know how much revenue you have coming in each month with various incomes and you know how much you have to pay out every month in your bills. Income in, expenses out.
Obviously, the goal is to keep expenses down so you can enjoy as much of the revenue as possible. In order to enjoy the fruits of your labor, you want your house running as efficiently as possible. You do not keep windows open in the winter because as any parent will tell you “we are not heating the outdoors.”
You get down to basics and try to make sure your heating system is running efficiently in the winter and your air conditioning is running in peak shape in the summer. The end result is your efficiency keeps your bills as low as possible, which means more money in your pocket.
Take that simple concept, and apply it to the idea of sustainability.
Sustainability is gaining considerable momentum these days, especially after energy prices went through the roof this past year and are starting to inch back up even now.
“The question is not what is sustainability,” said Alan Hecht, director of sustainability with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, during a talk at industry research firm ARC Advisory Group’s “Winning Strategies and Best Practices for Sustainable Manufacturing” conference in Orlando, Fla. “The issue really is how do you make it operational?”
Sustainability has quite a few definitions, but in short, it is about energy, energy management, and green initiatives and how it all applies to the bottom line.
“When you get right down to it, sustainability means operational excellence,” said Frederick Yentz, president and chief executive at ILS Technology.
Hecht added one problem was government and business were going in different directions over the past eight years when it came to sustainability, but now the two entities are on the same page.
“Sustainability works when it adds to the bottom line,” Hecht said. Again, aren’t we talking about a pretty basic idea?
“We know, from data and from our daily lives, we are facing difficult times,” Hecht said. “These times further push us toward our goals of sustainability. Green is competitive, and it is workable.”
Sustainability can and should start from the corner office, but it needs complete buy in across the enterprise.
“Sustainability has to start at the top,” said Angel Mendez, Cisco senior vice president of customer value chain management. “You have to start it internally. If not, it is hard for everybody to follow.”
“We want to work with (users) to reduce energy consumption,” said Shuzo Kaihori, president and chief executive at Yokogawa Electric in Japan. “It is a partnership.”
The idea also does not just apply to one area of a company. “Manufacturing is not an island,” Mendez said. “You have to take a comprehensive view of a product from cradle to grave.
“We are building a sustainable strategy and applying it,” Mendez said. “Most people get it, but the subject is so broad, the definition can vary.”
Whatever the definition, the concept has to move forward to ensure a positive impact. All of that goes beyond just industry. “We are not competing when it comes to green,” Mendez said. “We should share ideas.”
“The public is demanding sustainability and science and technology can make it happen,” Hecht said.
You can call it smart business practices, sustainability, or any other buzzword you want. The idea is there needs to be a plan to ensure a smart and efficient future.
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