Industrial Sustainability Is Smart Business: Are You Achieving Your Goals?

As an industrial operations or facility manager, how do you feel your company’s sustainability programs rate compared to those of your competitors or similar organizations? Does your company even have a defined program in place?

Corporate sustainability for companies in most markets, including the industrial sector, is actually a potential competitive advantage today. It’s also becoming a matter of legal compliance, as well, with regulators beefing up environmental standards for waste and other substances.

Many companies are aware of this situation and have programs in place. However, cost, lack of focus, and other factors are preventing all too many industrial organizations from pursuing consistent and comprehensive sustainability plans.

In fact, perhaps a quarter of industrial companies are unprepared to meet proposed environmental standards—or haven’t demonstrated the program to the workforce. So indicates EHS Today’s recent “2022 Sustainability Progress Report,” based on a poll of 530 participants, primarily managers in EHS roles, from a variety of fields—heavy and light manufacturing, construction, chemicals, oil and gas, and other related sectors.

The report’s authors note that a sustainability program, complete with reporting and documentation, is a great way to shine to the public—and to potential customers and partners. In fact, on the plus side, one third of the respondents say they are seeing benefits from their environmental initiatives.

Rising Tide of Industrial Sustainability

Certainly, there is a groundswell of support in companies to promote sustainability programs. As the survey reveals, 52% of respondents already have a sustainability program—only 10% lacked a formal strategy.

In large part, this is because of the return on investment that sustainability can deliver. While the initial cost is a major obstacle for some organizations, overall there are financial incentives for companies to move to sustainability programs. This is not just because their customers want it—such programs can improve operations, and save time, money, and effort.

Transparency is especially beneficial. The report authors cite the global environmental charity Carbon Disclosure Project, which states: “Companies that publish their environmental data consistently and on an annual basis can protect and improve their reputation, get ahead of regulation, boost their competitive advantage, uncover risks and opportunities, track and benchmark progress, and get access to lower costs of capital.”

For Customers and for Operational Improvement

The market itself is dictating the rules: 54% of the progress survey respondents say customers were the primary motivations for sustainability. This bears out a recent IBM survey that indicates 49% of respondents paid a premium (on average 59% more) for products that were sustainable or socially responsible.

Other motivations broke down as follows:

  • 48% aim to improve the environment
  • 42% seek to cut energy consumption and their carbon footprint
  • 41% want to comply with industry standards—or to improve operational efficiencies

There are many good reasons to pursue corporate sustainability. The question is often what the best means are to do so.

Need for Leaders, Data, Strategy

Most respondents felt they could be doing more for their programs. Unsurprisingly, the report states that two of the main obstacles to programs are inadequate funding and lagging employee support. More than half of the respondents note there was no chief sustainability officer (or a similar executive) running the program. Lack of executive sponsorship obviously can hamper focus—and the various teams may feel there isn’t a full commitment to these programs.

Managerial commitment is key: A Harvard Business Review article explains how sustainability isn’t just a matter of writing up environmental, social, and governance (ESG) reports—it’s about embedding the right EHS approach as a core part of corporate strategy.

Regrettably, 30% of the respondents claimed they lacked meaningful metrics to measure program success. And, as with any program, it’s important to measure and monitor your programs—and the more automated the data gathering and reporting processes are, the better.

The progress report also broke down respondents’ areas of sustainability interest, which demonstrates how much such programs must vary to reflect a company’s internal needs. For instance, 77% of respondents focus on waste reduction, while 73% prioritize recycling and energy consumption efficiency. But whatever the specific goals or challenges, it’s clearly in an industrial company’s best interests to succeed in sustainability.

Sustainability via Partnerships

So, if you’re ready to start—or augment—a sustainability initiative, you must be prepared to invest the requisite time and effort. You need to establish goals and assign resources, communicate, and encourage employees, and so on.

If you’re unsure how to proceed, fortunately, there are choices. A proven one is partnering with a capable EHS vendor. Such a collaboration can help you with a wide variety of sustainability programs that you may have neither the time nor resources to fully pursue. You can secure a variety of products from a partner—from initial consulting and planning to hazardous waste disposal solutions to full-service onsite environmental services.

A capable EHS vendor can support your sustainability programs via:

You can also seek specialists who will evaluate your operations, create improvement plans, and then turn the program over to you. Or they can retain management of it in whole or part.

In your search, there are a few general prerequisites: you must find a partner that demonstrates its complete understanding of the type of industrial sector you are in. Obviously, you’ll want to remain cost competitive—but without selecting a vendor that will skimp on employee and public safety, or risk noncompliance with federal, state, or local regulations.

Fortunately, there are many excellent vendors out there. Triumvirate Environmental is one of them—and we’re here to discuss your needs for successful, economical, and effective corporate sustainability.