For some businesses, the post-COVID-19 recovery offers an opportunity to embrace green initiatives as they adjust to the new reality. For others, recovery simply marks the resumption of their existing efforts.
Either way, there are several sustainability trends emerging across the manufacturing and process industries that you should be familiar with.
Also known as “carbon transition,” decarbonization is the process of reducing the greenhouse gas emissions of a business; the eventual goal is to achieve net zero where emissions from an organization’s value-chain are eliminated using sustainable energy sources.
For the process and manufacturing industries, this will mean replacing fossil fuels with renewable alternatives for instance. Where this is not possible, many businesses are looking at carbon capture technologies to prevent releases into the atmosphere.
Climate change is a global challenge and efforts to achieve net zero will have to cross entire industries. Under a carbon trading system, higher polluting companies would be able to buy credits from others that have a negative carbon footprint.
By trading carbon credits in this way, every industry can achieve net zero.
The circular economy
Regardless of industry, plastics are a major source of pollution as around 8 million tonnes are dumped in the ocean every year. Some businesses have already begun investing in technologies that allow them to recycle and reuse plastics in a continuous, closed-loop cycle. The idea is to move away from “disposable” plastics entirely.
These same circular economy concepts can be applied to virtually any aspect of process and manufacturing. Reducing chemical use, minimizing packaging, optimizing waste treatment, repairing rather than replacing equipment, improving logistics and using eco-design techniques are all helping to boost sustainability across the industry.
According to the World Economic Forum 2021, water shortages are a significant risk to populations and industry. Already 780 million people do not have access to clean drinking water and over the next ten years there will be a 40% shortfall in the available global water supply.
Industries are under increasing pressure to reduce water usage and to mitigate the direct and indirect effects of their operations on water supply and quality. The circular economy concept has a role to play in responsible, sustainable water usage and in helping protect populations against extreme, changing environmental conditions.
Balancing sustainability with other business goals
In addition to obvious environmental factors like carbon, plastics and water, businesses are beginning to consider their interconnections and social aspects of sustainability, including worker empowerment. Efforts to address some sustainability issues at the expense of others will not achieve the best outcomes.
Economic growth and profitability remain the highest priority for any business, but these demands will still have to be balanced with sustainability goals. This is especially true as governments look to formalize enforcement of sustainability targets and limits.
Supply chains and indirect emissions
The environmental impact of a business extends far beyond the physical manufacturing plant. The true carbon footprint of a company includes the entire supply chain and intermediaries.
Companies are investing in digitalization platforms that increase visibility of the entire supply chain and connected processes, allowing them to manage operations better. At the same time, they are also able to view and manage carbon emissions across the entire supply chain, to reduce their overall footprint and achieve true net zero.
Information is key
The manufacturing and process industries realized the value of information for driving efficiency and cost savings some time ago. Now that sustainability is topping national agendas, that increased operational visibility offers businesses an opportunity to drive down the ecological impact and improve societal aspects of sustainability in the most effective ways.
To learn more about how data visibility and process management software can help businesses build a truly sustainable future, take a look at our latest eBook, “How Digitalization Drives Sustainable Transformation.”