No, I didn’t spell that wrong. In the first of two sustainability-related presentations* at last week’s Converting Influence spring meeting, Dr. Steven Dunn, associate professor at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh, advocated that the converting managers on hand “Go GREAN”—a combination of being “green” while also applying the tenets of LEAN manufacturing. In other words, a corporate culture that unites manufacturing efficiency with environmental “green”-ness.
Dunn, director of the school’s Center for Sustainable Enterprise, is a former packaging manufacturing and logistics manager for H.J. Heinz Co. and author of The Green Baron (Trafford Publishing).
Among the points he made:
- Sustainability began as strictly an environmental stewardship idea, but today it also means still being in business 50 years from now.
- GREAN is thinking about what’s in your product, what’s used to make it and how to deal with it now and later. Get all your vendors onboard with your GREAN movement.
- Climate change is happening so fast, we can’t keep up with it. The geologic time periods scientists think in terms of are hard to understand by business people used to dealing in financial quarters.
- The Internet makes the whole world instantly knowledgeable about consumer goods. This can rapidly create material shortages for making things everywhere. Consequently, the supply chain needs to work together better to reduce, recycle and replace some types of materials in the first place.
- Sustainability also has a social side. Businesses need happier employees to stay with the company and be better workers so it, in turn, can succeed. Healthier, engaged employees can help you find the solutions you need.
- China is building “green” cities from the ground up in greenfield places, partly to offset the tons of coal the country burns. It is also hugely subsidizing solar power (likely to severely impact international competition in this area).
- Business owners need to teach young people that US manufacturing is not “dirty factories and greasy machines” anymore; it’s not a second-tier career choice.