4 Steps to Sustainable Manufacturing

Minimize your environmental impact with manageable and measurable goals.

Creating a clear path to sustainable manufacturing is critical to the long-term environmental, social, and financial health of your company.

“It’s not always easy, but it is necessary,” says Kathy Wiedeman, the director of Environmental, Health, and Safety for Glatfelter’s Specialty Papers Business Unit. The key, she says, is to create a limited number of achievable goals you can zero in on that will have the biggest impact.

Wiedeman offers four steps to get you started on a path to sustainable manufacturing:

Step 1. Review your environmental impact.

Closely examine your water use, wastewater discharge, air emissions, and regular waste. Then, benchmark your results against other similar companies in your industry. Are you in line, or are you behind in some areas?

Step 2. Set clear objectives. 

Make sure that they’re specific, measurable, meaningful, and achievable. But, Wiedeman warns, don’t have too many goals or you’ll risk losing focus. Whenever possible, set up objectives that your workforce can get behind. For example, reducing waste with visible recycling efforts.

Step 3. Evaluate your products.

Are your products made with sustainable materials? What happens to your products after they leave your facility? “Look beyond your own four walls,” says Wiedeman. “Sometimes you have to look at what’s coming to you and what you’re sending out.” Educate your customers on how to use your products in a sustainable manner so that your overall environmental impact is positive.

Step 4. Reduce waste. Conserve water. Use renewable energy.

While larger facilities may be able to create their own energy with renewable sources such as biomass, smaller facilities can focus on minimizing their overall energy usage. Look for ways to reuse materials in your operations that might otherwise be waste, and conserve water wherever possible.