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Sustainable practices are here to stay

The size of the market for sustainable products is huge. It’s also becoming an expectation among consumers that products be produced in a sustainable manner. As many major corporations focus on sustainability, pressure is mounting on their suppliers to conform to environmental initiatives.

Corporations like McDonald’s, Wal-Mart and Honda Motor Co. are just a few of the many conducting environmental assessments of suppliers.

It’s not uncommon for business operators to face anxiety and trepidation as their key customers look to assess sustainability throughout their supply chains. Such studies are becoming increasingly common, often leading companies to seek out experts who can assist in sorting it all out.

Some suppliers are quick to realize that they don’t fully comprehend the assessment. That’s where organizations and consultants, like the Wisconsin Manufacturing Extension Partnership (WMEP), can offer crucial assistance.

The WMEP has personnel with strong backgrounds in sustainability. It can offer assistance and direction with corporate environmental assessments, providing clients with direct services or, at the very least, link them to other available resources.

There tends to be a myriad of information requested by the assessments that may take a while to absorb. It also might be a challenge to determine how to compile the information required. In some cases, tools are provided. Nonetheless, it’s often valuable to have an expert walk through the process and determine how it might affect a business.

The typical assessment focuses on key indicators to determine a supplier’s greenhouse gas emissions, water usage, wastewater generation, air quality tied to manufacturing operations, management of chemicals and boosting recycled content in final products.

At the heart of the assessments are efforts by companies and their suppliers to reduce waste and energy consumption, or shift to renewable energy sources. A move toward selling sustainable, yet affordable, products also is driving environmental initiatives. Wal-Mart, for example, is working with the Sustainability Consortium, a global organization dedicated to improving the sustainability of consumer products.

The assessments provide benchmarks comparisons with other, often competing, companies.

The business case for sustainability is growing stronger.

If a company isn’t willing to take that into consideration, it’s certain to fall behind competitors that do.

For more information on the WMEP’s sustainability offerings, visit our website.

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Randy Bertram is Director of Sustainability Services for the Wisconsin Manufacturing Extension Partnership, a private, nonprofit organization committed to the growth and success of Wisconsin manufacturers through a variety of program offerings.

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