Pursuing Sustainability

A recent posting on this blog focused on the ULE 880: Sustainability Standard for Manufacturers, which has just completed pilot testing*. While the ULE 880 Standard is intended for larger manufacturers, it is my view that the structure and basic content of ULE 880 will serve as precedent and model for future standards intended for smaller manufacturers. Since the drafts of the ULE 880 Standard that I have seen strongly encourage those who use ULE 880 to require evidence of Sustainability from their suppliers, ULE 880 rather presupposes some sort of certifiable standard for their smaller suppliers. Something like ULE 880 for smaller manufacturers is likely to come, and likely sooner rather than later.

So, what can and should a smaller manufacture do now in proactive anticipation?

Answer: Start now. Develop an interim Sustainability plan for your business that focuses on realistic actions that are of immediate benefit to your organization, while also establishing a basis for continuous extension into the future.

Start by clarifying some fundamentals:

>  Understand your motives for pursuing Sustainability. There are many good reasons to pursue Sustainability. Perhaps to address competitors in the market; perhaps in response to pressure from customers, financial organizations or other stakeholders; perhaps to seize opportunities for improving your own cost competitiveness; or maybe you see Sustainability as simply the right thing to do. In any case, the motives that actually drive you and your organization need to prioritize your actions and your objectives.

>  Formulate general objectives for the near term and the longer term. Don’t worry about quantifying these at this point.

>  Form a Steering Council to establish and execute the interim Sustainability Plan. The Council drafts a written, formal Plan; defines the scope of the Plan; formulates explicit, measurable objectives; establishes guidelines for commitment of capital and human resources to execution of the Plan; and develops procedures for executing the Plan and for reporting progress. It may be useful to include individuals from outside your organization on the Steering Council, at least during the development of the Plan and during the early phases of execution.

What’s in the Plan?

Actions, of course, must follow you and your team’s particular priorities and objectives. However, here are some items that may fit to get started:

>  Go Lean and Green – Lean manufacturing is, in essence, about relentless efforts to eliminate waste in all of its guises. And almost all environmental concerns are waste of some sort. Lean offers the single best way to work toward the “Trifecta” of improved human productivity, better materials utilization, and reduced energy consumption.

>>  Contact your local Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) office (www.nist.gov/MEP). Lean is a core competency for them, along with much else useful in a Sustainability initiative, including ideas for financing.

>>  EPA’s Lean, Energy and Climate Toolkit is one of many useful pre-organizers. Download for free at:

>  Pay special attention to energy – Energy costs are approaching record highs. Electric utilities are offering real incentives to reduce energy consumption. And reductions in energy consumption are a fair proxy for reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. Have an energy utilization audit conducted, quantify and prioritize the opportunities the audit exposes, and then take action.

>>  Talk to your electricity supplier about ways to reduce power consumption and about incentives to do so.

>>  Download the National Association for Manufacturers free Energy Efficiency Toolkit for Manufacturers at

>  Conduct an environmental issues inventory – Have a qualified individual examine your operations and identify potential environmental and industrial hygiene issues. Prioritize and take appropriate actions. This is a big plus for the environment and for everybody that works at your facility. Such an inventory is also prerequisite for future certification to the ISO 14001 environmental standard.

>>  Your local MEP can likely find a qualified consultant for this.

>  Make sure that your employee safety program is up to snuff – It’s easy to benchmark safety performance against comparable organizations. Aspire to be the best. Take actions to make that happen.

>>  Again, your local MEP is the first place to look for help on this. You workman’s comp insurer may also be of real use.

There is a lot more information on Sustainability planning for the smaller manufacturer on the Jera website,
www.JeraSustainableDevelopment.com and on the past postings on this blog, http://blog.JeraSustainableDevelopment.com.

Chuck - Mt. Humphreys AZ
Thoughtful comments are always appreciated. You may need to click on the title of this post to open the comments section.

…  Chuck

  Jera can assist with preparing and executing your Sustainability plan, to whatever extent your situation requires. Contact me at Chuck@JeraSustainableDevelopment.com. You can brief me your situation, and then I will prepare a proposal.


* For recent news on the status of the ULE 880 Sustainability Standard, see: www.greenbiz.com/blog/2011/12/06/lg-intuit-igefa-pilot-new-ul-sustainability-standard