The following guest blog comes to us from Kate Began of Polycase.com
The primary reason for this is the level of competition between corporations. Juggernauts like IBM, General Motors and General Electric not only vie for their share in the market, but they also compete with innovators like Kano, Dolby and EERO, as well as household names like Microsoft, Apple and Google.
All of these companies operate under a cloud of creating the next big thing, hoping to set trends that quickly run their course.
Technology companies create the devices with that billions of people use every day; consumer spending topped an excess of a from 2012-2017. That figure could double over the next five years. With this influx of technology, the need for sustainable solutions for manufacturing is greater than ever.
The question, however, is how to create sustainable models and which standards need to be established to get everyone on board. For a little inspiration, let’s take a look at what some companies are already doing to become more sustainable.
It should come as no surprise that material waste is the leading environmental issue in electronics. In 2017, reported that of the $206 billion spent on consumer electronics in 2012, only 29 percent of the waste was recycled. The rest was disposed of in landfills.
Although electronics companies are facing an uphill climb in using sustainable materials, there is light at the end of the tunnel. For example, Nokia publishes annual reports that outline their environmental initiatives. Key performance indicators (KPI) point back to the company sourcing raw materials that are either biodegradable or made from recycled materials.
Their reports go all the way back to 2007 when they started altering their supply chain and manufacturing methods. Since then, the company makes sustainable devices that can be recycled time and again. One hundred percent of the materials in the majority of their products is sustainable.
Whirlpool, one of the largest household and commercial appliance manufacturers, has also developed programs and initiatives that change how they utilize raw materials. Where they have excelled the greatest is implementing electronic waste initiatives.
E-waste programs offer viable solutions for sustainability and the disposal of recyclable materials. As the product life cycle becomes shorter, Whirlpool offers incentives for trade-in and take-backs to keep consumers from throwing away their old appliances. By returning products to the manufacture, consumers can help offset the environmental impacts of product waste.
Due to environmental concerns from agencies and consumers alike, many companies have approached engineering plastic-based products from different angles.
A prime example of this is Sony’s development of SoRPlas–its proprietary recycled plastic. SoRPlas is made from leftover transparent sheets, optical discs and used water bottles. The used materials are crushed, washed and then converted to sustainable plastic that Sony utilizes on a wide range of devices.
Whereas most plastic contains 30 percent recycled content, Sony uses materials that include as much as 99 percent recycled materials. The other one percent contains Sony’s brominated-free flame retardant. Together, Sony engineers use the material in almost all of their products, like cameras, media players and other electronics.
While companies are focusing on manufacturing, they’re also considering how they package their products.
For instance, Dell now packages all of its products using boxes and bags made from materials like wheat straw, mushrooms and bamboo. It ships more than 75 percent of its computers, printers and other products in recyclable packages. Dell sources bamboo from China to make cushions and trays that keep computers safe in transit. Not only is it renewable and efficient, bamboo can grow at a rate of 1 inch per hour.
Other companies are now using paper and cardboard products to package and ship their products. Many packaging manufacturing companies such as Amcor, Ball and Crown Holdings have discovered cornstarch for making “peanut” packaging. Another favorite item for shipping products–bubble wrap–can now be derived from polythene, which is completely degradable.
As consumers become more environmentally-conscious, industries are adapting their manufacturing processes. Whether these changes are motivated by marketing and revenue or a sincere desire to play a part in cleaning up the planet, companies are discovering a variety of benefits in embracing sustainability:
● A Competitive Edge. Eighty-six percent of consumers worldwide want to purchase products from companies that demonstrate an interest in environmental issues. Manufacturers that want to compete in the market need to create sustainable solutions when building their products.
● Hiring Top Talent. Sixty-seven percent of prospective employees surveyed stated that they prefer to work for an environmentally responsible company. Eighty percent of millennials want to work for a company that contributes to society and is sensitive to social issues.
● Economic Impact. Manufacturers are now paying the price for irresponsible business practices. Since the early 2000s, major players in the electronics industry have suffered financial losses due to reckless business practices such as pollution, child labor and wasteful resource consumption.
● Reducing Operational Costs. By lowering energy usage and finding sustainable solutions, companies are benefiting from a significant reduction in operating costs. The ROI in becoming more sustainable is much higher than wasting money on conventional methods.
● Higher Revenue and Profit Margins. Sustainable and socially responsible supply chains can result in average revenue increases between 5 and 20 percent, cost reductions between 9 and 20 percent and a boost in brand value between 15 and 30 percent.
Manufacturers have a sizable role to play in reducing electronic waste. Many companies are now taking the lead in creating sustainable products while reducing energy consumption and cutting costs. They’re also providing consumers with the opportunity to return products that would otherwise end up in a landfill.
All of these efforts will make a difference over the next decade. Innovation insustainability will set the pace for a cleaner world for decades to come.