Environmental sustainability coincides with lean manufacturing practices whether business owners and consultants realize it or not. The primary goal of lean methodology is to improve business performance by ridding manufacturing processes of wastes to save time and money. Many supply chain wastes are linked to environmental hazards; for instance, companies may use excessive amounts of water and energy to produce their product or service. By eliminating the unnecessary use of materials, companies will not only help the environment, but they will also gain a better financial and social standing with stakeholders, consumers, and employees.

Lean Manufacturing Practices
Lean manufacturing began when companies needed to reduce costs and improve efficiency. Since then, many companies have followed suit and chosen to adopt lean practices. Many case studies have shown a drastic decrease in environmental waste with companies that have participated in a Kaizen event, which is a short, week-long, lean improvement project. A Kaizen event targets a specific area of production with the goal of finding the waste within. If companies do not know what areas should be targeted, environmental experts can help advise where to look to help implement lean processes. Companies may also choose to adopt alternative lean practices like just-in-time production and total quality management to improve the total efficiency of their production.

Other Environmental Initiatives
Additionally, companies may adhere to an environmental management system like ISO 14000 (https://www.iso.org/iso-14001-environmental-management.html) in order to set an environmental policy standard for the company to maintain. Often going unrecognized, the underlying benefit of these environmental policies is how most pollution prevention can be cost-efficient.

Bottom Line

Before any company decides to implement these lean methods into their business model, they must create a cost-benefit analysis defining whether the innovation will benefit them. Lean manufacturing is a great way to gain efficiency within certain processes. However, the theory alone may not achieve optimal sustainability throughout the organization. Regardless, the link between lean and green initiatives cannot be ignored, and the world should try to adopt more of its practices to maintain success, save money, and help the environment. 

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Madeline Pippel

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