Although safety is the primary concern when purchasing Flame Resistant Clothing (FRC), consider the environmental impact of the manufacture of those garments. According to Textile Exchange, less than 20 percent of textile production holds any sustainability credential. We can do better. Our employees, our communities, our customers and our planet are counting on it.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) describes sustainable manufacturing as the process of producing manufactured goods through the use of eco-friendly practices and materials that aim to reduce harmful impacts on the environment while conserving energy and protecting our natural resources. Adopting responsible manufacturing measures is not only the right thing to do, it’s good for business. It may sound counterintuitive, but doing good and making a profit can go hand in hand. Responsible manufacturing enhances the safety of your facility, your employees, your products and your community.
Making green by going green
Looking to save money? Sustainable manufacturing can be very cost-effective. Proper planning and research can improve the efficiency of your equipment and processes, lower energy and water consumption, decrease production time, minimize waste, and use less raw materials—all of which can provide significant cost savings. Initially, it may cost more to source alternative materials or buy new equipment, but those costs are mitigated by using fewer resources and producing less waste. You can also save money by choosing the right FRC for your workforce. Not all FRC is created equal. Spending a little more upfront for durable, sustainably-made flame resistant apparel that you know will last will save you money in the long run.
Trust in transparency
Incorporating responsible manufacturing processes into your business fosters transparency and trust with customers. Many consumers are specifically seeking out businesses with sustainable manufacturing practices and products. According to a recent study by First Insight, Inc., the majority of consumers across generations expect retailers and brands to become more sustainable—73 percent of Generation Z, 78 percent of Millennials, 84 percent of Generation X, 73 percent of Baby Boomers and 68 percent of the Silent Generation[ii]. People want to feel good about the products they’re purchasing, and they want the companies they support to share their same values. The adoption of sustainable practices demonstrates your investment in the community where your employees live and work.
Sustainability incites innovation
A commitment to sustainability encourages innovation. Working toward the use of more sustainable materials, more efficient equipment, minimizing waste or using less resources spurs critical thinking, encouraging your team to question the status quo. There’s no question that innovation can give you a real competitive advantage in the marketplace.
Attract new customers
Establishing your company as a leader in responsible manufacturing can lift the perception of your brand, which plays a vital role in the success of your business overall. Brands and retailers are looking for partners that share their commitment to sustainability; implementing sustainable policies and initiatives can give you an advantage during the supplier evaluation process.
How can you manufacture more responsibly? Here’s a 7 step action plan to get you started:
Form a sustainability team to review your environmental impact and set objectives.
- Determine key performance indicators to measure and help drive improvement.
- Survey your manufacturing operation for impact and efficiency of your processes — energy efficiency, water usage, greenhouse gas generation, and water and air emissions.
- Identify and measure the raw materials and inputs in your production processes for environmental impact.
- Evaluate the sustainability of your end products.
- Review your results and determine ways you can improve.
- Develop an action plan to make changes and improve performance
Now that you have a plan of action, below are ways to incorporate eco-friendly practices into your business that will help improve your performance:
- Source materials more locally, reducing the energy and resources used in transportation.
- Perform an energy assessment to identify areas where improvements in efficiency can be made, such as upgrading to more efficient fluorescent lamp or LED models, using motion sensors in areas not continuously occupied, like warehouses, and determine whether renewable energy sources, like solar, make sense. Your local power provider might offer this as a free service.
- Conduct regular audits for air, steam and water leaks, and make timely repairs.
- Reduce excess waste — from extra energy to leftover materials.
- Update equipment, especially motors, to more efficient models.
- Replace raw materials with more sustainable or recycled options where it makes sense.
- Minimize sending waste to the landfill by exploring every recycling option available.
- Work with suppliers to design products that can be reused or recycled.
- Support local programs and non-profits in the community that protect the environment, like your local riverkeeper organization.
Why does it matter?
According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, the industrial sector uses more than a quarter of the total energy consumed in the U.S. annually, so how we operate our manufacturing facilities plays an important role in the overall sustainability of our planet. As sustainability becomes increasingly more important to consumers, it’s our responsibility to integrate eco-friendly practices into our business and make greener choices.