A few years back, all small and large companies and manufacturers were announcing and priding themselves with adopting “green” policies and manufacturing methods. However, in the recent years, the marketing campaigns implemented to announce such measures are not as frequent as before. But this doesn’t mean that companies no longer “go green.” In fact, this means that green practices have become the norm for most companies and manufacturers. Take the example of Apple, a giant in the technology and innovation industry that put enormous efforts into implementing solar energy alternatives. In fact, the investment is an impressive one, of approximately $850 million as Bloomberg claims. But you may ask yourself why such practices are already becoming mainstream. Below we have some solid reasons.
The “Supply and Demand” Law
Far from being ignorant of important sustainability and environmental matters, the modern consumer puts an immense emphasis on the manufacturing methods implemented by businesses in diverse fields and sectors. A recent statistic showed that more than half of the consumers nowadays actively search for sustainable and “green” products, services and companies. More than 70% of the respondents claimed that they are highly interested in corporate sustainability measures, and just as many claimed that if a company is putting efforts into becoming sustainable and environmental-friendly, they are more likely to purchase from that particular company. Also, many consumers seem to be willing to pay a premium for green and sustainable products and/or services. This is why the simple law of supply and demand appears and mutates the business environment and the initiatives regarding “going green” of so many players in various industries. An informed consumer the key and steady interest in environmental-friendly and sustainable products and services can be observed amongst consumers all over the world.
Green Energy, Recycling and Waste Management – Areas of High Interest for Manufacturers and Service Providers
- Renewable energy becomes the norm for more and more companies regardless of the activity sector. A recent statistic from Eurostat, published in March 2017, shows that at the level of the European Union, the goal set for 2020 regarding the share of energy from renewable energy sources is almost accomplished. However, what is interesting to observe is the fact that most of the European countries have already accomplished their goals, the most successful ones being the Northern states, but also a few from the ex-Soviet countries in Europe. This means that there is a general concern when it comes to environmental matters and regulations. As a result, from 1990 to 2015, the percentage of renewable energy sources increased by almost 200% at the EU level. Of course, a big motivator was the fact that many enterprises, to receive European Union financial aid, were forced to propose and implement sources of renewable energy after receiving financial aid. In this context, companies in the manufacturing or service industry see themselves forced to align their practices with these new policies and demands. As a result, using renewable energy for the internal activity of many of the large and small players has become the norm.
- Recycling is also a major concern and area of interest, especially for manufacturing companies. And while the European Union is leading the trend of creating and using renewable energy, Canada seems to be leading the recycling sector. The data released in March 2017 by Statistics Canada shows an increasing interest regarding recycling and waste management matters. The recycling rates of organic materials increased by more than 5% in just two years (2012 vs. 2014), electronic material recycling rates increased by almost 20% in two years, and scrap metal recycling rates increased by nearly 15%.
Sustainability and Innovation
An Executive Report of the Network for Business Sustainability in Canada identifies sustainability and environmental concerns as main motivators for innovation. As shown in the report, an increasing number of business owners and CEOs identify a strong relationship between sustainability and innovation, and recognize the fact that in the process of implementing sustainable manufacturing and waste disposal measures, innovation can appear as a “by-product.” Moreover, in many circumstances dictated by sustainability and innovative measures, the profitability rates registered by manufacturers can also increase. The main logic behind this seems to be a decrease of the costs associated with processing waste or recycling. This results in better and new products for consumers (which are increasingly interested in sustainable products as shown above) and a decrease in expenses. In many cases, the results expand outside the company and impact the society – the so-called “Societal Change.”
However, to reach the “Societal Change” stage, the sustainable innovation process inside a company must pass through two other stages: the Operational Optimization stage and the Organizational Transformation stage.
During the Operational Optimization stage, companies usually try to diminish the harm and the print left on the environment, while only adjusting the company in the needed areas of interest. The main goal of this stage is increasing the company’s efficiency given the relatively new context.
In some cases, after the first sustainability innovation stage is successfully accomplished, the company chooses to upgrade their policies, create new products and/or services while reducing the impact on the environment furthermore. Ultimately, the Societal Change stage takes place if the company succeeds to create a generally positive impact and to involve entities outside the company in creating new, sustainable products which benefit the society as a whole.
While marketing and advertising campaigns are not as frequent as they were in the past, steady advancements towards new, better and sustainable products are registered. With intelligent modern consumers that show a high interest in sustainable products and services, companies seem to adjust their manufacturing processes and approach to meet the demand for such products. It seems to be beneficial not only for the environment but also for innovation. Companies see themselves forced to find reliable and sustainable solutions to major environmental and sustainability concerns.