One challenging reality of civilization is the quantity of waste that is generated. From a systems perspective, the quantity of material goods that pass through human hands and is discarded as trash is a staggering inefficiency. By comparison, efforts to re-use, re-purpose and recycle are paltry. There are however some positive efforts underway to address and change these conditions.
A growing awareness of the value of some waste materials, such as metals, has inspired efforts to reclaim some of that value using market-based valuation. For example, scrap metal recycling centers have sprung up that provide a mechanism for diverting valuable metals out of the waste stream and back into productive use.
The fundamental idea of sustainability is rising in popularity and showing hopeful evidence of progress. Efforts to recognize and reduce losses in the waste stream are being implemented by business leaders. Business planning and operations, anchored in the philosophy of sustainability, are influencing decisions about supply chains and product end of life considerations. Organizations that have embraced this approach have experienced several important results including improved stakeholder engagement, reduced operating risk profile and quantifiable improvements in environmental impacts.
Improvements in Stakeholder Engagement
Businesses operate by creating incentives that engage customers, suppliers and employees. A value proposition is presented to these stakeholders to gain their cooperation and ultimately create value for each of them. Customers must be convinced that the product or service is worth the price they pay for it. Suppliers deliver raw materials for some agreed-upon price or value. Employees exchange their time and talents to support the business based upon their wages. Businesses that have embraced sustainability have experienced better relationships with all these stakeholders.
Reductions in Operating Risks
A degree of uncertainty exists in any business operation. Disruptions in supplies, volatile prices for raw materials and competition from other companies all present some degree of risk. Organizations that utilize sustainable principles address these risks by adopting practices that reduce the risks’ root causes. These may be improved working conditions for supply chain employees or helping suppliers with best practices training and support. Innovation plays a huge role in reducing the risks associated with competition.
Enhanced Measurable Environmental Impact
Reducing the carbon footprint of business operations accomplishes many objectives concurrently. These include driving efficiency improvements, improved customer impressions and often, reductions in overhead expenses. Contrary to some conventional wisdom, efficiency gains realized due to reduced environmental impact translate into real overhead cost reductions.
The reality of waste disposal due to human activity must be addressed and dealt with. Re-tooling businesses to minimize the waste stream is part of a potential solution. Advanced planning and changes to operations can provide new value to key stakeholders while reducing environmental damage.