Steps to Sustainability from Upper Management to the Bottom Line

Posted on 20 February 2013 by CRadmin2

by Steve Richerson

Several big companies, such as GE, IBM and Walmart, and many smaller companies, including Tenant, Centiva and Stonyfield Yogurt, have recently locked their GPS coordinates on a really intriguing destination: market profitability through ecological sustainability. And fabricators can also benefit from taking this route.

Ecological sustainability refers to the way we choose to use Earth’s natural resources. If we use resources in a way that doesn’t harm future generations’ ability to use those resources, that use is considered sustainable for generations to come. If we harm future generations’ ability to use those resources, it’s not sustainable.

Why should fabricators choose sustainability?

  1. It allows fabricators to cut overhead costs for everything they take, make and waste. These savings can go directly to the bottom line.
  2. Sustainability allows companies to build a successful enterprise they can be proud of. This leads to increased employee productivity, retention and attraction.
  3. It allows fabrication firms to build reputations for being good corporate citizens. This results in loyal consumers and fans who can determine questions of zoning, taxes and community support.

So, what are the steps we have to take to get our GPS pointing toward sustainability?

Step 1 – Get support from the top. You’re going to have to make a pitch, presentation or proposal to convince upper management that sustainability is good for the bottom line of the company. Simply making the argument that going green is the right thing to do won’t cut it. You need to make the business argument for it. Make the case in dollars and cents.

Step 2 – Engage everyone on the team. Now that you know the front office has your back, it’s time to engage the team. Build a group of middle and senior management from all departments, including sales, HR, facilities, retail and fabrication, that will focus on efforts to save the company money by saving resources and preventing pollution.

Even members of the team that are environmentally agnostic, such as those who are skeptical of global warming or think recycling is a waste of time, can understand that waste equals inefficiency, and inefficiency costs the company money. Saving the company money through saving resources is the goal.

Step 3 – Get it on the company map. Get an official sustainability statement from your team on the company’s strategy map. This will allow your integrated sustainability to be an aligned priority at every level. You’ll get support from everyone because it’s on the map. Employees up and down the ladder want to know that sustainability is important to the company and that they’ll be rewarded for spending time on it.

Step 4 – Take, make and waste. Have the team focus on areas of take, make and waste. Create a list of opportunities for each of these areas. Waste is inefficient. If you can cut down on inefficiency, you grow your bottom line and help reduce impact on the planet. Here are a few questions that should be asked:

  • Can transportation costs be reduced by getting smaller or more fuel-efficient vehicles? Maybe planning out installation routes more efficiently could cut fuel costs?
  • Can we cut our waste-removal costs by recycling scrap, water used in stone/quartz fabrication or other areas? Rather than shipping scrap to the landfill, many companies store it for future use, or have regular sales to the public to buy the scrap. Vanities, paving stones and cutting boards are several products that many fabricators now offer from their scrap rather than paying someone to haul it off.
  • Can we choose an option for shipping that uses less packaging?
  • Is it possible to offer a new product that is within our core competencies but has a lesser impact on resources?
  • Can we source surfacing materials or fabrication supplies closer to our facility to cut shipping costs?

When everyone gets focused on the take, make and waste areas, the result is a freely flowing stream of new ideas for continued sustainability and profit.

Step 5 – Measure immediately. Once you’ve found the areas of focus, begin to measure them. If possible, integrate automated measurements of all input and output. Even very competent managers and front line employees can get it wrong. It’s easy to overestimate or underestimate how much energy, how many raw materials and how much water is wasted if there’s no real data on it. Collect the data right away.

Step 6 – Set goals. Now that you have the data, set your goals for sustainability. Make these goals specific and measurable, and make sure they are of strategic, bottom-line value to your company.

Step 7 – Execute. You’ve set your goals. Now, make them work.
Remember to make steps towards this goal every day. Continue to ask yourself, “How can I make this just a tiny bit better?”

Step 8 – Share progress. Be honest with shareholders, employees and customers about the results. The public will appreciate your honest attempts to be more sustainable even if you’re not totally successful. Be honest about the results, and you’ll be better off. They want to know you’re on the right road and will support you for that.

Step 9 – Conduct an annual review. Have the team review the improvements that were made over the course of the year. Ideas that worked in one area may spur improvements in other areas. Keep going; there’s always room to do a little better.

Many of the world’s smartest companies are working toward better sustainability. It’s good for people, the environment and, most importantly, it’s good for profit.

About the Author
Steve Richerson is a nationally recognized speaker and consultant. As a member of the U.S. Green Building Council, National Recycling Coalition and the North American Environmental Education Association, he is spearheading the campaign to reduce corporate waste and promote environmentally sound business methods. To learn more about Steve, visit


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