Sustainability has long been a pressing issue on the minds of many socially conscious consumers and business owners alike, and for good reason – the planet’s ecosystem depends on it.
For vital industries like construction and manufacturing, the need to recognize and act upon the vast importance of sustainability is not only a sensible business decision but also a duty to the natural world.
The circular economy is an effective process adopted by many in an effort to improve overall sustainability, and for immensely popular and critically important materials like steel, it may even be a necessity in maximizing resources and minimizing carbon footprints.
How exactly does this make a difference in terms of the future of sustainable production, and why should you be concerned? Whether or not you happen to be in the industry yourself, it is important to understand what exactly is being done to reduce the negative impact of manufacturing and construction on the environment, as you too could be a part of the solution. After all, sustainability is a subject that affects everyone.
Why is Sustainability Important?
According to the United Nations, climate change is the greatest threat that humanity has ever faced. Averting this crisis will no doubt require everyone to take action in some capacity. It starts by raising awareness and realizing the catastrophic consequences that await humankind if meaningful changes are not made.
What does this have to do with the manufacturing and construction industries? A great deal indeed. In fact, the construction industry is by far the biggest consumer of natural resources on the planet. Some reports show that around 75% of all natural resource use has been put into construction in years gone by, a worrying figure when you think about the finite nature of natural materials and the sheer level of global consumption.
Perhaps even more alarming is a recent article from the OECD (Organization for Economic Development and Co-Operation), which predicts that by 2060, the number of natural resources consumed by the construction industry around the world will double.
Huge changes must be made to ensure the safety and longevity of global humanity, and it comes with a host of unique business benefits, too, a persuasive and potentially lucrative point for vigilant entrepreneurs everywhere.
In order to do this, the right materials must be adopted, but so too must the methods in which they are worked on.
Sustainability in the Manufacturing Industry
A move toward sustainable manufacturing practices is quickly becoming a mainstay of countless businesses, and it can’t come soon enough. As it stands, around one-quarter of the energy in the U.S. is taken up by manufacturing processes alone.
Those that are able to implement and hit their sustainability goals can relish in the many additional benefits it brings, such as easier brand building, better employee retention rates, and possibly even greater product value.
Perhaps one of the best and potentially most straightforward methods of increasingly sustainability techniques is for businesses to commit to reducing wastage. Proper inventory control is a great way to do this, as is recycling in general.
As usual, technology has a large role to play in the progression of industries, and manufacturing is no different. From advanced 3D printers to a range of digital tools, the race for more sustainable manufacturing can and should be aided by the latest and greatest technological developments.
There are many wonderful software options available to businesses nowadays, each of them offering up a wealth of unique benefits. Companies using a dependable integrated software solution to help them tackle their waste management and process optimization are likely going to have an easier time reaching their sustainability goals than those who don’t choose the more modern approach.
Sustainability in the Construction Industry
By its very nature, the construction industry is responsible for taking a toll on the earth’s resources. There’s a great deal riding on the construction industry in terms of their ability to promote and practice sustainability.
Sustainable building practices are not only good for the environment, but they often tend to save both companies and consumers a huge amount of money, too, particularly when firms opt to utilize recycled materials.
Alternative building materials don’t have to be more expensive by any means. Just take a look at some of the more popular options like stone, concrete, and steel rods.
As the world’s population continues to grow and finite natural resources start to dwindle, circumstances demand that current construction practices consistently evolve. Averting disaster by changing the current trajectory is doable, provided companies recognize their responsibility and play their part.
The Importance of Circular Principles
What is the circular economy?
While there are plenty of different definitions of what a circular economy is, in this case, it is a framework of production that essentially serves to guarantee sustainable consumption over time.
Traditionally, as raw materials are worked, they tend to lose much of their value, be it their resale value or the integrity of their physical properties. A circular economy seeks to combat this eventuality and maximize its lifecycle, allowing for the greatest possible rates of sustainable production.
This tends to be done by adopting a no-waste policy, a system that involves developing more durable products to begin with, while streamlining the ease by which they can be reused and recycled over time.
This might come as a stark contrast to the linear approach, a system that relies on the constant supply of natural raw materials to the detriment of the environment. Acquiring these materials and later disposing of them at the consumer’s end is ecologically and economically taxing, hardly a sustainable option.
Unfortunately, a report from you matter.world states that only 9% of the world is circular today. Adopting a circular economy can be difficult for a wide array of complex reasons, which is why observable market incentives can be so crucial.
When it comes to adopting a set of circular economy principles, it is worth taking a look at a few fundamentals, such as:
· Waste reduction
· Pollution minimization
To meet these basic principles, production processes must be optimized to cater to the materials at hand. It is worth noting that steel is in many ways the ideal metal for manufacturing in a circular economy, due in part to the ease by which it can be reused and reworked.
One of the main benefits a circular economy can provide is the reduction of environmental pressure caused by the impact of manufacturing, but there are countless bonuses the system might be able to provide businesses of all different shapes and sizes.
A well-structured and dependable circular system may prove to be a superb way of strengthening your supply chain, all while you reduce the need for a constant influx of new natural materials, which is environmentally strenuous and often an unreliable process.
For anyone who wants to cut inventory costs, reduce their carbon emissions, meet sustainability quotas, and generally contribute toward reducing the world’s greenhouse gas production, this could be the best way forward.
Examples within manufacturing and construction
The lasting, impactful, and innovative ways in which manufacturing and construction companies are opting for sustainability are, in many ways, changing the shape of the modern business.
IKEA is committed to sustainability, and in 2021, they launched a program to help them secure sustainable energy at the supplier’s end in an effort to reach 100% renewable energy throughout their entire chain by 2030.
A prime example of a construction company striving for sustainability and process optimization is Honeywell, which have been using a digital approach to their building management efforts.