Sustainability Trends in Manufacturing

Author photo: Dick Slansky
By Dick Slansky


Today, sustainability has become one of the fundamental tenets of a successful business model for many companies ranging from small businesses to large enterprises. Moreover, companies large and small are becoming acutely aware of the need to focus on a more holistic business model that puts them in compliance with environmental, social, and governance (ESG) factors that affect people, the planet, and profit.

Simply put, sustainability means meeting the needs of business and society without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. Business needs to change how it produces, consumes, shares, and disposes of goods without destroying our natural resources. Sustainable manufacturing is the creation of manufactured products using natural resources and energy sources that do not pollute the environment. But it’s more than just about the use of natural resources, it’s also about social and economic resources.

For companies to meet the goal of developing sustainable business practices they need to create strategies that preserve the long-term viability of people (consumers and producers), the planet, and its valuable resources, and build a model for sustainable profits. Sustainability is more than environmentalism and must include concerns for social equity and economic development. At a time when business and society are becoming very aware of their impact on the environment, the collective movement toward a sustainable future is leading to monumental changes in the corporate landscape. Leading technology suppliers like Siemens, Schneider Electric, Dassault Systèmes, and manufacturers like Volkswagen, Toyota, Caterpillar, Boeing, and Ford are showing that sustainable innovation is a key priority in their business models and paving the way for others to follow.

Many of the major manufacturing industries are stepping up to meet the challenge of developing strategies for sustainability. And it’s never been more important to pursue sustainability in manufacturing. Each year the global temperature rises, and 2022 is poised to go down as the warmest year yet with many global regions reporting the highest temperatures ever recorded. Extreme weather events, drastic temperature changes, and rising sea levels are bringing the reality of global warming into sharp focus. Businesses across all industries realize that government mandates alone will not begin to mitigate this climate crisis. Many industries have already put sustainability strategies in place as a part of their manufacturing and business models. Sustainability is a worthy pursuit from an environmental perspective, and it’s also good for business. Consumers will begin to vote with their wallets for the companies offering high-quality products that are gentler on the planet.

One example of an industry making a commitment to sustainability is the automotive industry, which is currently experiencing radical upheaval. Four main trends are driving the transformation of the automotive sector: electromobility, shared mobility services, autonomous driving, and connected vehicles. The growing demand for EVs and innovative mobility solutions shows how important the issue of sustainability has become, both in the manufacture of the products and in the use by the consumer. Investors and lenders have been paying attention. They want to understand both the risks faced by car makers and the transformation they are going through to meet the challenges of creating a fully sustainable industry.

Running Industry Takes a Lot of Energy

The U.S. is a highly industrialized nation. In 2021, the industrial sector accounted for 35 percent of total U.S. end-use energy consumption, and 33 percent of total U.S. energy consumption. The generation and use of energy is one of the key factors in the development of a sustainability strategy.

Within the industrial sector, the process and discrete industries combined account for 81 percent of the energy consumed, with mining at 9 percent, construction at 6 percent, and agriculture at 4 percent, respectively. Extraction industries includes mining of minerals and non-mineral products such as rock and gravel, and extraction of crude oil, natural gas, and coal. Agriculture includes farming, fishing, and forestry. Construction includes both commercial and residential sectors.

Sustainability Trends in Manufacturing

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), manufacturing is the physical, mechanical, or chemical transformation of materials or substances into new products. The three largest consumers of energy by industrial sector are chemicals, petroleum, and coal products (including natural gas), and pulp and paper—combined consume around 70 percent of industrial energy use. Other manufacturing, which includes the discrete manufacturing sectors such as transportation, machinery, fabricated metals, and electronics and electrical accounts for around 14 percent of energy consumed.


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Keywords: Sustainability, ESG, Global Warming, Renewable Energy, Circular Economy, Recyclable Materials, Digital Transformation, Smart Manufacturing, ARC Advisory Group.


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