How Manufacturers Design for Environmental Compliance

This post is a guest contribution to share some interesting research on product compliance and sustainability with a special invitation for Triple Pundit readers to participate in an upcoming survey on how manufacturers design for compliance, sustainability, and cost.

By: Jim Brown

As I talk to manufacturers about their green initiatives, I run into some very passionate people. They are tired of seeing products greenwashed (of course it’s always their competitors that do that). They want to make a difference in the way their companies’ products impact the environment. I chose to do some research to understand how these people were helping reduce the impact of their products, I think the results are interesting on compliance today – and could be very interesting on sustainability in the future.

How to Achieve Compliance?

The first angle on the research was focused on compliance. Manufacturers recognize that if they aren’t compliant they can be locked out of markets. That gets senior-level attention and serves as a great platform to get a mandate for action. The first study on making environmental compliance sustainable put a spotlight on the regulations that were getting the most attention – namely RoHS and REACH. In addition to survey data, the report delved into the compliance approach of several large manufacturers (Seagate, APC, and Motorola) in more detail. The study made some interesting conclusions, including:

  • Forward-thinking companies are taking a more systematic approach to compliance as opposed to taking a brute-force effort to address each new regulation or customer requirement that pops to the surface
  • Leading manufacturers are trying to move towards greater levels of material disclosure from their suppliers
  • Manufacturers are trying to implement processes and systems to help make compliance a more sustainable from a business perspective (financially speaking)

Is Compliance Enough?

I think most of you would agree that being compliant does not make you green. The most exciting part of the research to me was a rising focus on sustainability in addition to compliance. Specifically, the research showed that while the primary focus was on hazardous materials, the growth areas involved broader aspects of sustainability.

  • Over three-quarters of the respondents are collecting data from suppliers on hazardous (or suspected hazardous) materials – yup, no surprise there
  • While the focus was smaller (around 10% of companies for each), the number of companies collecting data on carbon footprint and energy consumption shows 100% planned growth over 12-18 months

What Will Happen Next?

So what happens next? The questions I am asking are:

  • Will companies continue to their focus on environmental compliance?
  • Will they expand their focus on sustainability in addition to compliance?
  • How are they aligning decisions with business realities like product cost?

To understand the answers to these questions, I am conducting a survey on how companies design for compliance, sustainability, and cost. If you design or produce products, please participate in the survey. I will gladly share the results with you, and if we get enough participation through Triple Pundit I will also share some of the findings in another guest post here.

Authors Bio –  Jim Brown is the president and PLM analyst for Tech-Clarity, Inc. You can find Jim on his Clarity on PLM blog or follow Jim on twitter.

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