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Starting a factory? While “quick and dirty” may be the easiest business model to follow, the OECD is encouraging start-ups to start smart, with sustainability in mind. The OECD Sustainable Manufacturing Toolkit is a seven-step checklist to help businesses integrate good environmental practice, and stay on the side of investors, regulators, customers and local communities.

The toolkit, available online or on printable PDF, kicks off the green business plan by mapping environmental impacts, such as possible use of harmful materials or predicting energy efficiency or heat loss, right through to making sure the end product is wrapped in recyclable packaging. The next steps are to find ways to measure and monitor the sustainability of materials used in production, and determine the company’s impact in terms of, for instance, waste generation, emissions, noise, odour, land use and impacts on natural habitat. The ecological footprint of staff travel and office overheads should also be considered.

Green investment can also save money. Take Sanden Corporation in Japan, cited for “manufacturing in harmony with nature”. The plant cultivated half of its grounds as forest, resulting in CO2 absorption of 530 tonnes in 2010, and a savings of more than US$6.5 million in the reduction of concrete use and costs of waste management.

The final step in the toolkit process is to create an action plan; for example, to complete cost analysis and ensure financing for projects like retrofitting and ventilation. Managing operations in an environmentally and socially responsible way can be daunting, but the editor of the report, Andrew Wyckoff, insists that sustainable manufacturing is no longer just nice-to-have; it has become a business imperative. The OECD Sustainable Manufacturing Toolkit is a good place to start.

See www.oecd.org/innovation/green/toolkit

©OECD Observer No 286 Q3 2011