Vol. 16
March Issue
Year 2015

MFN Trainer Column

in Vol. 16 - March Issue - Year 2015
Diversion - Sustainability Management As The Key To Long-term success

Markus Halder

With this Trainer Column, I would like to invite you to take a short diversion with me to the subject of "sustainability" which is becoming more and more topical.

Basically, why should we behave in a sustainable manner? The aim of acting sustainably is not living at the expense of subsequent generations. As forecast by climate scientists for many years, global warming is progressing, and we are under compulsion to keep the temperature increase at the lowest possible level. Parts of the earth will at some point become no longer inhabitable as a result of climate change. However, the total population will continue to increase, which will lead to food shortages. Raw materials, such as rare earths and fossil fuels, exist in limited amounts, and as they become rarer, they will become more expensive if sufficient thought is not given in good time to energy saving, renewable energies, and recycling. Unless we rethink the situation, at some stage there will be nothing left. Instead of "from the cradle to the grave", our way of thinking has to change to "from the cradle to the cradle".

The so-called "three-pillar model" describes the three dimensions of sustainability: environmental, economic and social sustainability. An environmentally sustainable way of living requires that we only use resources in quantities that can be regenerated. You are acting in an environmentally sustainable way if a type of economic activity can be operated in the long term. Social sustainability requires keeping social tensions within limits and not escalating conflicts, but rather resolving them in a peaceful and civilised manner.

These three dimensions of sustainability also represent a big challenge in the field of surface technology. Globalisation and tough competition force companies to relocate manufacturing processes to countries with lower production and personnel costs or to purchase products there, which means that sustainability is not always the main concern. But in western industrialised nations, this way of thinking also remains in its infancy to a certain extent. In the case of surface blasting and surface treatment, this is decided as early as when designing the production process and when selecting manufacturing facilities. Precedence is given to trying to fulfil component specifications, because such aspects as adequate operating safety, the removal of dust and vapours, protection for employees, and the environmental impact of the auxiliary materials used increase manufacturing costs.

At the end of the supply chain is the customer. Scientific findings, such as climate warming or the effects of environmental pollution in combination with the scenarios that have been forecasted, change consumer behaviour. By buying sustainably produced products, pressure is increased on the suppliers to examine and reorientate all of their company divisions and processes where sustainability is concerned. Therefore every individual as a consumer makes a contribution to rethinking the situation. Living sustainably and the selective communication of sustainable behaviour have positive effects on productivity and sales promotion, which can be crucial criteria for success. If these new customer requirements are taken into consideration in terms of strategic alignment, choosing suppliers and the organisation of the purchasing process can take place whilst also respecting the sustainability aspects. This means that controlling and developing suppliers represents a great challenge where this issue is concerned. One possible basis for assessment is, amongst other things, by means of auditing. If the requirements are not satisfied or the supplier does not manufacture according to the specified standards, he will no longer be approved for the supply. In many countries, political rethinking has also occurred, and the statutory general conditions for a change of direction have been created.

There are various organisational possibilities and development stages for purposefully implementing sustainable action in a company. It is possible with the aid of guidelines to develop a reporting system for sustainability. Frameworks have been drafted for this by the "Global reporting initiative", for example. The three dimensions of sustainability are integrated into company processes with this, but weighted differently. For an even more intensely pronounced form of sustainability integration, in the case of commercial decisions, environmental, economic and social points of view are directly involved in the rating of alternative actions. Specialised companies can provide support with the development and implementation of the sustainability management process. Also, for the purposes of economic sustainability, it is the aim to be able to produce a monetary evaluation and to know what impact the measures introduced will have on company operating results.

For questions contact: markus@mfn.li

Author: Markus Halder