This article was originally published in the March/April 2015 issue of USGBC+. Read the original version.
Recent American history is littered with the skeletons of shuttered manufacturing plants. But two production giants are doubling down on domestic manufacturing with investments in sustainable facilities and operations.
Procter & Gamble and Intel want to be in business for a long, long time. Officials at both companies know that means they’ll need to incorporate sustainable practices at a fundamental level, preparing for a time when manufacturers will no longer be able to rely on the nonrenewable resources that fueled industry during the last century. But they also know something else: In order to be in business decades into the future, they need to keep making money today.
“Because of our size and the extent of our company, sustainability is something that’s very important to us, both for our current business, and to ensure that we grow sustainably into the future,” says Len Sauers, vice president of sustainability for Procter & Gamble. But, he adds, “Sustainability has to stand up from an economic standpoint, similar to any other thing we do as a corporation. We’re not going to accept any tradeoffs, either in cost or performance, as we go down this sustainable path.”
“We don’t just [adopt sustainable practices] because it’s the right thing to do and it feels good and it saves the planet,” says Linda Qian, Intel’s communications manager for corporate social responsibility. “A lot of times [managers] talk about it in ‘lean’ terms. They might not even think about it as sustainability. It is absolutely critical to our business success. If we weren’t able to continuously improve and reduce our resource use, that would be a business cost.”
Forward-thinking companies like Intel and Procter & Gamble have been paying close attention to sustainability for years, but the combination of new technologies, lowering price points, and creative thinking are helping them to continue to fine-tune their operations. At the same time, more manufacturers are starting to realize that going green doesn’t just mean saving the environment, but also saving money.
“When companies are sustainable, they’re lean, they’re tight, they’re productive,” says Kate Bachman, content editor for the Sustainable Manufacturer Network. “And they can compete more readily in the global marketplace.”