Green enough? How sustainable product cycling is changing the face of business

Sustainability has gone from a buzzword to a big business best practice. Everything from paper bags to appliances and building materials is now being evaluated on a sustainable product cycle basis, and the savings are huge.

It’s interesting to watch the concept of sustainability being translated into modern biz-speak. It’s now clear that sustainable cycling was the missing element in the business vs. environment standoffs of the past. The new sustainable cycling approach has connected directly with a host of business concepts, from basic accountancy to supply chain management.

Proving the sustainable product concept

The basic sustainable production cycle is literally a full circle, with a startup continuum for materials. Sustainable products are broadly defined as:

  • Easily sourced from renewable supplies
  • Non-toxic
  • Very low or zero emission footprints at all stages of production
  • Low water usage
  • Fully recyclable into new products, either the same products or variants

This cycle has now been scrutinized like few industrial processes have ever been scrutinized, and against the background of an extremely critical, negative business environment. The result was a clear win for sustainability over the old style “produce and pollute” methods.

To give one example, Interface, Inc. were the pioneers of sustainable carpets. For many years, carpets have been absolute “producers and polluters”. Most carpets were petroleum products, non-recyclable, and extremely toxic.

Interface replaced its old technology with sustainable product cycling, and monitored its costs. They discovered they’d saved half a billion dollars in water usage alone over their first ten year period following the introduction of the new sustainable production cycles. Their carpets are recyclable, and their sources are all sustainable. They’ve locked in production costs, and avoid the notorious “source cost blowouts” so common in manufacturing.

The “It’s all about the bottom line” view of the world has finally made itself useful by recognizing much better sourcing, production, distribution and recycling options as extremely high value concepts. These concepts apply to businesses and industries of all kinds, and the result has been much smarter, leaner production and drastically improved overheads and profits.

These New Economy businesses, which are essentially core business units, now use “best practice distribution” methods, which cut costs for the company while reducing resource consumption as well. Green business practices such as the following are now common:

  • Cutting out extra freight movements and costs by directly going from source to customer.
  • Saving thousands of tons of emissions per day on any scale of distribution
  • Improving product movement and facilitating turnover
  • Better time management for existing resources
  • Working directly on the bottom line by eliminating middle stages of distribution, improving profits

New Economy businesses, many of which don’t even have traditional offices (another positive green business method), are taking over their markets. They don’t have the cost base of brick and mortar construction, and can undercut their conventional business competitors. The sustainable business approach puts them even further in front, not committed to expensive conventional business models and antiquated suppliers.

Whether it’s furniture, carpets, appliances, shopping bags or any other product coming on the market, sustainability is here to stay. Good business and good environmental practice are finally on the way into the mainstream, and there’s no stopping them.


Image credit: Pylon757 and chrissatchwell

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