Canadian companies should embrace sustainability not just to cut costs and meet regulations, but to position their business in the new green economy, urged Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters president and chief economist Jayson Myers.
Myers made his call to action at this week’s Sustainable Manufacturing Summit in Mississauga, Ont.
He said everyone is feeling the pressure of tighter environmental regulations and demands for sustainable practices from stakeholders, clients and along the supply chain.
Emissions, water, and waste management are just some of the priorities companies are juggling right now. Myers says there’s room to do business in all of them, especially renewable energy.
“The average windmill has 1,500 parts made of structural steel, concrete, plastic, tubes and wire. It’s a major source of opportunity for manufacturers,” he said.
Demand isn’t going to drop off anytime soon.
“Over the next 10 years, access to natural resources and energy is probably going to be the number one issue around the world for supply chains and manufacturers and costs of commodities and materials are going to increase,” he said.
“So if you can help your customer save money and do a better job in environmental management, that’s a set of specifications you can wrap around your product to differentiate it,” he advised.
Myers said it’s important for every business to be thinking about this today as we come out of the deepest industrial recession we’ve ever seen.
Several companies at the summit have been doing a lot more than just thinking about it.
When Veri-Form/Veri-Green, a Cambridge, Ont.- based sheet metal and plate manufacturer with 19 employees, embarked on a mission to improve its own energy efficiency, it led to several new products.
The company, which runs three facilities totaling 34,000 square feet, was gobbling up energy every time trucks arrived for shipments in cold weather, so it devised a sensor that automatically turns off the heat whenever the bay doors open.
The project paid off itself within two weeks in the winter and, with help from the National Research Council Canada’s IRAP program, VeriGreen commercialized the device. It’s also in the middle of commercializing another invention that reduces the run time of dust collectors by 70 per cent.
The company is now selling the very products that it first conceived for its own facilities.
“More than half of our business in 2009 was in the green sector,” said Paul Rak, the firm’s president.
CME and Royal Bank Canada launched a report at the summit documenting similar opportunities for Canadian manufacturers, urging them to make the environment a part of their core strategy.
Companies that do will appear more attractive to customers, supply chains, employees and the institutions that can fund further opportunities, says Andrea Bolger, RBC head of business financial services.
“Anyone who is looking to provide financing is looking for long-term viability and sustainability,” Bolger says.
She says as inputs such as water and raw materials get more scarce and expensive, banks will ask themselves, “does this company have a future, are they thinking about emerging trends, and what are they doing to make themselves more efficient?”
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