A standard definition of sustainability, when it comes to manufacturing, is debatable. The identification and application of best practices, when it comes to sustainable manufacturing, can be downright contentious. But, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t keep trying.
Everyone who is anyone, in the great economic eco-system, has put forth their own point of view on defining sustainability. The interests of government, academia and business are not aligned, so naturally they all have different viewpoints on the subject. To one degree or another, everyone is right.
I do not have the pretense nor the know-how to resolve the lexicographical (eat your heart out Noah Webster) dispute over the definition of sustainability. But, lack of a standard definition is not an exemption, for any company, to sit idly by and watch and conduct business as usual — the old devil-may-care, smoke stack way. There is an ever-increasing convergence of societal, environmental and governance factors that affect financial performance.
The Outdoor Industry Association (OIA) knows this. They recently announced the launch of the Eco Index. The OIA and the Eco Index have created an industry-wide tool for sustainability designed to give companies a deeper understanding of the environmental impact of their products. The Eco Index is broad enough to help outdoor apparel and gear companies incorporate environmental sensitivities into new products as well as manage supplier relationships in way that supports environmental goals. It may be a longer-term outcome of the index, but there is intent to propagate a common sustainability language in the industry. (http://www.ecoindexbeta.org)
The Sustainable Green Printing Partnership (SGP) knows it as well. Similar to the Eco Index, the SGP was created by trade associations. In this case, The Printing Industries Association (PIA), Specialty Graphic Imaging Association (SGIA), Flexographic Technical Association (FTA) and National Association of Printing Ink Manufacturers (NAPIM) all banded together to create a certification label for sustainability in the graphic communications industry. SGP is the printing industry standard for the certification and continuous improvement of sustainability and best practices within print manufacturing operations. (http://www.sgppartnership.org)
Until there is a standard definition around sustainability, individual industry, company and personal actions will speak louder than words.