This blog was posted on behalf of Jennifer Allis, Intel supply chain sustainability manager. She shares some of the bright spots she encountered at the Sustainable Brands conference earlier this month.
70% of consumers expect the manufacturer or retailer of a product to own the End of Life (EOL) process for the product; Interface, the modular carpet company has an interesting model for EOL. When you change your carpet they take your old carpet and recycle it. EBay has an instant sale site for electronics; the intention is to enable someone like me who doesn’t sell on eBay to quickly sell an old cell phone or other electronic device while it still has a useful life. I’d say about half the room raised their hand when asked if we had an old unused cell phone at home.
15% of a 3M employee’s time can be spent on a non-core duty. This policy enables employees who have a passion for a particular topic, like sustainability to spend 15% of their time working on the idea. 3M shared how through innovation they were able to eliminate water from their adhesive-making process. Adhesive making has historically been a water intense process, so this was amazing – but they aren’t stopping there – they are now looking for ways to make adhesives without petroleum-based ingredients.
50% of material is lost when making a plaid shirt. REI talked about understanding where the greatest impact is – if you are making plaid shirts, the greatest impact is on the cutting table. Anyone who sews knows that directional fabric requires more fabric because the pieces have to be cut to match when sewn together. This doesn’t mean you stop selling plaid shirts, but maybe you look for a way to use the scrap material or make the material so it is easier to recycle.
Many speakers talked about the point of greatest impact and earlier in the conference I thought maybe the Life Cycle Analysis was the key to understanding impact. But after attending the workshop on LCA tools I think the key is talking with engineers and operations personnel to understand the areas of greatest impact. I know many of our suppliers are already working to reduce their environmental impact on those “hot spot, high impact” areas. I think sometimes they just don’t know that they are making a sustainable improvement.