Manufacturers continue to lead the charge in protecting the environment. And the NAM’s partnership programs with the Department of Energy and the Environmental Protection Agency are helping to advance the cause. By Laura Berkey-Ames

Over the course of the United States’ storied history, there have been many landmark moments that impacted our nation’s progress and the well-being of its citizens. The Industrial Revolution, which began over two centuries ago, was one such defining moment when American productivity and manufacturing ingenuity flourished at a breakneck pace. This exponential growth continued well into the twenty-first century, and manufacturing remains the backbone of our country’s economic prosperity and financial security. Times may have changed, but it is still an exciting time to be a manufacturer – perhaps more so than ever before.

Today’s manufacturers are boldly leading the charge to protect the environment while simultaneously changing the face of modern manufacturing in America.1 Manufacturers continue to be faced by ever-present challenges such as the difficulty in finding and retaining skilled workers and managing through international trade uncertainties. Despite these hurdles, in recent years strong economic optimism has spurred manufacturers to raise employee compensation, invest in new plants and equipment, and scale up their already-impressive record of environmental stewardship.

American industry has established a strong record in environmental protection, as manufacturers want to ensure that the next generation that inherits the Earth has a bright future. “Everyone wants clean water and clean air. Everyone needs a good job and an economy that delivers new opportunities and a better life. Manufacturers are proving we can deliver both,” said Jay Timmons, President and CEO of the National Association of Manufacturers.2

As the foundation of communities, manufacturers have made substantial investments over time to minimize their environmental footprint by increasing energy efficiency, saving and recycling water, and implementing initiatives to reduce pollution and waste. They have reduced the carbon footprint of their products by 21% over the past decade, while increasing their value to the economy by 18% . Continued investment in and commitment to innovation will ensure further progress toward reducing environmental impacts and increasing sustainable operations.

The NAM’s Sustainability Partnerships 

The NAM is the voice of 12.8 million men and women who make things in America. We represent 14,000 small, medium, and large companies across all industrial sectors in all 50 states. Every one of these manufacturers works tirelessly to serve the communities in which they and their workers reside, as well as the customers that rely on their goods and services.

Our members remain steadfast in support of protecting the environment. The NAM continues to aid these efforts through its recently launched Sustainability in Manufacturing Partnerships with the Department of Energy’s (DOE) Better Plants Program and the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Smart Sectors Program.

The NAM’s partnership with DOE helps manufacturers explore emerging technologies, evaluate future energy problems, and encourages the adoption of energy-efficient and sustainable practices.3 Joining forces with the EPA fosters greater collaboration across industrial sectors and creates unique opportunities for NAM members to highlight how their sustainable practices are improving the manufacturing process and changing the way products are made in America.4 By sharing their stories, companies learn from the best practices of their industry peers. Importantly, the Sustainability in Manufacturing Partnerships bring more awareness to the resources offered by DOE and EPA and provides a national platform where manufacturers can showcase their deep commitment to sustainable growth, which, in turn, will continue to strengthen American manufacturing competitiveness.

Ingersoll Rand has extended
its climate commitment
with initiatives in wind power and solar energy.

Modern manufacturing is more green, high-tech, and innovative than ever before. When the NAM surveyed its member companies about their sustainability attitudes, the results were overwhelmingly positive. The responses revealed that manufacturers remain committed to safeguarding the health and longevity of our plants and its people, as 72% of manufacturers reported having a sustainability policy in place, while another 8% are currently developing one. 5

Notably, 94% of those surveyed are tracking energy usage and 81% are monitoring water consumption. These impressive majorities also report how they are taking action.6

For example, Ingersoll Rand recently extended its climate commitment by signing a purchasing agreement for wind power that will account for 32% of its U.S. electricity use and started a solar energy initiative that will soon cover 15% of its energy load. Union Pacific reduced its energy consumption by 3.8 million kilowatt hours in 2017.7

Manufacturers are also taking bold steps to reduce waste and increase recycling, with 82.5% monitoring waste generation and 76.3% administering a recycling program. 8

When wallboard waste comes back to USG Corporation’s Rainier, Oregon plant, a machine separates the gypsum core from the paper. The paper is then sent to a local dairy farm where it is used for bedding, while the recovered gypsum goes back into the manufacturing process to be recycled into new wallboard. According to USG Corporation, this new system enables them to meet increased customer demand for products higher in post-consumer recycled content. 9

Construction and materials manufacturer Saint-Gobain started using a cooling tower to save water at its Riverport, Kentucky facility in 2012. Within three years, it had eliminated water withdrawal from a well it had used for years (at 131 million gallons in 2012). The company finished the job by sealing up the well. 10

Embracing Environmental Stewardship 

As leaders of American industry, it is evident that NAM members are committed to reducing their environmental footprint. Moreover, many companies are making the decision to embrace environmental stewardship, the responsible use and the protection of the natural environment through conservation and sustainable practices.

As evidence of this, 62% of manufacturers reported, in the NAM survey, that they prefer to incorporate sustainability into their business model, while 50.7% are propelled by market/consumer demands. While NAM members reported that these are the leading reasons why they are going green, the survey also revealed that 49.3% of manufacturers are driven by customer demands, 46.5% are motivated by government regulations, and 39.4% are influenced by investor demands. However, 36.6% of survey participants checked “all of the above”, as they felt that no single element listed in the survey question dominated their decision to implement sustainable practices. 11

“From our point of view, emphasizing environmental sustainability is the right thing to do, but we also think it is good business,” said Tom Linebarger, Chairman and CEO of Cummins, a survey. respondent. “There’s no question that our focus on environmental innovation and leadership has caused our company to grow, to become more profitable and to increase our appeal with big companies that would like to partner with us because of our leading technologies. At our facilities, we’ve installed environmentally sustainable technologies that offer a win-win: less environmental impact and cost-reduction benefits.” 12

From the start of the Industrial Revolution to the present day, one thing is clear: American manufacturers are pioneers that make modern, everyday life possible. As inherent problem solvers, industry recognizes that manufacturing in the twenty-first century means working to minimize natural resource impacts, increasing efficiencies and conservation, optimizing raw material input, and reducing waste output.

As a nation, we have entered a new era where manufacturing and environmental stewardship go hand-in-hand. There is no going back. A high standard of living depends on environmental conservation and continued economic development. Through innovation and advanced technology, manufacturers strive to enhance the industry’s contributions to environmental protection, economic performance, and the social well-being of their employees and customers. NAM members have an eye toward the future and are mindful that the environmentally conscientious steps they take today will have a profound impact on communities nationwide in the months and years to come. M

Footnotes
1 Moutray, Chad and Berkey-Ames, Laura. “Manufacturers are Leaders in the Green Revolution.” The Hill. 9 October 2019. https://thehill.com/opinion/finance/410428-manufacturers-are-leaders-in-the-green-revolution.

2 National Association of Manufacturers. May 2019. Manufacturing’s Commitment to Sustainability: Supplemental Survey Report on Manufacturers’ Goals, Achievements and Investments in Sustainable Practices. https://www.nam.org/manufacturings-commitment-to-sustainability/.

3 Berkey-Ames, Laura. “The NAM and DOE Join Forces to Champion Sustainability in Manufacturing.” Web blog post. National Association of Manufacturers. 20 April 2018.

4 Berkey-Ames, Laura. “The NAM and EPA Announce a New Partnership to Highlight Sustainability in Manufacturing.” Web blog post. National Association of Manufacturers. 19 October 2018.

5 National Association of Manufacturers. May 2019. “Manufacturing’s Commitment to Sustainability.” https://www.nam.org/manufacturings-commitment-to-sustainability/.

6 Ibid.

7 Ibid.

8 Ibid.

9 Ibid.

10 Ibid.

11 Ibid.

12 Counsel, Laurie. “How Cummins Is Emphasizing Environmental Sustainability in Its Manufacturing Sites.” Web blog post. National Association of Manufacturers. 17 May 2018.