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ML Journal

POV: Empowering Sustainable Ideas

Inspire your people to drive sustainable change.

Great ideas are rarely confined to any single function, department, or team with an organization. Some of the most insightful and valuable ideas come directly from the front line, from the people who intimately understand the challenges and potential opportunities of the work they do.

That applies as much to ideas about improving efficiency and quality, as it does to the pursuit of greater sustainability in an increasingly environmentally driven world. While overarching corporate sustainability strategies and policies certainly help set essential direction and priorities for the company as a whole, harnessing individual front line ideas and insights can make a massive difference to achieving overall sustainability goals.

Some of the world’s most advanced industrially sustainable companies are already tapping into those deep pools of front-line knowledge and innovation. As Intel’s Chief Sustainability Officer Todd Brady argues in the Dialogue interview in this issue: “Tapping into our people and their innovation is critical, because the engineers and technicians on the ground are the ones that know what’s going on within the business.” A philosophy that’s backed up at Intel by both encouraging and funding new sustainable front-line ideas, and directly tying the bonuses of every employee to the company’s sustainability performance.

Yet, according to the MLC’s latest sustainability survey results (Sustainability Momentum Surges Dramatically), many manufacturing companies are still missing out on the potential of employee ideas to help drive their sustainability efforts. For example, one in five manufacturing companies still have no program to even educate their employees about sustainability issues or train them in how to make it part of their jobs. Even more, 44%, also have no programs to reward their employees for their sustainability performance either, despite the overwhelming number of companies now believing that sustainability is ‘essential’ or ‘increasingly important’ to their own future competitiveness and growth.

That doesn’t make sense. It’s a waste of much-needed talent. How can any manufacturing company ignore such a powerful and informed in-house resource of potential value and innovation in today’s highly competitive, transformational industrial environment?

It’s time manufacturing leaders start to think differently about what their people can offer to help drive their sustainable future, and to educate, inspire, encourage, engage, and reward their employees. There’s a huge innovative asset out there just waiting for a chance to help make a sustainable difference to your company, and to the world beyond.   M

About the author:

Paul Tate
 is Co-founding Executive Editor and Senior Content Director for the Manufacturing Leadership Council. He is also Secretary to the MLC Board of Governors. 

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