performance reporting and disclosure to
employees, shareholders and the general
How to Get Started with
The commitment of a company’s top
management is essential for a successful
sustainability program. According to a
2009 study of Fortune 500 companies,
those that manage their sustainability efforts at a higher level within the organization received more external recognition
for their efforts.2 The sustainability leader
in these companies was no more than
one or two levels removed from the chief
executive and was usually located in the
legal or public affairs departments or in a
dedicated sustainability department.
These individuals reported directly to the
board of directors.
But even if a company has a corpo-rate-level sustainability leader, it still
needs to convince managers at the facility and business unit levels of the benefits of a sustainability effort. You can
establish the value of sustainability
through these steps:
1. Conduct a baseline sustainability assessment (BSA) at the facility level (or,
in the case of a business unit assessment, at a representative number of
facilities). The BSA will evaluate a
range of business functions to establish the company’s stage of green development, identify opportunities for
improvement, and estimate the sustainability effort’s costs and benefits.
Management can use the BSA results
to decide whether to proceed.
2. Develop a sustainability vision. The
vision should be aligned with the organization’s values and integrated
into manufacturing and core business
functions. One example of this approach is the “green and lean” strategy described below. The vision will
guide strategic planning and help define goals, objectives, performance indicators and metrics.
3. Educate all employees about the vision and train them on their roles. Select employees to help develop the
company’s sustainability strategy.
4. Select a strategic planning team. This
team establishes the organization’s
sustainability objectives and sets
benchmarks for assessing perform-
ance. Development of metrics can
begin in this step.
Implementation must include follow-up activities, evaluation, feedback, standardization, and training to ensure
continual improvement. For a list of key
implementation activities, see the sidebar
on page 45.
Sustainability and Lean Manufacturing
A recent survey of supply chain professionals found that “economic, social and
regulatory dynamics are putting real
pressures on global companies to be
both ‘lean and green’ in their product
sourcing, logistics, transportation, distribution and operational practices.”1
Many organizations are implementing
methods such as lean manufacturing to
improve production processes, increase
efficiency and reduce costs throughout
the value chain. Lean manufacturing, also
known simply as “lean,” seeks to eliminate all waste from a production system.
Unfortunately, improvements in the
name of lean are often pursued by dif-
ferent departments with little communi-
cation or coordination, which can lead
to inefficiencies and missed opportunities.
In this economic climate, companies can
benefit from leveraging their lean pro-
duction implementation plans to support
their sustainability efforts.
Applying Lean Tools to Sustainability
The lean process uses a number of tools
to identify and evaluate waste reduction
opportunities, from the management
team to the shop floor. Some of the more
familiar tools are described below, along
with suggested green applications:
6S (Six S). Sometimes referred to as 5S +
Safety, this tool is a technique for creating an orderly, clean (and safe) work environment consistent with the motto of
“a place for everything, and everything
in its place.” Commonly one of the first
tools used in lean implementation, 6S is
applied on the shop floor and may involve training, inspections, checklists and
periodic audits. Green opportunities include segregating hazardous from nonhazardous waste, reducing lighting and
Lean and Green Resources
The following resources are available to help EHS professionals become familiar
with lean and green concepts:
• EPA’s “Lean Manufacturing and the Environment” website
( www.epa.gov/lean/leanenvironment.htm) contains useful information on lean
manufacturing methods, case studies, publications and related links on opportu-
nities for environmental improvements through lean processes.
• The Society of Manufacturing Engineers’ Lean to Green Sustainability Work
Group sponsors the annual “Lean to Green Manufacturing Conference”
( www.sme.org/leantogreen) and presents webinars to advance learning and collaboration among lean and green practitioners.