August Mack Newsletter | April, 2018

The Case for Sustainability
by Jim Berndt

In an internet search for the term "Sustainability" you will find an abundance of topics many of us are familiar with, such as solar cells, wind turbines, zero-emission vehicles, and similar "green" topics. Is "sustainability" just a buzz word that makes people feel good or does it have real value for business? 

Sustainability has been a popular political campaign topic in recent years.  Concepts such as carbon cap and trade, alternative/renewable energy, oil independence, and energy efficiency have been proclaimed to be important initiatives for national administrations.  However, most federal administrations have difficulty balancing the needs of the environment with the needs of industry in a way that causes significant and meaningful advances in our national policy regarding sustainability. 

So is the concept of sustainability a realistic goal for our nation?  Is sustainability too “pie-in-the-sky” to be cost-effective in our competitive industrial marketplace?  We don’t think so and neither do many of our industrial clients.  Sustainability can be profitable!  August Mack has worked with many industrial clients to find ways to decrease operating costs, improve efficiency, while at the same time making significant sustainability advances in their operations.  One client has found an alternative use for former waste products which is helping to eliminate the landfilling of 17,000,000 pounds of industrial by-product.  Another client was able to make process changes which eliminated $5,000 per month in wastewater surcharges and saved $300,000 in capital costs.

These examples, like many others we have seen, have a common characteristic; they are typically not driven by a sustainability justification/objective but rather by cost considerations, regulatory requirements and production needs.  The decisions made by these firms were not driven by concerns that the public recognize their green initiatives but simply because these decisions made the most sense from a production and profitability standpoint.  In many cases, these firms have failed to fully capitalize on the value of the “green aspects” of these projects.

Our society places a value on products and services which emphasize the sustainable aspects of production.  Brand value, employee satisfaction, natural resources impact, and many other factors have been shown to be affected by increasing the sustainable aspects of production.  Companies who emphasize sustainability are perceived as better corporate citizens and that positive perception reflects onto their products.

So how does a company begin capitalizing on making their operations more sustainable?  Like most things, it starts with a plan.  Pick a baseline year and evaluate you impact on resources; be thorough and look at every aspect of your operation and even your supplier’s operations.  Put together a sustainability plan that includes ways to reduce resource consumption, reduce waste and use less environmentally costly options where possible.  As you implement your sustainability plan make sure you track your performance and document those improvements in a sustainability report so you can tell everyone where you came from and where you are going.

Many Fortune 500 companies are re-branding themselves because green sells.  Not only can sustainable practices enhance your brand image it may also increase your efficiency and decrease your operating costs.  It is important to implement sustainability initiatives in the context of a comprehensive plan so you know where you are going and what you want to achieve.


Jim Berndt is a senior manager with August Mack Environmental, Inc. in the Indianapolis, Indiana office. He has over 27 years of experience in quantitative hydrogeology, numerical modeling, site investigation and remediation at sites across North America, in South America and Europe.  Jim also teaches hydrogeology at the University of Indianapolis as a part of the adjunct faculty; he can be reached at 317-916-3174 or via e-mail at jberndt@augustmack.com.

 

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