News / Blog / 05.18.2021

“Does My Business Need an Industrial Sustainability Program?” Why It Pays to Go Green

“Does My Business Need an Industrial Sustainability Program?” Why It Pays to Go Green - Image

Sustainability for manufacturing is more than just a feel-good trend. It’s a critical supply chain process that could save you money and future proof your business.


With more and more awareness about the impact of manufacturing on air and water quality, the industrial sector will face additional pressure from suppliers and vendors to push for measurable sustainability programs. Fortunately, the efforts you invest today in reducing waste could also have a favorable impact on your bottom line. 

Where sustainability was akin to a mere buzzword a decade ago, regulatory and local agencies are increasingly likely to measure and monitor the efficacy of commercial recycling programs. Sustainability in manufacturing is largely now seen as a health issue, with the EPA more empowered to issue fines for polluting the air and ground water. With additional cost realities and pending material shortages impacting the supply chain, the question right now is not “Does my business need a sustainability program” but “How quickly can we implement one?”

Avoid Costly Fines 

Today, there are roughly 30 Federal acts that provide oversight over air, land, and water contamination. Even companies with the best of intentions and internal mechanisms can run afoul of those laws and errors, even when accidental, are costly.

In fact, environmental noncompliance can be downright expensive. After documented failures to comply with installing the proper pollution controlling equipment, a metal firm in Rhode Island was fined $875,000 by state and local regulators for emitting VOCs and pollutants from its facilities. 

In Chicago, the EPA is following up on various citizen and community complaints about lead and other neurotoxins emitting from an area recycling plant. While that investigation is ongoing, regulators not long ago cited a similar operation across the river and forced them to pay $530,000 in fines for various water quality violations.  

Hazardous materials don’t just lead to serious community health, air, and water quality challenges. When those fines are reported to the public, they cause further damage to a company’s image. If your company is seen as a “bad actor,” it can be extremely difficult to rebuild your reputation with both regulators and the industry at large.  

Build Goodwill and Seize Opportunities 

Brands and manufacturers of all stripes are going to be under increased consideration from consumers and buyers who are expecting companies to do more to preserve the environment. If you’re not already, you could be soon missing out on new business opportunities if you can’t prove that you have a sustainability program in place, which can include scrap metal recycling, waste reduction strategies, fluid recovery, using recycled content in your manufacturing process, and more.

Sustainability programs for manufacturing firms could also help attract and retain talent. Younger workers may only consider a serious future with a company that satisfies their personal sustainability goals. The COVID pandemic has only accelerated this trend. An IBM survey revealed that 71% of job seekers they questioned confirmed that “environmentally sustainable companies are more attractive employers.” The study also revealed that more than two-thirds of those workforce respondents were more likely “to apply for and accept jobs with environmentally and socially responsible organizations,” including half who confirmed they’d accept a lower salary in exchange for working for an environmentally-committed organization.

Reduce Material and Operational Costs 

Back in 2014, a well-respected industry study of 12 major manufacturing companies (among them, Proctor & Gamble and Eli Lilly) revealed that:

  • One company saved $7B through sustainable manufacturing practices
  • Another projected an $80M in savings through energy reduction
  • A third eliminated an eye-popping 14 hazardous waste streams, slashing its annual waste disposal tab from $750,000 to $40,000

Addressing onsite efficiency could also enable companies to reduce their physical operational footprint by holding and storing less waste on site. An experienced vendor can provide an on-site inspection of your plant or manufacturing facility to determine where, and how, you can introduce sustainability programs to save costs and avoid fines. Shapiro Metals even offers virtual evaluations to help your team minimize on-site visitors and traffic.

A tailored scrap metal recycling program is a key area that can help reduce your overall costs and insert more cash flow to your bottom line. For example, one of Shapiro Metals’ partners was able to introduce an additional $33,000 in annual income by implementing an improved and more efficient aluminum recycling program. Working with a partner ensures that this process can happen seamlessly, without having to access internal resources or work with third-party supply yards who may not dispose of or store that scrap responsibly. You can also convert your scrap to further ensure that your byproducts stay within your system and are reused within your own operations.

Future-Proof Your Supply Chain

How well is your company positioned to manage an upcoming shortage of raw materials? There may be plenty of material today, but that may change in the future. For example, while a semiconductor shortage a decade ago may have seemed infeasible, today, the automotive industry is facing a cold reality that materials like graphite, manganese, nickel, and cobalt (all of which are critical for electric car batteries) are about to become very scarce

In the future, political policies may also limit manufacturers’ ability to rely on imported materials, focusing instead on developing our nation’s supply chain of metals and other mined materials. Currently, that international supply chain is actually limiting potential expansion of the domestic technology manufacturing market. 

Furthermore, emissions reduction regulations could limit access to virgin materials. With even more pressure on regulators to cut down on emissions-causing industries (including mining), that will create even more markets for secondary materials. 

Today, industrial sustainability has more than momentum behind it. There are market forces at play that will require the entire industrial sector to adopt more environmentally friendly practices. The more you build sustainability (including scrap metal recycling and efficient waste reduction) into your business model now, the better prepared you will be for a future where virgin material is either scarce or heavily regulated and taxed—and you’ll also reap the benefits to your bottom line that we previously mentioned.

What can you do today? Your Shapiro Metals rep is standing by to have a conversation about how we can help you take the first step to implementing a manufacturing sustainability program. We can also help strengthen or broaden existing programs, getting you closer to achieving your strategic sustainability goals.