Manufacturers are leaders in the green revolution

Manufacturers are leaders in the green revolution
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Today’s manufacturing industry isn’t the one your grandparents remember. Thousands of Americans are taking the opportunity to discover this for themselves as part of Manufacturing Day (MFG Day), which formally kicked off on Friday but runs through October.

As manufacturing facilities across the country open their doors to showcase the reality of modern manufacturing up close, these Americans are seeing manufacturing careers that are increasingly high-skill, manufacturing facilities that are increasingly high-tech and manufacturing impacts that are increasingly low-emission.

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They’re discovering that, in the wake of strong economic optimism, manufacturers are not only keeping their promise to hire more workers, raise employee compensation and invest in new plants and equipment, but they are also keeping their promise to deliver responsible environmental stewardship. 

We at the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) represent 14,000 companies of every kind — in all 50 states, in all industrial sectors and in every imaginable size classification. Earlier this year, the NAM partnered with the Department of Energy’s Better Plants Program to launch the Sustainability in Manufacturing Partnership.

This partnership helps manufacturers explore new sustainability technologies, address future energy problems and shine a spotlight on their deep commitment to sustainable growth. By sharing their stories, companies can learn from the best practices of industry peers.

Meanwhile, Americans can see how seriously manufacturers take their responsibility for our shared planet — such as by contributing 19-percent more value to the American economy over the past decade while releasing 10-percent fewer greenhouse gas emissions. 

Manufacturers feel overwhelmingly optimistic these days, as the NAM’s most recent quarterly outlook survey revealed just last week, yet they remain focused on the future of the planet as revealed in another NAM survey of member manufacturers on sustainability practices.

Not only do 94 percent of these NAM manufacturers report tracking energy usage and 81 percent report tracking water consumption, but impressive majorities report taking action on these important issues as well.

For instance, 72 percent reported having a sustainability policy in place (another 8 percent are developing one). Manufacturing company Ingersoll Rand recently extended its climate commitment by signing a purchasing agreement for wind power that will account for 32 percent of its U.S. electricity use.

It is also developing a solar energy initiative to cover more of its energy load. Meanwhile, Union Pacific reduced its energy consumption by 3.8 million kilowatt hours in 2017— enough to power more than 400 American homes for a year. 

No less impressive are manufacturers’ recycling programs, which 76 percent of these manufacturers reported having. When wallboard waste comes back to USG Corporation’s Rainier, Ore. plant, a machine separates the gypsum core from the paper.

The paper is then sent to a local dairy farm, where it’s used for bedding, while the recovered gypsum goes back into the manufacturing process to be recycled into new wallboard. It’s a win–win all around — for the company, for the environment and for the cows.

Further east, construction materials manufacturer Saint-Gobain started using a cooling tower to save water at its Riverport, Ky. 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 the well up. 

That is the image Americans should have of manufacturers: companies putting permanent advancements into place and closing the lid — sometimes literally — on older, more wasteful practices. Manufacturers know it’s possible to deliver economic growth while keeping our air and water clean because they’re doing it already. 

At a time when there are more than half a million open jobs in manufacturing, a well-paying career in this modern, booming and sustainability-focused industry may be for you. 

Chad Moutray is the chief economist for the National Association of Manufacturers. Laura Berkey-Ames is the director of energy and resource policy for the NAM.  Log onto MFGDay.com to find an MFG Day event near you.