Field: Carbon footprint, Decision support tool, Dissemination of information, Energy efficiency in industry, Network, Sustainable manufacturing, Waste reduction
Global Technical function: Manufacturing, Promoting the sector, Support to business
Technical Function Unit: Benchmarking, Combining activities, Networking, Performance standard, Providing support (advise/consultancy), Raising awareness, Sustainability criteria
Geographic Area: U.S.A.
Type of actors: Industry, Policy makers, SMEs

Green Suppliers Network

The Green Suppliers Network aims to minimise carbon footprints by reducing energy consumption, increasing productivity, and driving innovation. Its members, who are large manufacturers from across the value chain, benefit from customised, hands-on assessments of production processes to develop their business in a more sustainable way.

The challenge

The scarcity of many resources is a global challenge. Therefore, manufacturing for a sustainable future means using a life cycle approach and raising awareness of value chain management. Success and efficiency in such a complex field requires the collaboration of stakeholders, allowing for the dissemination of informationcombining activities and setting a performance standard for sustainability criteria. The Green Suppliers Network seeks to facilitate such an adaptation by providing support to industry, developing decision support tools and organising a framework for the dissemination of information and networking.

 

The network

The Green Suppliers Network is collaboration between the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Department of Commerce. It was established to help SMEs in the manufacturing sector to stay competitive and profitable while reducing their impact on the environment.[1] With the goal of promoting various sectors, the network aims to work with local policy makers in order to make the whole region focus on sustainability. To actively include all players along a particular value chain, key manufacturers are encouraged to ask for a high performance standard when contracting suppliers. This drives eco-innovation in several ways and improves energy efficiency in industry, and waste reduction as a result of an increase in resource efficiency.  On a wider scale, it also encourages sustainable manufacturing.

 

The benefits

The Green Suppliers Network has produced very impressive environmental and economic benefits for its members. Many of these benefits are related to process improvements brought about by ‘lean manufacturing’ techniques. To help companies exploit their eco-innovative potential, low-cost technical reviews are offered. Additionally, trainings, programme materials and technical assistance are provided. “Greening” and improving the supply chain relationships also helps members to be better positioned in the market place[2]. In pointing out that value chain management almost certainly leads to waste reduction and considerable cost savings, the Green Suppliers Network could gather together an impressive number of partners.[3]  Since success stories are more convincing than dry benchmarking facts, the network illustrates with real life cases how lean and green tools work.

Further deployment

Being a member of the Green Suppliers Network means being part of a powerful networking structure and promoting sustainable product issues primarily in the USA. The concept is validated at full scale, qualifying it for an estimated level 7 on the generic maturity scale GML.[4] Members pay a membership fee in order to maintain the network activities and support measures. Training materials as well as background information in different formats are developed, which help to explain for example, value stream mapping[5] and the urgent need to act. Increasing the understanding of and implementing eco-innovation aspects in manufacturing, will help reduce negative environmental impacts and provide support to business.

 

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[4] Generic Maturity Level: indicator for readiness of transfer of a certain process; following the scale of technology readiness (http://www.esto.nasa.gov/files/TRL_definitions.pdf). The given value was estimated by the authors.