The road to green growth within manufacturing

As our world continues to transform, major manufacturing projects – and the professionals who manage them – will be more important than ever. By Ben Breen.

Projects have the power to shape a better world – to create new jobs, provide essential infrastructure, enhance education, advance diversity and equality and improve quality of life. 

Project management professionals play an important role in today’s world by bringing teams together to solve complex problems and create positive impact through projects, and sustainability is a critical focus. PMI’s recent Global Megatrends 2022 report highlights the growing stakes of the climate crisis and the need for project professionals to integrate emissions targets into key performance indicators, build emissions management into ways of working, and engage with stakeholders on sustainability best practices.
Recent research has emphasised, leaders across sectors and geographies are increasingly setting bold targets to act on climate change and adopt greater sustainability measures.

To truly make a difference, organisations need to take a closer look at what they can do to incorporate sustainability at the core of what they do. 

Green from the top

Addressing climate change is everyone’s responsibility, from the factory floor to the head office. However, making sustainability initiatives part of ‘business as usual’ has proven to be challenging for many companies. 

A recent PwC survey reveals that 90 per cent of Australian CEOs have some level of concern about the impact of climate change, and yet just 35 per cent have greenhouse gas emissions targets built into their long-term corporate strategy.

This mirrors research from PMI which found that almost 40 per cent of organisations reported major barriers to improving social impact, with just 33 per cent of projects delivering improvements for the environment. 

To garner the resources required to bring about change, commitment must come from C-suite leaders in realising the benefits of a sustainable approach and shifting internal practices to pave the way for real action. This includes engaging project management practitioners as part of the solution to address barriers to adoption, connect projects with purpose and develop a roadmap for success.

Intent breeds action

In Australia’s current climate, wanting to do good is simply not enough. Manufacturers must develop a clear plan for projects that leads to legitimate action.

Internally, a sustainable strategy must be integrated into organisational culture. By encouraging the mindset that planetary resilience improves business resilience, leaders can spur a ‘green movement’ whilst also increasing employee retention and improving productivity. With 71 per cent of Gen Z workers saying they would refuse to work for a company they feel isn’t doing enough to address climate change, there is an opportunity to improve employee satisfaction through purposeful sustainability initiatives.

Becoming a sustainable manufacturer involves a complex change management journey that requires holistic organisational effort, commitment and dedication.

Success factors for sustainable manufacturing 

The Australian manufacturing industry must prioritise evolution to adopt sustainable practices by tapping into new methods, new technologies and new solutions. Five success factors have emerged as critical to driving sustainable projects:

  1. Stakeholders are key – This often requires a cultural shift and skill at facilitating change and creating economic incentives and value for the community a project will impact. Emphasising careful, intentional planning and securing stakeholder support from inside and outside an organisation can ensure positive sustainable impact is ingrained in the company DNA.
  2. Zero-waste approachProject managers need to integrate emissions targets into key performance indicators and build emissions management into ways of working. This includes assessing energy footprint, costs and impact; otherwise, there will be no transparency or accountability and no means to track progress.
  3. Everything from A to Z – Looking at the full life cycle of a sustainable manufacturing project – from sourcing to production and distribution to disposal – is likely to reveal that it isn’t as sustainable as expected or creating much impact. Embedding sustainability practices into every function, process and decision across the value chain will require cross-enterprise collaboration. 
  4. Risk checklist –From security, government regulations, stakeholder and community management, water supplies and the impact on biodiversity, manufacturers must continually assess that their projects are on track to achieve the desired goals and outcomes.   
  5. The missing piece – While financial resources and organisational commitment are critical, leveraging the right skills and technology are essential assets for enabling change. Digitisation efforts must ramp up to truly understand the level of resource usage and waste within each business process, alongside investment in skills training to drive tangible solutions.

To lead national and global sustainability efforts, the manufacturing industry itself – as well as industry professionals – must transform. Manufacturing professionals and project managers across the sector should make haste in adopting sustainability initiatives centred around their day-to-day activities or risk being left in the dust. By incorporating these practices, Australian manufacturers have the ability to make a more sustainable, greener world a reality.

Picture: supplied

Ben Breen is Managing Director, and Head of Global Construction at the Project Management Institute (PMI), Asia Pacific. Ben has supported or led hundreds of construction projects including iconic developments such as Marina Bay Sands and the award-winning Suntec Convention Centre. He has founded several project management and design companies, helping them to grow and develop into best-in-class providers. 

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