Approaches to sustainability balance costs, benefits

07/12/2013 02:56:00 PM
Melissa Shipman

Courtesy Organics UnlimitedOrganics Unlimited, San Diego, uses drip irrigation in its fields and is considering investing in solar energy options to help cut costs and increase sustainability in its warehouse.When it comes to implementing sustainability options, suppliers say cost is a factor, but it isn’t the only one.

“I think a lot of companies share the viewpoint that if it’s not cost effective, it’s not sustainable,” said Kathleen Phillips, supply chain sustainability manager at Pro*Act, Monterey, Calif.

“If the cost is too high, no one will pursue it,” she said.

Phillips also oversees Pro*Act’s Greener Fields Together program.

“For sustainability, the message you hear again and again is to target the low-hanging fruit first,” she said.

Companies can look into options that will improve their sustainability without requiring significant investments up front.

“When you target those opportunities with little to no cost, you can recoup those savings and then maybe make those larger investments,” Phillips said.

Efforts can move on from there.

“After you target that low-hanging fruit, you can investigate those other opportunities and see what other options are out there using the savings you’ve already seen,” she said.

Jim Gallant, vice president of operations and engineering for Remasco, Kingsville, Ontario, says implementing sustainability initiatives usually makes business sense as well.

Remasco is a Mucci-controlled corporation.

“Sustainability is very important, but not just as a stand-alone idealistic objective. It also just makes business sense from many perspectives,” Gallant said.

Sometimes, those cost savings or other benefits are harder to find, and creativity plays a role.

“You have to be somewhat innovative and imaginative in order to seek out ways of taking what might otherwise be viewed as troublesome and use it instead to drive operating efficiencies and thereby get a payback,” Gallant said.

Other times, the cost-saving benefits of sustainability efforts is at the forefront.

“The thermal energy curtain will significantly reduce our heating costs, so there is a short payback on that,” Gallant said.

However, Gallant says lower natural gas prices mean cost savings aren’t the biggest factor in deciding to reduce energy consumption, since it’s not the company’s biggest expense.

Still, the benefits are there.

“Although we do find that many of the projects that are beneficial for sustainability and reducing our carbon footprint also have a good payback,” Gallant said, “we’re also motivated to be good corporate citizens and environmental stewards for the sake of our customers.”

Companies have to do extensive studies before selecting sustainability options that suit their needs.

Mayra Velazquez de Leon, president, Organics Unlimited, San Diego, says cost is something to be considered and researched.

Organics Unlimited is looking into some solar energy options, Velazquez de Leon said.

“We know it will be a big investment, but it’s something that will give you a return at some point. We’ll not only be saving on energy costs, we will become a more sustainable warehouse,” she said.

In addition, longevity is something to consider.

“Once you make the upgrade, it’s something that will be in place for a long time,” Velazquez de Leon said.



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