Sustainable Manufacturing: Corporate Social Responsibility & the Circular Economy

October 24, 2020 Leah NacuaBrampton, Durham, GTA, Mississauga, Vaughan 727 Views

The Ontario government kicked off Waste Reduction Week (October 19th-25th, 2020) by unveiling draft regulations as part of a revised Blue Box Program, making producers of products and packaging fully responsible for the waste they create.  The province also announced the regulation requiring producers of electrical and electronic equipment to be responsible for the full life-cycle of those products; the new electronics recycling regulations will come into effect on January 1, 2021.  It was therefore very timely to have our Guest Speakers, Kelly Killby of the EMC Safety Team, and Tessa Vlaanderen, Manager of Programs & Planning at Resource Productivity & Recovery Authority, join us for a virtual discussion on “Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) & Circular Economy (CE)”.  CSR and CE are highly interconnected concepts linked to sustainability, which is very much a hot topic (no pun intended) amidst the growing concern about climate change. 

Corporate social responsibility CSR Circular Economy  CE Environment Environmental Sustainability Environmental, Social, Governmental ESG Sustainable manufacturing Green manufacturing Triple bottom line Cradle to grave Lifecycle Life cycle Extended producer responsibility

Corporate Social Responsibility = People, Planet, Profit

While Kelly Killby currently leads the EMC Safety program, her passion for sustainability quickly became apparent as she spoke with us about Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR).  She gave us an overview of CSR and its main pillars:  Governance, Economic (which includes Procurement Practices), Environmental (which includes Energy, Emissions, and Waste), and Social (which includes Occupational Health & Safety, Diversity, and Community Relations), with the last three often referred to as People-Planet-Profit, or the “Triple Bottom Line”.  Kelly brought the concepts to life by giving real-life examples of sustainability best-practices based on her past experiences.

While many large organizations (particularly large multinationals) have CSR policies clearly defined alongside their corporate mission, vision and values, smaller companies are certainly not precluded from being guided by good CSR principles.  Regardless of the size of your operations the business can still have CSR activities such as ethical operations and sourcing, minimizing waste, having a culture of work safety, or engaging in philanthropic activities (like sponsorship of the local community’s Little League baseball team, or small-scale food drives).  In short, CSR is not necessarily a formalized practice within an organization but may just be part of a company’s core values.  Formalized or not, adhering to good CSR principles makes business sense.  It builds and elevates a company’s reputation in the community, instills pride among employees, attracts customers and potential new hires as well as  creates an overall win-win scenario for people, planet, and profit.  

For those who are interested in viewing the GRI standards to help identify opportunities for improving your company’s CSR practices, the standards are free to access on the GRI website.  The Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada website also has a section dedicated to CSR, including a CSR implementation guide for Canadian Businesses, as well as a CSR toolkit.  

Sustainable Manufacturing & Circular Economy

Without a doubt, the manufacturing sector has tremendous opportunity for reducing environmental impact through the adoption of sustainable manufacturing practices, such as the application of the 3Rs (reduce, reuse, recycle) as well as good water and energy management.  However, sustainable manufacturing is more than just having blue boxes at the office and production floor.  There are also opportunities for reducing and preventing waste in manufacturing processes, particularly if we look at it under the lens of a circular economy. 

Corporate social responsibility CSR Circular Economy  CE Environment Environmental Sustainability Environmental, Social, Governmental ESG Sustainable manufacturing Green manufacturing Triple bottom line Cradle to grave Lifecycle Life cycle Extended producer responsibilityIn a linear economy, natural resources are extracted to be converted into raw materials, which manufacturers then convert into usable products, which are then consumed by the user and then thrown away.  In contrast, a circular economy would have products and packaging designed such that materials used in production can be recovered, reused, and recycled, to be used again in production, thereby improving resource efficiency.  With her extensive background in circular economy, Tessa Vlaanderen spoke with us about the opportunities that exist for manufacturers in adopting a circular economy principle.  These opportunities can vary depending on the industry, i.e. an automotive-parts manufacturer might look at material remanufacturing or refurbishment, whereas a food-packaging manufacturer might have more opportunities in product design (think compostable or biomaterials).  Tessa also spoke about Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR), which shifts the responsibility for end-of-life management of products and packaging to producers (rather than municipal or regional governments), thereby incentivizing producers to incorporate environmental sustainability into product and packaging design.  The draft Blue Box regulation is not yet finalized; it is posted for public consultation until Dec 2, 2020.  However, the Ontario government is looking to transition to the producer responsibility regulatory framework between 2023 and 2025.  Hence, manufacturers need to keep this timeframe in mind as they continue to innovate their products.  The adage “Innovate or Die” remains true, particularly as sustainability remains a key driver of innovation.

On behalf of Craig Mannell, Field Service Advisor for Niagara, Hamilton, Burlington, Oakville, Owen Sound consortiums, and our Guest Speakers, Kelly Killby and Tessa Vlaanderen, thank you to those who attended the SIG event and participated in the discussion. 

If you are interested in speaking further about this topic, or are interested in attending similar events, please contact Leah Nacua - LNACUA@EMCCANADA.ORG.