Seven myths around sustainability

October 18, 2017

With sustainability high on the agenda for EXPO 2020, sustainable business practice is fast becoming an important topic for design and manufacturing companies across the region.

While many organisations are adopting sustainability measures, there is still a great deal of confusion around the subject. This has led to common myths surrounding the practicality and benefits of implementing an eco-friendly business model.

Humanscale, a specialist in the design and manufacture of ergonomic tools, recently became the first manufacturer in any industry to complete the 'Living Product Challenge', a framework for manufacturers to create products that are healthy, inspirational and give back to the environment.

Knowing what it takes to embrace a green-friendly approach to manufacturing, Alan McDonald, managing director of Humanscale for the Middle East and North Africa, shares his expertise to tackle some of the most common misconceptions around sustainability.

1) It is impossible for manufacturers to be eco-friendly

Simply not true and there are plenty of information sources available for those who are just getting started. The International Living Future Institute, whose Living Product Challenge is referenced above, aims to make manufacturers part of the solution for environmental problems and offers programs that encourage designers to think beyond their normal process and create entirely new sustainable solutions.

2) Being eco-conscious is too expensive to be a viable business option

Sustainability initiatives can actually help companies save money in the future so it’s important to view sustainability as a long-term investment. Installing water collection systems, solar power, recycled materials to reduce material production in designs are great examples of how to achieve this. The future well-being of customers, employees and the planet is more valuable than short-term income.

3) Consumerism is okay, as long as it’s green

In the immortal words of Niels Diffrient, legendary industrial designer and advocate of sustainable design practice, "No amount of recycling will equal using less in the first place.” Consumerism is consumerism. The best thing consumers can do is buy well and buy once.

4) Eco-friendly products aren’t aesthetically pleasing

Established desirable brands such as Stella McCartney, TOMs and Tesla have proven that eco-friendly and stylish aren’t mutually exclusive. Humanscale’s philosophy is that ‘good design achieves more with less’ and it’s this formula that has resulted in Humanscale winning over 200 global awards for its eco-friendly designs.

5) Once a product is made, it is already considered landfill

Thanks to the increased variety of materials now available to manufacturers, there are more opportunities to create quality products that, after a long life, can be disassembled and the parts recycled or re-used. It’s important to understand that sustainability begins at the beginning of a product’s life cycle, and simple changes such as using eco-friendly materials can reduce its long-term impact on the planet.

6) Manufacturing requires high volumes of water

It doesn’t have to. By introducing a good water collection system, water can be re-used as a renewable energy source in manufacturing processes, meaning it’s actually possible for companies to cut back on water usage.

7) Manufacturers could never be net positive

Although it’s a challenge, it’s not impossible. Conscious efforts to improve production processes, material choices and facility practices can reap real rewards. As mentioned above, Humanscale achieved net positive status on two of its products, bringing the company ever closer to its goal of having an overall net positive impact on the earth. The Net Positive Project is also a great advocate in this area and can help companies give back to the world, rather than simply reduce impact.

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