Manufacturing is going through a major transition period. The introduction of robotics and cobotics, 3D printing, and a changing global economy have wrought huge changes in the industry, and these changes show no sign of slowing down.

There’s another area in which manufacturing is experiencing changes, too – sustainability.

While sustainability in manufacturing has been a topic of interest in the sector for decades, in recent years manufacturers have begun looking far more seriously at how to manufacture in a more efficient, environmentally-friendly manner.

Doing so can have a positive impact on not only the environment, but on your bottom line as well. Here are just a few of the potential benefits.

Building a sustainable future for your company, your industry, and the environment

Sustainability means working with an eye toward the future. Obviously, manufacturing in a sustainable manner means that less environmental damage results from your manufacturing process, and that’s always a good thing.

Sustainability is really quite simple: If you use fewer resources today, you’ll have more for tomorrow – even if “tomorrow” means 20 years from now.

It’s easy for many of us to think of “the environment” as an abstract construct, but manufacturers know better, dealing as they do in raw materials. As resources become scarce, costs go up. Sometimes, manufacturers have to start using replacement materials.

These issues can create logistical problems, not to mention an increase in costs – and these problems can quickly balloon into major issues for your company.

Commitment to sustainability encourages innovation

Working toward a more sustainable future is one of the greatest ways to encourage innovation at your company or in the industry at large.

The quest for more sustainable materials, manufacturing processes, or distribution methods spurs critical thinking, encouraging managers and workers to question things are done. This is the only way positive disruption can occur.

In addition, as the Harvard Business Review reports, companies that commit to sustainability early will find themselves ahead of the pack. Adhering to the very strictest environmental compliance regulations rather than the most lenient, for example, can allow a company to release sustainable products two or three product cycles ahead of their competitors. This creates a very real competitive advantage, setting the manufacturer up to stay ahead of those competitors for years to come.

Sustainable products are more attractive to consumers

A significant percentage of customers will choose a sustainable version of a product over a less sustainable one.

In fact, according to Nielsen, 72% of respondents in Generation Z, the post-Millennial generation, are willing to pay more for products coming from companies that are committed to sustainability.

So in addition to being ahead of the game on innovation, manufacturers that embrace sustainability can become much more desirable partners for product development companies.

Costs can decrease, while efficiency increases

If sustainability is done right – that is, if planning and research are carried out and implemented – a manufacturer can actually begin to see costs go down and efficiency go up.

This is the opposite of what many executives believe happens when companies decide to “go green.” While initial costs to source alternative materials, use more eco-friendly processes, etc. may be higher, over time those costs tend to go way down. This is because a sustainable factory uses fewer inputs than a non-sustainable one, and produces less waste.

In addition, if the consumer price for a sustainable product is higher, that will be reflected all the way up the chain to the manufacturer. The manufacturer can therefore stand to make a healthier profit off of these sorts of items.

Sustainability in manufacturing is becoming more and more important with each passing year. In fact, it’s one of the biggest trends in the industry that we’ve identified for 2017. Read more in our blog post “6 Manufacturing Trends to Watch for in 2017