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On Management: A sustainable business is less about being green than being in the black

Article-On Management: A sustainable business is less about being green than being in the black

When it comes to the idea of “sustainability,” there’s a new idea beginning to take hold out there and it involves more than being ‘green’ – it means building a business that is profitable; one built on a value proposition that provides growth and longevity into the future.

According to Larry Nitardy, president of ComAssist (, a consulting firm that helps companies define purpose, create clarity and improve results, companies need to make sustainable choices that make a difference to the triple bottom line. “It’s a combination of behavior and sustainable development,” he told a group at the SPE’s ANTEC conference in April. “It’s about maximizing the present while preserving the future, and achieving greater sustainability by empowering greater choice through improving margins.”
One way that companies can become more sustainable through their triple bottom line, their measurements of financial, environmental and social goals, is by having suppliers that invest in their business to make them successful. “Are your suppliers helping you to maximize what you buy from them so that you can build a sustainable business?” Nitardy asked. “Sustainable business behaviors cost the least amount of money and require the least risk.”
Nitardy outlined seven sustainable business behaviors:

  • Touch
  • Teach
  • Treat
  • Tout
  • Time
  • Talent
  • Treasure

Touch has to do with the environmental aspects of the business operations and what can be done to reduce waste – wasted time, wasted motions, and wasted energy. “How many times does this product have to be touched and what is my supplier doing to help me do so that I don’t have to handle this product so often?’ is what you need to be asking,” Nitardy said. “And how to we touch the environment with our products and processes? How do we touch the air, water, the earth?”

Teach, treat and tout – the next three behaviors – are about people. “Are your suppliers educating you and your team members? Are they educating you as to why they are the optimum supplier? With respect to materials, are they educating us as to the next generation of materials? What is the replacement product in case of obsolescence?” Nitardy posed. “Are they benchmarking you with respect to how you perform your work vs. industry norms?”

Treat involves how you treat your employees and society. Nitardy encouraged attendees to work with suppliers that can help them better understand how their products and processes affect employees and what efforts are being made for improvement in areas such as health and safety, and look at what it means for your costs to make these improvements.
Tout means that you “tell your story,” explained Nitardy. “Do your suppliers help you tell your story? Do their products help you improve your image and provide more impact for you in your market?”

Time, talent and treasure are the financial/profit behaviors. Time is about the chain of supply, and the time it takes to get raw materials into your plant, or develop an alternative to what you currently use. After use, will your supplier take back scrap? Will they help you recycle or reuse the materials? “Build these questions into your purchasing process,” Nitardy suggested.

Talent is key to your success. Can your suppliers supply the human talent resources you need to develop leading-edge products and understand the product life cycle? Can they help you improve the pipeline, for example, or find alternative resources?

Treasure means knowing your cost structure and the impact that suppliers have on your costs. “Ask them,” stated Nitardy. “What’s the impact of your products on my cost structure? Ask them ‘what’s your own triple bottom line?’” he added.

Just as your customers seek the best supplier for molds and molded parts, you should be seeking the best suppliers as well – the ones that can help you build a sustainable business model. “Suppliers can impact your own business sustainability,” Nitardy concluded. “Scorecards are huge in today’s OEM supply chain evaluations – and they’re frightening! You need to look at where you need to improve and select suppliers who can help you improve in all these behaviors.”

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