September 10, 2008
“We shall leave no debt to succeeding generations.”—Thomas Jefferson
Over time I’ve learned that, while I am quick to grab some ideas, and generally not afraid of change (good change, that is), I am instinctively suspicious of things that bear the scent of hype. You know, the latest fads or buzzwords. As such, I have to confess that I have been deeply skeptical of all the buzz around sustainability.
However, the need to check things out, if only to know why they are baloney, is built into a journalist’s genetic code. So I dug in—and a very good move it was. I’ve done a one-eighty on sustainability. OK, make that a one-seventy. A journalist cannot abandon skepticism entirely.
First thing I did was look for a definition. As a concept, sustainability seemed rather vague. The definition I came across most often comes from the UN’s Brundtland Commission: “Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” (That was coined in 1987. Sustainability is not an overnight sensation.)
Development? I had suspected this might be a back-to-the-land movement, which, let’s be real, is impossible with more than 6.5 billion of us humans on the globe already and more coming fast. But, yes, this is about development, also known as making money, if done correctly. There is a lot of literature on the commercial aspect of sustainability. (You’ll find a reading list with this article at immnet.com.)
The final click in my turnabout on sustainability came at the recent Penn State Erie Injection Molding Conference. The keynote speech by Bill Carteaux, president and CEO of the Society of the Plastics Industry, was titled, “Sustainability and the Plastics Industry.” I wish you were there to hear it.
We plastics people get slammed often and hard about creating waste and pollution, and worse. Carteaux very logically, and I would say forcefully, laid out why sustainability is the path we should follow to get ourselves on the right side of the future. Equally important, he explained, our end customers (for example, Wal-Mart, 3M, Toyota, Nike, and TXU) have already gained competitive advantage through sustainability—and they want their suppliers to support that.
Carteaux’s presentation is crammed with facts, statistics, and reasons why all plastics companies, including of course moldmakers and molders, should be into sustainability. I don’t have room here to cover them all, but by way of good news, you can catch his presentation live very soon. On Sept. 24, there will be a full-day seminar on Sustainability in Plastics as part of National Manufacturing Week in Rosemont, IL. The cluster of trade shows there that week, which are organized by IMM’s parent company, Canon Communications, and include Plastec Midwest/Plastics USA, are worth the trip. So is the Sustainability seminar. I’ll be there for both. Hope to see you.
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