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Manufacturing industry leads sustainability change

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Manufacturing industries are more advanced with implementing sustainable practices than other industry sectors, according to specialist on-site workforce training organisation, Think Perform.

Andrew Henderson, Executive Director – Strategy and Growth at Think Perform – the sister company of Leadership Management Australia – said new survey data showed the manufacturing industry valued the importance of sustainability more than 16 other sectors covered by the research.

“Manufacturers appear to be more in harmony with implementing sustainable practices and in fact are more likely to be consolidating them and actively living the values of sustainability,” he said.

While almost all leaders, managers and employees in the survey were able to identify the status of their organisation in relation to sustainable practice, responses indicated that almost 10 percent of organisations had not yet begun to think about it, Mr Henderson said.

Of the 3,182 respondents, 743 were in manufacturing (covering automotive, food and beverage, printing and packaging, rubber and plastics, textiles, clothing and footwear) while the remainder were from 16 other industry sectors.

The 16 other sectors were: agriculture, forestry, fishing (primary production); mining; electricity, gas and water supply; construction; wholesale trade; retail trade; tourism, accommodation, cafes and restaurants; transport and storage; communication services; finance and insurance; property and business services; government administration and defence; education; health and community services; cultural and recreational services; and personal and other services.

The research was undertaken by Chase Research through the L.E.A.D. (Leadership Employment and Direction) Survey run by Think Perform’s sister company Leadership Management Australia for over 15 years.

Key findings:

  • 49% of manufacturing leaders, 56% of managers and 40% of employees believed their organisations were well down the path or highly advanced and living the sustainability values compared to 31%, 45% and 34% in other business sectors.
  • 17% of manufacturing leaders, 14% of managers and 18% of employees believed their organisations had not begun to think about sustainability or started thinking but taken no action compared to 27%, 18% and 20% in other sectors.
  • Leaders in manufacturing and the other 16 sectors rated the importance of sustainability as “quite important” whereas managers and employees rated it higher as “very important”.

“The focus of manufacturing organisations on global competitiveness, profitability and ultimately the sustainability of the sector itself would seem to have sharpened the focus on what it means to operate sustainably,” said Mr Henderson.

“Improved processes in sourcing, efficient energy use, recycling and LEAN-ing the operations of so many businesses in this sector have become more than just lip-service. The focus on living the values of sustainability has become a mantra for many and a new way of life for most in this sector.”

Mr Henderson said Think Perform had been working with many organisations that would describe their past practices as unsustainable.

“Close focus — some would say obsession — on processes, systems, the role of people in organisation performance and the identification and stripping out of waste has become standard practice for most clients”.

“Organisations of all types, not just manufacturers are urged to take a close look at their operations and start or continue the journey towards sustainability. Leaders and managers who ignore the imperative to ‘get sustainable’ do so at their peril and are putting their organisations and their people at risk”, Mr Henderson said.