Sustainability – Don’t Wait Until It’s Too Late

Out of over 200 world leaders that attended the COP26 Conference in Glasgow, more than 100 pledged to end deforestation by 2030. This, of course, is good news, but to know which of those made the pledge is also vitally important, as some countries are so much more involved in deforestation than others. I guess the true benefit of this much-lauded agreement will become clear within the near future. We can only hope so.

It is also interesting to note that there are only nine years left between now and 2030 and, during the 2009 Conference in Denmark, many world leaders made pledges, not least of which was to help less developed countries by granting them $100 billion per year by 2020, to help with their green initiatives. They also made other pledges to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and thereby, at least, stop the rise in global temperatures and the potentially devastating consequences.

Since then, however, greenhouse emissions have gone up, as have global average temperatures, and consequentially, climate extremes have become far more commonplace, with floods and wildfires increasing across the planet. Sadly, the $100billion per year, pledged by the developed countries did not materialise, and the graph below shows the extent to which this fell short year on year.

Promises Made at COP15 Haven’t Been Delivered

This shortfall in the delivery of commitments made, at such globally important conferences, leads to huge suspicion and not a little contempt for the outcome of COP26, especially when two of the major polluters, China and Russia, failed to attend. Incidentally, both China and Russia are far from the greatest polluters per capita. This dubious accolade remains with the USA.

The USA and the UK, as well as other wealthy countries, should be leading the way by setting examples of what can and is being done to dramatically reduce the impact of greenhouse gases. It seems morally incomprehensible for wealthy nations, having had their industrial revolution and as a consequence, caused massive pollution issues, to tell the developing and sometimes poorest nations, that they cannot have their own industrial revolutions as they will destroy the planet. The wealthy nations have to set a good example and they certainly haven’t done so since COP15 in Denmark in 2009.

If we really expect less-wealthy nations to act more responsibly than we did, then we have to help them. We have to plough in huge sums of money (and not just promise it because it’s a good sound bite) to such developing nations to seek and adopt greener methodologies and not simply to emit ‘whatever’ and ignore the consequences, or even worse, talk a good line but continue with ‘business as usual’.

Food & Drink Production & Wastage Creates Huge Emissions

Bringing this problem much more closely to my home base, the UK, food and drink manufacture is the largest manufacturing sector here and is apparently responsible for more than 30% of our greenhouse gas emissions. In addition, as about a third of our expensively produced food is wasted, the destruction of this waste creates a further 8% to 16% of greenhouse gas emissions, dependent upon which pundits you believe. Whatever the actual figures, food production and the destruction of food waste cause huge emissions, both in the UK and worldwide (the Western World anyway).

How Committed Are We?

If we are seriously committed to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, we must optimise food and drink production and distribution. Such a commitment creates huge challenges in ‘Choice of Packaging’ (recyclable or not), Right First Time Production (ensuring that production failures are largely eliminated and that products despatched ‘go out and stay out’, instead of becoming batch rejections due to Allergen Risk, Incorrect Packaging and/or incorrect Date Coding).

Within the ‘Grand Global Plan’, these issues must seem to some as ineffectual and inconsequential, but Continuous Improvement is usually based upon a myriad of small incremental improvements which, collectively, amount to far more than ‘a can of beans’. Everyone can do something to reduce the chronic wastage and consequential emissions and we all need to do far more.

No More ‘Wrong First Time’

We can no longer expect to cover up ‘Wrong First Time’ within the company overheads, nor continue to support inefficient practices. Raw material prices are constantly being increased to manufacturers (assuming they can still obtain supplies within a timely fashion), conversion cost (inputs to outputs), labour charges are increasing year on year and yet the retailers (fighting their own price wars) are reluctant to accept price rises from manufacturers.

We Need Right First Time, Every Time

So, how can manufacturers expect to ‘square this circle’ and still show a profit to their shareholders at the end of each year? Only by a multi-departmental inward focus and war on waste. They have to become far better at ‘Right First Time, Every Time’, reducing internal wastage, including packed product overfills and improving production efficiencies. If short batch runs (to suit the retailers) have to be the norm, then they have to find faster and more effective methods of product changeovers.

When problems occur, it is wasteful to bury these within the overhead, they need to be highlighted, root cause determined and fixed to ensure they do not recur.

None of these ‘solutions’ are easy, especially if the internal manufacturing culture is based upon ‘we have always done it this way’ or ‘wastage is an inevitable part of production’. These are very common but dangerous assumptions/assertions as they stand in the way of Continuous Improvement.

We have enormous experience in these matters (gained during our past 55 years) which we are more than willing to share with any companies open to discussion. To know more call our team on 01225 764461 for a ‘no pressure’ discussion.

Roy Green, Lean Six Sigma, Black Belt at Harford Control. December 2021

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