Finally, many companies believe that sustainable manufacturing is simply the right thing to do. “We live and play in the communities where we work, constantly reminding us what it means to be a good neighbor,” says David Cooper, vice president of glass reinforcements at Owens Corning. “Operating in a way that protects our environment ensures we are, and are seen as, responsible citizens.”

Encouraging the Right Mindset

Owens Corning has been working for many years to improve the sustainability of its manufacturing processes. In September 2018, for the ninth year in a row, the company was recognized for its efforts with a place on the Dow Jones Sustainability World Index.

“We incorporate sustainability into our business operating model. We don’t view sustainability as an expense to manage, but as an opportunity to grow,” Cooper says. “We set very challenging targets across the company, and we plan appropriately to achieve success – the right teams, the right processes, the right financial resources.”

Owens Corning has already introduced sustainable practices into several of its composites manufacturing facilities. These plants recycle process water and use it for cooling towers and landscape irrigation. The company recently launched an initiative called the Material Revolution to transform its composite business into a sustainable enterprise. The long-term goal is to achieve zero glass-waste-to-landfill through what the company calls its four pillars: reduce, reuse, recycle, reincorporate. A cross-functional team has been dedicated to implementing this Material Revolution.

“The first step is to change our mindset from accepting glass waste as a material loss to realizing that material byproducts add value to our business,” Cooper adds. Getting employees into the right mindset and getting them to become engaged in the process is critical when a manufacturer is trying to become more sustainable.

“You have to have a lot of different perspectives on where the waste and the costs are, where the opportunities are,” Gromacki says. The mistake that some companies make is giving a single employee or a single department the task of improving sustainability instead of bringing it to the whole business, he says. Gromacki asserts that companies get better results when they set up something similar to the employee circles used for quality improvement processes. Quality circles consist of a small group of employees who meet regularly to solve problems related to quality and/or performance. Similar teams for sustainability issues could identify areas where a company could become more sustainable and suggest ways to make improvements.