We have two stories in our September issue that touch on the issue of business sustainability.
Susan Lacefield, a staff writer for DC Velocity, takes a look at reusable packaging and offers guidelines on what to consider in deciding whether to incorporate reusable packaging in a distribution environment. In her article, she discusses the benefits and potential drawbacks of doing so, and outlines steps to take to ensure a program is sucessful.
She points out, among other things, that reusable packaging is not necessarily more green than, say, recyclable corrugated. Buyers of reusable containers have to consider the full lifecycle of those products—where they come from and what happens to them when it's time to replace them. From a strictly environmental perspective, reusable containers can make sense for many, but by no means all, distribution operations. The calculation is not as simple as it might seem at first.
In the second story, Senior Editor Toby Gooley offers up an incisive and detailed look at the coming Tier 4 final emissions restrictions and what they will mean for makers of diesel forklifts and their customers. The short answer is that those forklifts are going to get more expensive but produce far fewer toxic emissions than their predecessors.
I see this as a sustainability story for a couple of reasons. The first is clear enough: Cleaner-burning engines mean less air pollution. Once again, that's a fit with corporate initiatives to reduce carbon footprints. But it touches on another aspect of sustainability as well—worker health. Any comprehensive sustainability initiative must include human resource issues, and cutting workplace pollution is certainly pertinent to employees' health and well-being.
In fact, many of the sustainability programs undertaken to reduce energy use also enhance worker health, safety, and job satisfaction. Better lighting can reduce energy costs while improving the work environment. Better climate control leads to more comfortable—and productive—work environments.
Sustainability coverage tends to focus on projects that do things like reduce energy use. But from a broader perspective, sustainability is about creating business practices that can help a company, its owners, its managers, its workers, and its customers and suppliers thrive over the long run. "Green" initiatives are certainly a big part of that. So is creating safe workplaces. The deadly toll taken by the recent factory fire in Bangladesh provides grievous testimony to just how devastating ignoring workplace safety can be. Truly sustainable business practices require getting it right inside the walls of the factory or DC here at home—and doing business with only those who do the same.