All firms are evolving their sustainability initiatives to address Forrester’s five-level sustainability maturity model. However, many manufacturing firms spanning various industrial markets, including primary production, product manufacturing, pharmaceuticals and medical equipment, chemicals, and oil and gas, are proactively addressing sustainability initiatives to address operational priorities. These sustainability initiatives often include critical operational processes (e.g., supply chain, manufacturing plant operations, product manufacturing, facilities management, resource management) or technology-led innovation processes (e.g., data center efficiencies, technology optimization).

Operational excellence for sustainability is applicable to all firms, but it’s particularly important in industrial manufacturing. Chart your manufacturing operations sustainability course by identifying operational initiatives based on your business priorities, industry requirements, regulatory environment, and the impact of operational processes on natural resources. Many firms initially focus on operational processes to reduce ecological debt and lower carbon emissions. Stakeholders responsible for each operational process (e.g., supply chain, facility management, plant operations) should identify opportunities to contribute to sustainability initiatives in their assigned operational process. Operational process leaders must collaborate with their firm’s sustainability lead to identify sustainability contribution goals, projected outcomes, and requirements to collaborate with personnel in other parts of the organization.

Proactive firms are establishing a code of conduct and asserting their expectations for supplier relationships, including child labor, raw material sourcing, and third-party supplier and partner relationships. You should also assess requirements for investing in automation, internet-of-things-enabled solutions, data governance tools, and modern AI/machine-learning-backed optimization tools to support seamless operational sustainability solution deployment and impact analysis. For additional insight into manufacturing operational sustainability, read Forrester’s five-stage sustainability maturity model report, or set up some time for a discussion with me.

This blog post is part of Forrester’s COP26 series. For more Forrester insights on sustainability, see the full set of Forrester’s climate action blogs.