Liquid Flow Measurement Basics

Background: Global Demand for Flow Meter Technology

The global flow meter market size was valued at $7.3 billion in 2018, and is projected to reach $11.9 billion by 2026, growing at a CAGR of 6.3% from 2019 to 2026 (

Some of the major market players operating and profiled in this sector are Honeywell International Inc., Siemens AG, Emerson Electric Company, ABB Ltd, Schneider Electric SE, Yokogawa Electric Corporation (

Business Significance of Liquid Flow Measurement

Understanding liquid flow measurement and its underlying technologies enables us to appropriately select the right meter that will financially and operationally benefit your manufacturing facility, plant, or building.

Several different types of fluid flow measurement technologies exist, most notably (but not limited to):

  • Magnetic
  • Coriolis
  • Ultrasonic (Doppler)
  • Differential Pressure
  • Positive Displacement
  • Turbine
  • Vortex shedding
  • Thermal


Important considerations when selecting flow metering devices include:

  • Accuracy
  • Cost
  • Physical constraints
  • Flow rate range
  • Flow profile
  • Fluid characteristics including temperature and pressure
  • Head loss across meter
  • Operating requirements
  • Maintenance
  • Life requirement based on application or business need


For our clients, the case for ultrasonic technology is that it has major benefits.

Like its name suggests, an ultrasonic flow meter transmits ultrasonic sound waves (sound humans cannot hear) through a liquid in a pipe using transducers (Figure 1 below). The meter measures the time (called transit time) to and from the transducers, the diameter of the pipe, and, along with other input parameters to compute a flow measurement.

Figure 1

Significant benefits of ultrasonic liquid flow measurement include:

  • Non-intrusive
  • Quick to install permanently or temporarily
  • Requires no production downtime
  • Zero head loss across the meter as the meter has no probe in the fluid
  • Accurate to +/- 1% of reading


How can understanding fluid flow impact a manufacturing facility? 

First, we simply ask do fluid systems like chilled water, hot water or process water systems exist in your building or process?  If so, has the system or systems been balanced according to the engineered design?  Unfortunately, the answer most often is no.

I contend an unbalanced fluid system has the “robbing Peter to pay Paul” syndrome.  The consequence can negatively impact operations and bottom line costs.  I’ve listed 3 typical negative results of this “syndrome.”

  1. Systems or equipment starved for water (those providing less than design flow) cannot extract or inject heat at the design rates and, consequently, the system may not perform as intended.
  2. Systems providing excess flow also operate less efficiently.  Equipment is designed to operate with fluid at certain rates and exceeding those rates may also cause heat transfer rates to reduce when the fluid is too turbulent.
  3. Simultaneous heating and cooling easily occurs either directly or indirectly to mask the real issue and cost additional in utility expenses.   Under heating or under cooling often happens when systems don’t operate at design and the net difference needs to be made up somewhere, usually with supplemental equipment like unit heaters, portable coolers, etc.


Let’s look at a couple typical fluid system comments from building engineers, facility managers, maintenance managers, etc.

Common Myths Debunked:

Myth: More water is better.  Always.

Fact: The right flow rate is just as effective or more effective than excess water.  Excess water just costs energy to pump and causes other areas of systems to operate less efficiently or effectively or both.

Myth: The water system will balance itself out automatically.

Fact: Most water systems in the market will not balance themselves out automatically.

1. The system MAY balance itself out if the system is completely pressure independent.

2. A pressure dependent system MAY balance itself out if it was balanced and commissioned properly on install…which is a BIG IF.

3. The system MAY balance if all the valves are operating AND CONTROLLING properly.

Let’s just say very few fluid systems are balanced properly and many cost owners and managers thousands of dollars a year in some combination of waste, productivity, throughput, wear and tear of equipment, etc.

To find out more about how you can schedule an ultrasonic flow test at your facility, please contact us for details.  We perform flow tests or rent out meters by the week for longer tests.  More often than not, the project has a 100% ROI or better.

Matthew Strebe is a licensed mechanical engineer in Minnesota and holds certifications in building commissioning, and building energy assessments through ASHRAE.

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Don’t Fear Sustainability, Celebrate It


Photo Credit:Blisstree
By Mary Stokes
There is an unending struggle to understand sustainability, because well, let’s face it – it is a difficult concept to nail down.  It’s tough to even define sustainability in a way that does not exclude part of what it is.  In navigating the murky waters of  which sustainable practices are best for individual companies, a few, let’s say “myths”, have reared their ugly heads causing companies to shy away from what could be the next steps in expanding their company’s presence.
That said, we want to debunk a number of myths concerning sustainability, especially when it comes to small businesses.

1) It’s Only About Being Green

While “being green” is the most recognizable component of sustainability, it is not the entire focus. Sustainable practices have the benefit of minimizing environmental impact in mind, but they are also designed with the bottom line as a primary focus by cutting costs and increasing profits.  To say that sustainability is solely concerned with the environment is incorrect. It is more accurate to say that environmentally sound practices and cost saving measures are intricately entwined and they gain momentum symbiotically.  It is difficult to have one without the other.

2) It Is Expensive

Perhaps the most commonly held belief about sustainability, is that it is expensive to put into practice. This largely depends on the area in which a business desires to be sustainable.  Implementing sustainable practices might be as simple as finding a way of  adjusting lighting, heating, and air conditioning.  It could also be the process of revising the way items are manufactured. Some companies have been able to introduce an additional revenue stream by recycling excess materials.  Depending on the vision and goals of the business, the practices of sustainability can be as varied as the companies that implement them.

It should be noted here that a sustainability consultant should be in every small businesses figurative Rolladex.  A knowledgeable consultant can minimize expenses, streamline processes, and prioritize cost saving measures.  Sustainability consultants can offer a variety of services, ranging from air and water balancing to custom component 3D modeling, each option carries the potential for savings and lower overall costs.  Keep in mind, that even small changes can make a visible difference.

3) There Is No Immediate Return

A common concern businesses have is that the return for implementing sustainable practices, is not immediate.  This is not necessarily the case; many sustainable changes involve decreased energy use and will be readily apparent in the electric and gas bills for the month following the implementation.  Additionally, a business that is visibly investing in sustainability will receive positive attention and brand recognition.  That’s right, sustainability is good for marketing!

Ray Anderson, founder and chairman of Interface Inc, a textile manufacturer, says of the reality of sustainability for his company, “Sustainability has given my company a competitive edge in more ways than one…It has proven to be the most powerful marketplace differentiator I have known in my long career…It has rewarded us with more positive visibility and goodwill among our customers than the slickest, most expensive advertising or marketing campaign could possibly have generated. And a strong environmental ethic has no equal for attracting and motivating good people, galvanizing them around a shared higher purpose, and giving them a powerful reason to join and to stay.”

The value in positive PR, brand recognition, lower costs, and decreased environmental impact cannot be overstated.  Customers notice and appreciate the effort to be environmentally and economically sustainable, and a new customer base is formed with those who purposefully search out businesses that are concerned with sustainability.  Talented employees are attracted to a business that cares about the bigger picture, and this in turn encourages them to care about the business.  Even simple changes can prove to be enormously beneficial, and can improve efficiency, both for the short and long term.

4) It Is Difficult and Time-Consuming

Another practical concern for small businesses is that any changes required to be sustainable are difficult or require an excessive amount of time to implement.  Let us put you at ease, sustainability does not have to be difficult nor time-consuming to implement.  It can be as simple as adjusting how the heating and air conditioning take effect; or as involved as testing and reformatting of systems used, but again, a good sustainability consultant can alleviate both of these concerns, allowing you to marshall your energies towards running your business.
We understand that each business is unique, and sustainability needs will differ from business to business, but sustainability is something to be embraced and celebrated, not feared.

For a free on-site assessment, please feel free to contact us at 612.237.8647 or at  We have partnered with several fantastic companies around the Greater Twin Cities area and it would be our pleasure to serve you as well.  


Sustainability in the most – ahem -unlikely places


Demonstrating Blue Box

Photo Credit: Sanivation

How far can a company go in it’s efforts for sustainability?  You’d be surprised.  But we here at SES, Inc believe that the best sustainability efforts push boundaries in an effort to produce the best results for the people we serve, and while we can’t take credit for the efforts of the company in the article below – we certainly applaud them for, umm, thinking inside of the box.

This sanitation start-up in Kenya turns poop into a sustainable source of fuel

It’s easy to take something as ubiquitous as a toilet for granted when you live in a developed nation like the US.

But for many people around the world, lack of proper waste disposal and sanitation systems can cause widespread disease and even death.

To help solve this problem, Andrew Foote and Emily Woods started Sanivation — No. 55 on the BI 100: The Creators — a sanitation startup that installs in-home toilets in East Africa and turns the waste into briquettes of sustainable, environmentally friendly fuel.

Foote and Woods came up with the idea for turning waste into fuel as undergraduate students at Georgia Tech in 2011. The pair developed a thermal treatment system for human feces as a research project and later entered their work into Start-Up Chile, a business accelerator in South America.

While in Chile, they explored the sanitation space, encountering several startling statistics about developing countries, including the fact that 90% of waste is disposed of without treatment and that diarrhoeal disease is the second-leading cause of death of children under the age of 5. From there, Foote and Woods decided to go all in with the business.

Sanivation Blue Box storefrontThe storefront for blue box toilets. Courtesy of Sanivation

Sanivation set up shop in Naivasha, Kenya, in 2013 with Foote as CEO and Woods as chief technology officer. Today, the company serves 650 people in the community there.

Foote and Woods knew from the beginning that to succeed they’d need to cover the entire system from start to finish. The lack of existing infrastructure in some parts of Kenya means that providing toilets or a treatment system wouldn’t make much of a difference; both must exist to effect systemic change.

So instead of providing one component of the waste-treatment business, Sanivation operates an end-to-end service. It installs private, container-based toilets in homes, and they are maintained for a $7 monthly fee. The waste collected from the toilets is taken to a processing plant, where it’s turned into fuel briquettes that work as an alternative to charcoal. This full-circle model takes a necessary system and elevates it into something sustainable and useful.

“People always joke that we’re running not one business but 10 businesses,” Woods says. “As a startup, it’s complicated, it’s logistically difficult. But we haven’t found anyone to reliably source any one component of this to. Right now, if we want it done right, we have to do it ourselves.”

Getting toilets into homes

The concept of in-home toilets was a hard sell to locals, much less an entire system.

“How do you market something that people feel uncomfortable talking about?” Woods says.

In Naivasha, where outdoor pit latrines are the norm, the mention of an in-home toilet led many to immediately picture an open latrine inside their home — not a preferable alternative to the outdoor version. So Sanivation branded their version as “blue boxes” to dispel the negative connotations potential people had with the word “toilet.”

Burning briquettes_CoSanivationBurning briquettes. Courtesy of Sanivation

On top of that, Sanivation had to convince clients, many of whom can’t count on a steady monthly paycheck, that paying the monthly fee for the toilet was a worthwhile expense.

Training customer-service representatives and maintaining communication with clients proved to be another challenge, especially once the team realized that many homes in Naivasha don’t have addresses. Undeterred, they developed an address system themselves.

In the end, these bumps in the road, and a host of others, helped Sanivation improve its product. The company thrives on client feedback, constantly seeking constructive criticism directly from their customers.

“If we’re not doing a good job, our client is not going to pay the next month,” Foote explains. “By being beholden to our clients and delivering quality services to them, we always learn that keeping good, open communication channels is really important.”

From feces to fuel: how it works

No existing toilet system meant that no existing treatment plant existed in Naivasha, so Sanivation designed and built one from the ground up. Led by Woods as CTO, the team developed a parabolic mirror treatment system themselves, harnessing the natural energy from the sun to heat up waste and kill germs.

Briquette manufacturingManufacturing briquettes. Courtesy of Sanivation

Sanivation combines two waste streams in a metal bucket — human excrement and carbonized agricultural biomass waste, which comes from things like sugarcane gas, corn cobs, rose farms, and rice husks — and heats it to a temperature that neutralizes harmful pathogens and allows the waste to be transformed into a briquette of fuel.

The briquettes have been a hit with local businesses, which purchase them directly from the Sanivation team.

“Our charcoal briquettes outperform traditional charcoal,” Foote says. “So we’re actually selling them at a higher price than traditional charcoal per kilogram, and we’re saving our clients money because they burn longer and have less smoke.”

Sanivation sells 7,000 kilograms, or 15,400 pounds, of the alternative fuel each month and consistently empties its stock.

“We need more poop to be able to keep up with demand,” Woods says.

The entire treatment process demonstrates a core aspect of Sanivation’s business model: relentless innovation. With no outside infrastructure to rely on, Woods and Foote must adapt and change almost daily to meet needs and advance their mission.

Looking to the future

Going forward, Sanivation’s biggest goal is also its biggest hurdle: scaling the company.

Sanivation operates 100 toilets in Naivasha and plans to expand to more than 500 by the end of 2016. The company is also working with refugee camps to build customized systems and train residents to operate them on their own.

Sanivation_tour of BlueBoxSanivation cofounder Foote explains the blue box toilets. Courtesy of Sanivation

Though a few other businesses are attempting similar container-based sanitation systems, none have reached a large scale yet, which leaves the space open for innovation and growth.

Woods says the company is going to have to change to be able to reach the scale it wants.

Sanivation may still be small, but it’s already affecting people’s lives. Foote recalls an older customer coming up to him one day and bending over with her hands pressed together in a salute of gratitude.

“You could just see that the toilet had so much more impact than as a public-health thing,” he says. “This lady typically had to squat over some feces and urine-laced slab, and now she had a nice, comfortable way to go to the bathroom. And she was so thankful for that.”

*Originally posted in the Business Insider by Emmie Martin


You’ve Been Thinking About Plastics All Wrong

Photo Credit: Carlos Jasso/Reuters



By Jeff Wooster

Plastics are an indispensable part of our lives today, and recent advances in material science have delivered truly amazing products from dissolving heart stents to lifesaving air bags to smart packaging that both protects our food and warns us when it’s about to be “past its prime.”

But over time, and with plastic being used in a growing number of products, some people have come to believe that these modern materials have greater environmental impacts than the materials they are replacing.

Is this true? Simply put, no – according to a comprehensive new study on the comparative environmental impacts of plastics.

A new study by the environmental consulting firm Trucost, “Plastics and Sustainability: A Valuation of Environmental Benefits, Costs, and Opportunities for Continuous Improvement,” is based on natural capital accounting methods. This methodology measures and calculates the value of environmental impacts—such as consumption of water and emissions to air, land, and water—that typically are not factored into traditional financial accounting.

The findings likely will surprise many. The study finds that the environmental cost of using alternative materials is four times more than that of using plastics. Trucost found that replacing plastics in consumer products and packaging with a mix of alternative materials that provide the same function would increase environmental costs from $139 billion to a whopping $533 billion annually. That’s primarily because strong, lightweight plastics help us do more with less material, which provides environmental benefits throughout the entire life of products and packaging.

dow chemicalDavid McNew/Getty Images

These results disrupt the commonly accepted narrative around plastics—the assumption that traditional materials have less environmental impact. In fact, these findings stand that assumption on its head.

The study builds on earlier research by Trucost for the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) that looked at the environmental costs of using plastics. That study did not ask: compared to what? In other words, since we need cars, packaging, electronics, and other consumer goods, what would be the impact of using materials other than plastics to make them? The new study answers that question.

Everything we do impacts the environment, whether simply breathing air, mining bauxite, or harvesting trees. The Trucost study takes a comprehensive look at these impacts and their costs. It looks at the entire life cycle of products and packaging—from extraction to disposal—and gives us a fuller look at the overall environmental impacts.

Natural capital cost accounting is similar to life cycle analyses, which is now accepted as the most comprehensive way to assess the impacts of materials, products, and packaging. To help ensure that the study’s methodology and data were sound, the results were reviewed by two of the most respected practitioners of life cycle studies—Denkstatt in Europe and Franklin Associates in the US.

By comparing the environmental costs of various materials we use, and by using decision-making tools made possible by these studies, we can make better decisions.

For example, the study will help consumer product companies and policymakers make smarter decisions about what we produce and how we produce it. By understanding the environmental impacts of the materials used to make car bumpers, food containers, electronics, and athletic wear, we can transparently enhance sustainability and reduce our impacts on the environment. In other words, this study can help drive informed policies that deliver greater benefits to people and the planet.

While comparing environmental impacts is critical, we must dig deeper. We also need to reduce those impacts. The report’s authors recommend steps to help further reduce plastics’ overall environmental cost, such as by increasing the use of lower-carbon electricity in plastics production, adopting lower-emission transport modes, developing even more efficient plastic packaging, and increasing recycling and energy conversion of post-use plastics to help curb ocean litter and conserve resources.

They also called for enhanced environmental leadership by the plastics industry, noting that the industry has “direct influence, or indirect influence… over a significant share of the environmental costs of plastic use… (and) is well positioned to play an enhanced leadership role in driving improvements in the environmental performance of the plastics value chain.” The plastics industry has embraced this challenge and has committed to ongoing innovations that will advance sustainability across major market sectors and the globe.

This new study helps provide the clearest and most comprehensive picture to date of the relative environmental costs and benefits of plastics compared to alternative materials. And by providing a path forward to further reduce these relative costs, the study provides valuable insights into how these materials can even further contribute to sustainability.

Jeff Wooster is global sustainability director for Dow Packaging and Specialty Products and chair of the American Chemistry Council’s packaging team.  The Trucost study may be found here .

*Article originally posted in the Business Insider, July 29, 2016


The Benefits of Sustainable Manufacturing

By Jerry Jasinowski, Fmr. President of the National Association of Manufacturers

If there is one salient feature of U.S. manufacturing today even more dramatic and promising than the growing re-shoring trend, it is surely the shift to sustainable manufacturing which is transforming the manufacturing landscape even as it boosts corporate earnings and fosters diverse innovation.

My interest in this topic began with the teachings of W. Edwards Deming whose revolution in quality improvement consistently stressed that “one must learn to do more with less.” I also found my contact with young people evoked a consistent theme that they wanted to improve the environment and give back to their community. Based on this, I proposed to the School of Public and Environmental Affairs at Indiana University where I am on the Board of Trustees that they undertake a project to focus on the positive activities corporations are taking in this area. This led to a new report, “Success Paths to Sustainable Manufacturing,” which you can access here.

Our research focused on 12 prominent corporations including Caterpillar, DuPont, Eli Lilly, Proctor & Gamble and General Dynamics that are in the forefront of the sustainability movement. We looked for core themes that enabled the companies to embrace sustainability successfully, and cited numerous examples of those successes.

There are many obvious means for achieving sustainable manufacturing such as reducing use of energy, reducing use of water, decreasing emissions from manufacturing processes and reducing physical waste. And there are myriad benefits — demonstrating a company’s commitment to community and stakeholders, meeting regulatory requirements and consumer expectations, earning awards and positive media coverage and attracting a new generation of bright young people into manufacturing careers. Others include creating wildlife habitats, deploying renewable energy production at plants, turning waste into revenue streams and improving communities where manufacturing facilities are located.

Of course, there is also a more crass and fundamental reason — money. Reducing consumption of energy and water and production of waste by definition saves an enterprise money, sometimes lots of money.

One of the companies reported that while growing 40 percent over the past 15 years, it had saved about $7 billion through sustainable manufacturing practices. Another firm reduced its manufacturing footprint in North America from 15 million square feet to 5 million square feet, even as the company grew, which reduced its bills for energy and real estate while increasing operational efficiency. Yet another has embarked upon a campaign to reduce its energy use by 20 percent by 2020 saving $80 million a year. And still another eliminated 14 hazardous waste streams, reducing its annual waste disposal tab from $750,000 to $40,000 in one year.

It goes without saying that initiatives like these also generate positive reactions among the public, increasing the likelihood that environmentally conscious young people will pursue careers in progressive manufacturing firms. Sustainable manufacturing is a wave of the future.


Originally posted in the Huffington Post, December 2014 

Jerry Jasinowski, an economist and author, served as President of the National Association of Manufacturers for 14 years and later The Manufacturing Institute. 


Revisiting Mr. Ford



I was chatting with my 11-year old Grandson, Alex recently.  I always find these discussions illuminating.  You see, Alex has been diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome.  If you are familiar with children who have this disorder, you know that amidst significant social challenges, there can be this ribbon of super intelligence that presents itself when you least expect it.

So there we were, sitting side by side, me reading from my Kindle and he playing with some angry birds on his I-pad, when he asks me, “So, what are you working on at EPA now, Pop-Pop?”

I reply, “Oh, I don’t know, Alex, I guess I’m working on solving a puzzle of sorts.  We are trying to bring people together as a team and help people in this country who make things.  We want to help manufacturers make things that are better for them, better for you and better for the environment.”

He was quiet for a moment and I thought that perhaps I had given him TMI.  Ha!  He was just processing.

“You mean like Henry Ford when he invented the assembly line process for making cars”, he says, as he twists his I-pod to launch a particularly elusive angry bird.

“Yes, I replied, “like that.  It is hard sometimes to get the right people together and solve problems as a team.”

At this point, he put the I-pod down and I thought the conversation was over.  He popped up and announced that he was going to play on the computer.  As he left the room, he looked back at me and said, “Well, for a puzzle like that, why don’t you think like Henry Ford?”

I smiled and returned to my Kindle when I paused and then realized that Alex was right.

Over the last several decades we have become so specialized as a society that, perhaps, we have allowed it to affect the way we think.  As a result, when we address issues like jobs, advanced technology or preventing pollution as they pertain to American manufacturing, we typically confer with those in our peer groups, thought-leaders, if you will, assigned to one station within an assembly line. This may have worked well in the past, but I’m not sure it will work to solve problems illuminated for us by this new concept of sustainability.

We cannot redesign a headlight without first making sure the automobile chassis has been re-constructed to accept it.  Similarly, we cannot expect innovative ideas associated with advanced technology to be accepted by American manufacturers if they are not yet ready to pursue them.

What I’m suggesting here is that to be successful in helping American manufacturers thrive in this new era of sustainability, we need to turn traditional thinking on its side and engage with those in the sustainability assembly line with whom we traditionally have not.  Perhaps, this is why the E3: Economy, Energy and the Environment framework has been so successful.

Food for thought.

This post was originally posted on the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) BlogTom Murray joined EPA way back in 1971 and has never lost the passion for pollution prevention and helping manufacturers become more sustainable


Getting the most out of your sustainability program

                                                                Photo Credit: StockVault

Sustainability initiatives won’t create lasting value if they’re poorly managed. Here are four lessons from companies that are doing it right.

Among retailers and consumer-goods manufacturers, commitment to environmental and social objectives can take many forms—whether it’s distributing fair-trade products, reducing materials used in packaging, or ensuring humane working conditions at suppliers’ factories. Unilever, for one, has a detailed Sustainable Living Plan, and among the company’s goals for 2020 is to halve the greenhouse-gas impact of its products over their life cycles. Swedish furniture maker IKEA has installed more than 700,000 solar panels in its buildings worldwide and has committed to own and operate more than 300 wind turbines. British retail group Kingfisher’s sustainability plan, which it calls Net Positive, aims not only to make frugal use of natural resources but also to restore and regenerate the environment—“putting back more than we take out,” as the company says.

These programs can be powerful agents of change, both toward greater alignment between customer and corporate interests and toward a culture of systemwide innovation in products and business models. Yet some skepticism remains as to whether sustainability efforts have any impact on financial performance in the short and medium term. Our recent research provides answers to both of these questions.1 In this article, we discuss how companies are creating value from their sustainability programs and what practices enable companies to keep these programs running smoothly and effectively.

How sustainability programs create value

In previous work, our colleagues have outlined the various ways that companies can use sustainability initiatives to manage risk, drive growth, or improve returns on capital (Exhibit 1).2 In our latest research, we sought to unearth examples of how companies are actually doing it. We found that companies that built sustainability into their operations saw immediate benefits, which gave them the momentum to do even more.

Risk management

Of the companies we surveyed,3 more than 90 percent could point to a specific event or risk—such as consumer pressure or soaring commodity prices—that directly triggered their commitment to sustainability. More than half cited long-term risks to their businesses: 26 percent said they wanted to avoid damage to their reputations, 15 percent were seeking to prevent regulatory problems, and 15 percent said they wanted to eliminate unnecessary operational risks. Indeed, we found that the value at stake from risk-related sustainability issues can be as high as 70 percent of earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization (Exhibit 2).

What do these risk-management efforts look like in practice? The US-based candy companies Mars and Hershey offer two examples. To secure their future supply of cocoa, both companies are investing in the sustainability of their suppliers. Mars supports smallholder cocoa farmers in Côte d’Ivoire by providing high-quality seeds and fertilizers as well as training; it is also investing in research to improve the quality and performance of cocoa plants. Hershey sends experts to teach its suppliers best-practice farming methods; its CocoaLink mobile-phone service offers advice and market information. The company also contributes to local education initiatives and the fight against child labor. Both companies have set a goal of having their entire cocoa supply sustainably sourced by 2020.


Nearly half the companies we surveyed (44 percent) cited business and growth opportunities as the impetus for starting their sustainability programs. Redesigning products to make them more sustainable, for instance, can yield tremendous financial benefits. Unilever developed a brand of dishwashing liquid, Sunlight, that is equally effective but uses much less water than other brands; sales of Sunlight and Unilever’s other water-saving products are outpacing category growth by more than 20 percent in certain water-scarce markets.

Apparel companies such as Europe’s C&A now use organic cotton, which is grown without synthetic chemicals or genetically modified seeds. Consumer demand for organic cotton is rising: in 2014, C&A sold 130 million garments made from the fabric, up from 85 million in 2012. C&A plans to use organic cotton in 100 percent of its cotton products by 2020.

Returns on capital

Most of the companies we surveyed said their sustainability initiatives began with a focus on reducing resource consumption: 97 percent of them are conducting initiatives to increase energy efficiency, 91 percent to reduce waste, and 85 percent to save water in day-to-day operations.

Puma, the sporting-goods manufacturer, has been measuring its ecological footprint and that of its largest suppliers since 2005. It aims to reduce the waste it generates, as well as its water and energy consumption and carbon dioxide emissions, by 25 percent compared with 2010. The company is making steady progress: between 2010 and 2013, Puma reduced waste generated per employee by 35 percent and cut energy consumption by 4.2 percent.

Bringing discipline to sustainability programs

Even with a sustainability agenda in place, companies often encounter problems with execution. To bring more discipline to their sustainability efforts, companies would do well to follow four principles commonly associated with performance management: select a few focus areas, set measurable goals, conduct cost-benefit analyses, and create incentives for employees and suppliers.

Focus, focus, focus

We found that many companies choose more than 10 areas in which to concentrate their sustainability efforts; some choose more than 30. It’s hard to imagine how a sustainability agenda with such a large number of focus areas can get the necessary buy-in and resources to be successful. In our experience, the best approach for maximizing impact is to select three, or at most five, strategic priorities.

For example, Coca-Cola’s sustainability framework—which it calls Me, We, World—encompasses its initiatives to improve personal health and wellness, the communities in which it operates, and the environment. The company reports making material, tangible progress on metrics related to three specific areas of focus within this framework: well-being, women, and water.

To emulate Coca-Cola’s success in identifying focus areas that are a good fit with corporate strategy, a company should study what matters most along its entire value chain through internal analysis and dialogue with suppliers, customers, regulators, and nongovernmental organizations. The end product of these efforts shouldn’t be a mere laundry list of vague ideas but rather a systematic sustainability agenda.

Set measurable goals

For each focus area, a company then needs to set clear, quantifiable goals with a long-term orientation (five years or more) and communicate those goals both internally and externally. Notice the difference between a general aspiration to “reduce the impact of our packaging on the environment” and a specific, measurable goal to “eliminate 20 million pounds of packaging by 2016.” Another example of a specific goal comes from a coalition of apparel retailers and manufacturers including Benetton, H&M, Inditex, and Marks and Spencer: these companies are aiming for supply networks with zero discharge of hazardous chemicals by 2020.

Publicizing quantifiable goals motivates the organization, forces leaders to allocate resources, and promotes accountability. An analysis of companies that are part of the Carbon Disclosure Project found that those that announced their goals to the public did better when it came to cutting emissions—and also had better financial returns on such investments.

Conduct cost-benefit analyses and communicate the results

Making the business case for sustainability might sound like an obvious thing to do, but apparently it isn’t. Only around a fifth of survey respondents reported that the financial benefits are clearly understood across the organization.

Many companies have struggled to quantify the financial impact of their social and environmental initiatives, in part because of the distributed nature of that impact: savings or profits arising from sustainability initiatives are commonly spread across various parts of an organization. It is therefore advisable to appoint an executive as the “owner” of each target, meaning his or her team continually tracks the costs and benefits of sustainability actions. Tracking should also extend to indirect effects, such as an enhanced corporate reputation and increased customer loyalty, which pay off over the longer term.

Marks and Spencer tracks progress against its sustainability commitments, as laid out in the company’s Plan A program. The commitments generated £145 million in net benefits in 2013–14. These benefits are regularly communicated to shareholders, employees, and consumers; for instance, the company’s latest annual report mentions Plan A more than 70 times.

Create incentives for employees and suppliers

The top reason that survey respondents gave for their companies’ failure to capture the full value of sustainability was the lack of incentives to do so. Only 1 company in 12 includes sustainability criteria in calculating performance-based compensation for executives, and only 1 in 7 rewards suppliers for good sustainability performance. Among survey respondents, 37 percent named short-term earnings pressure as a reason for poor sustainability results; about a third named lack of key performance indicators and not enough people being held accountable.

Companies could learn a lesson from sporting-goods maker Nike, which directs more of its business to suppliers that receive high scores on its Sourcing and Manufacturing Sustainability Index. This index, one of Nike’s tools for assessing factory performance, gives sustainability factors equal weight with quality, cost, and on-time delivery Nike requires lower-performing factories to resolve issues in a timely manner or else face penalties such as reduced orders or even a termination of the business relationship. The incentives seem to be working: between 2011 and 2013, Nike saw a 19-percentage-point improvement in the number of suppliers that met its standards.

Ultimately, each company must define its own sustainability philosophy in the context of its specific business and mission. The examples described here illustrate the competitive advantages that sustainability initiatives can offer. That said, even the most exemplary commitment to sustainability doesn’t change the fact that the earth’s natural resources are limited. A longer-term solution will therefore require new—circular and regenerative—business models that decouple economic growth from resource consumption.

Download the full report in which this article originally appeared, Perspectives on retail and consumer goods, Number 4, Autumn 2015 (PDF–7.01MB).

About the author(s)

Achim Berg is a principal in McKinsey’s Frankfurt office, Nils Schlag is a principal in the Düsseldorf office, and Martin Stuchtey, based in the Munich office, is the director of the McKinsey Center for Business and Environment.

The authors wish to thank Sheila Bonini, Kerstin Humberg, and Steven Swartz for their contributions to this article.

*Originally posted in McKinsey Insights


Where Sustainability Thrives, So Does Longevity

Sustainability is a word oft batted around, but what does it actually mean for your company?


By Mary Stokes

There is certainly confusion concerning what sustainability is, and which parts of business it affects.  The UN’s Bruntland Commission in their 1987 report, Our Common Future, defined it as, “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”.  While this is applicable as a way of life, it is equally important for businesses, especially with regard to manufacturing and business practices.

The goal of sustainable development is to create an environment that lends itself to longevity.  In an age where many businesses are not expected to pass the 18 year mark, longevity is a desired yet elusive trait.  However, it does not have to be; sustainability is the key to not only corporate longevity, but also corporate success and flourishment.

Sustainability does not mean the end of innovation.  Rather, it encourages a different type of creativity in each aspect of a business’s workings.  This may mean updating and changing practices in the manufacturing aspect, or simply modifying the surroundings to create a more energy-efficient environment.  The ideal approach is a blend of short-term and long-term changes, with a focus on both the immediate return and the future return.  A balanced approach will improve the potential for longevity without causing strain by reducing profits.  Implementing sustainability actually encourages innovation by challenging businesses to brainstorm new approaches to decreasing waste and improving production.

Recently, Dell started recycling carbon fiber and plastics into new products, a major change that could potentially create $1 trillion of additional value.  While this is a recent change, the point Vice Chairman of Operations Jeff Clarke makes is that while their recent changes are eco-friendly, they have also created a better product with increased value, which is of equal importance.

In an interview with blogger Taylor Eason, Jon Ruel, CEO of Trefelthen Vineyards, has a slightly different take on sustainability practices.  While the demand for organic and sustainable products has increased in recent years, as the public has become more informed, he notes that the green and sustainable part of business is less for the creation of a “delicious and authentic” wine product and more for the longevity of the business, so “[they] can keep making delicious wine for years to come.”

Both businesses are concerned with sustainability, but they present a picture of both long-term and short-term gains find the best roof tiles in san diego ca.  A balance of both is necessary for the longevity of a business; additionally, putting sustainability to practice is encouraging a new level of innovation in business practices.

Rather than viewing sustainability as difficult or having no substantial short-term return, businesses ought to see it in light of the innovation and challenge it can bring to their practices and employees.  In fact, sustainability can drive growth by creating a competitive environment and encouraging employees to be knowledgeable and care about sustainability.

In order to have a lasting impact and create future value, sustainability is an absolute must.  The futures of businesses are impingent on their sustainable practices.  Where sustainability thrives, so does longevity.

Mary Stokes is a technical writer based out of the Twin Cities metro area.  You can contact her at


Getting straight-armed with your glove recycling efforts?

Read how this food manufacturer pushed back by participating in this gloves takeback program 

Lundberg Family Farms of Richvale, Calif., grows, produces, packages, and markets 150 organic, gluten-free, and whole grain food products using organic and eco-positive methods. The third-generation family company’s motto is “Embrace wholesome,” so it’s only natural that embracing sustainability would be an integral part of the company’s culture.

“Our company is committed to nourishing a healthier planet and protecting the environment for generations to come,” said Ashley Vega, the company’s sustainability specialist.

A zero waste culture is a crucial ingredient of the business model. Missing from its zero landfill recipe was a sustainable outlet for its used nitrile gloves that had been worn in production. The gloves represented about 15 percent of the company’s landfill waste.

Lundberg participated in Kimberly-Clark Professional’s (KCP) RightCycle program.

The program is designed to enable companies with waste reduction goals to outlet hard-to-recycle items, such as nitrile gloves and single-use apparel, to be converted into eco-friendly consumer goods.

The way the takeback program works is fairly simple. KCP provides a receptacle for the discarded gloves and single-use apparel, which the manufacturer then uses to ship to a KCP recycling center when full vacation rental turnover cleaning. The items are sorted and processed into pellets or powder, which becomes the raw material for new molded durable goods such as patio furniture, shelving, and flower pots (see Figure 1).
Figure 1: Kimberly-Clark Professional aims to make zero landfill achievable by facilitating a simple takeback program.

Since its inception in 2011, the RightCycle program has helped divert more than 300 tons of waste from landfills. More than 150 companies currently participate in the program, a Kimberly-Clark representative reported.

Zero Waste Certification Well in Hand

Figure 2:  Lundberg Family Farms credits the KCP RightCycle program with helping it achieve zero waste certification by taking back and recycling its spent nitrile gloves.

Lundberg recycled nearly 1 ton of nitrile gloves in its first few months in the RightCycle program. “You’re either throwing the gloves away or giving them a second life. The latter is always better,” Vega said.

The company expects its glove waste landfill diversion rate to total 4 tons annually.

“The changeover was really painless,” Vega relayed. “And our employees are actively recycling the gloves even more than we anticipated.”

The company achieved platinum Zero Waste Facility Certification from the U.S. Zero Waste Business Council. Vega credits the RightCycle program with helping it achieve the certification.

Kimberly-Clark Professional recently expanded the takeback program to the industrial segment.RightCycle is part of the company’s Exceptional Workplaces initiative.


Why Making Your Business More Sustainable Doesn’t Have To Be Expensive Or Hard

It can be daunting for small business owners even to consider sustainability when they have other things to think about – like day-to-day operations and the company’s bottom line. But that doesn’t mean companies with limited resources should stay away from investing in a sustainability program.

Willis Wood, founder of Trade Show Emporium, says it’s “a common myth” that achieving sustainability costs a lot of money. “I faced the challenge of wanting to provide environmentally friendly trade show exhibits,” he says, “but at first, they were more expensive than a traditional exhibit. After working with manufacturers to get the price point down, we made it possible to get a green exhibit to be the same price of a traditional exhibit.”

Business owners contemplating how they can afford a sustainability strategy – and what the return on investment will be – need to take a long-term approach. That includes identifying business priorities, looking at the big picture, and being flexible.

Start With A Solid Framework

Sustainability should be treated like any business priority, with actual, realistic metrics that can be measured and considered in terms of a company’s overall ROI.

It’s important to have a relentless focus, recommends Kathy Nieland, U.S. Sustainable Business Solutions Leader at PricewaterhouseCoopers. “Sustainability is a wide field, and it is easy to get distracted,” she explains. “It can be hard to cut through the noise.”

Think about larger-scale initiatives, she recommends, adding that the field is moving from simple activities such as using double-sided printing in offices to transforming factories, supply-chains, and product design.

Make Integration A Priority

To be effective, sustainability needs to be worked into a business’ core strategy. This means starting with executive discussions at the top and ensuring that priorities trickle down to the everyday.

Wood of Trade Show Emporium explains that it’s important to start with a vision. “After being in the industry for a few years, I noticed the huge impact the trade show industry had on the environment,” he says.

Wood remained dedicated to his original goal, transitioning his business to recyclable and sustainable materials. “My company is now one of the top vendors for displays produced from environmentally friendly, renewable materials,” he says.

And it’s not enough just to think about what’s happening right in front of you. There are wider implications to sustainability changes as well, and it pays to look at the social, economic, and environmental impact of those changes. Wood’s company, for example, takes its program a step further by helping vendors recycle their old trade show exhibits, preventing them from ending up in landfills.

The Three Ways to Become Profitable

A recent Harvard Business Review article points out that companies will typically take three approaches to making sustainability profitable.

  1. Start with a more expensive investment to generate lower long-term yield.
  2. Bootstrap sustainability through small changes that save a lot of money, which can then fund bigger initiatives.
  3. Share sustainability efforts with customers and suppliers to create new and unique business models.

“Have a company meeting and brainstorm how to incorporate sustainability into your organization,” explains Wood of Trade Show Emporium. “Vote on the top 5 most important sustainability objectives. Then set a date as a goal for each of these objectives so that they can be met.”

Get Creative

Sustainability is far from a black-and-white field. There’s no one right way to implement any strategy, and performance metrics aren’t always fixed.

“Sustainability success measurements vary with each company’s priorities,” emphasizes Paula McEvoy, co-director of the Sustainable Design Initiative at Perkins+Will. “Savings in water and energy costs are easy to identify and for some companies, that’s the primary goal. The more interesting measurements come when companies tie their sustainability plans to their corporate mission.”

Business owners should be prepared to experiment, though, since everyone has an opinion the cheapest lga airport car service. “Whether you’re trying to optimize office temperatures or finding an Eco-friendly soap,” McEvoy says, “people will want to weigh in. You won’t get it right the first time, but as long as you’re working towards a clear goal, that’s okay.”

At the end of the day, it’s a learning process for everyone, particularly when changes to equipment and operations are involved. And business owners shouldn’t be afraid to ask for help. “Don’t overlook the educational components that will be required to make your plan succeed,” says McEvoy. “This can be as simple as posters and emails but may also require outside expertise for in-depth training.”

Written by Ritika Puri

*Originally posted in the Business Insider on November 12, 2013


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Five Benefits of Embracing Sustainability and Green Manufacturing

Five Benefits of Embracing Sustainability and Green Manufacturing

By Brian Lagas

Embracing sustainable and green principles is not just a trend. Cultivating sustainable and green practices helps organizations become more efficient, competitive and profitable. It’s more than simply “a good thing to do.” Manufacturers are realizing the many practical short-term and long-term financial benefits to implementing environmentally conscious improvements.

The Difference Between Sustainability and “Going Green”

“Going green” is not the same thing as sustainability, albeit they are related. Although the terms are often used interchangeably, green is more frequently associated with a singular product or process. Examples include improving a specific operation so that it does not harm the environment or creating a product made entirely out of recycled materials.

Sustainability is typically more associated with an organization’s holistic approach; it takes the entire production process and logistics into consideration. For example, you may purchase a green product made out of recycled goods. However, if that product was made overseas, and environmentally harmful methods were used to transport that product to the United States, this would not be adhering to sustainable principles.

In the manufacturing world, it is advantageous to focus on both green and sustainability. While targeted improvements can be beneficial to your company, looking at the “bigger picture” maximizes the perks of an environmental focus. Here are five critical ways to embrace sustainability and green to positively impact your organization:

1. Reduce Energy-Related Costs

Energy and water costs are a prime concern for manufacturers. Focusing on improvements can reduce these expenses. Often, these improvements are realized as annual savings as opposed to quicker, short-term cost reductions.

Switching to energy-efficient lighting and adjusting lighting levels in accordance with your production schedule will reduce your long-term electrical costs. Regular equipment inspections will also prove beneficial. For example, air compressor leaks can be a waste of energy and increase expenses. Changing how you package your products and supplies can provide cost reductions and free up space at your facility. Solar and wind energy, along with energy efficient equipment and machinery, will greatly reduce monthly utility bills. Implementing strategies such as recycling and going paperless will also save on supply costs. Sustainability can improve your bottom-line.

2. Attract New Customers and Increase Sales

Green and sustainable practices can make your company more marketable. Consumers are more conscious of the environment, and making improvements will strengthen your reputation. Whether you’re an OEM or a supplier, highlighting your initiatives to the public will help you attract a whole new base of customers, resulting in increased sales. For safe online payments, provide to your customers the most sophisticated way of fraud protection from Fully-Verified. This is important to manufacturers seeking government contracts where green manufacturing standards are often a factor.

Technology and social media have enabled buyers to easily (and publicly) promote or criticize companies for their green practices, or lack thereof.

3. Tax Incentives

There are a variety of tax credits and rebates on both the federal and state level for manufacturers who proactively implement more sustainable improvements. There may be incentives available to your business. Check out:
U.S. Department of Energy’s website
Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency

4. Boost Workforce Morale and Innovations

Sustainability improvements are a collaborative effort. When employees work together to identify and implement green and sustainable initiatives, it fosters a culture of teamwork and continuous improvement. Employees work harder when they are engaged and have a sense of pride in their company. By internally communicating the importance of changes and the impact they are having on the business and environment, manufacturers will positively influence their corporate culture.

Sustainability can also ignite innovation. For example, if you challenge your engineers and machinists to reduce material scraps or recycle more waste during the manufacturing process, it often leads to additional ideas for operational improvements.

5. Societal Impact

In addition to helping your company’s profitability, your actions can make a real difference. By implementing changes, you will have a smaller carbon footprint and reduce the number of toxins released into the atmosphere. Future generations ultimately benefit from improved air and water quality, fewer landfills and more renewable energy sources.

Sustainability and Green Manufacturing Success Stories

U.S. manufacturers are achieving quantifiable results by working with their local MEP Centers on sustainability and green initiatives. Some successes include:

  • E3 Review Strengthens Virginia Company’s Environmental Commitment, Resulting in Over $200,000 in Operational Cost Savings – read more.
  • Lean and Clean Programs Help New Jersey Manufacturer Realize $3 Million in New / Retained Sales, 5 New Employees and $500,000 in Cost Savings – read more.
  • Profitable Sustainability Initiative (PSI) Helps Wisconsin Company Reduce Fuel and Emissions, Recognize $75,000 in Costs Related to Shipping – read more.
  • Energy Savings Project Leads Kansas Organization to more than $61,000 in Overall Equipment Savings and $24,000 in Annual Energy Savings – read more.
  • Energy Efficiency Project Helps New Hampshire Manufacturer Reduce Energy Consumption by 10% and Save $25,000 Annually – read more.

MEP is partnering on federal initiatives to help companies: 1) gain a competitive edge by reducing environmental costs and impact, and 2) enter new markets by developing environmentally focused materials, products, and processes. For more information about MEP’s sustainability efforts, visit our website or please contact your local MEP Center.

*Originally posted in Manufacturing Innovation Blog, September 10, 2015