Survey: Waste Reduction Ranks as Top Sustainability Concern for Manufacturers Globally

Waste reduction is the most important environmental issue facing manufacturing businesses today, according to an international study on sustainability and environmental trends conducted by Harris Interactive for Dow Corning Corp. According to the findings, announced on Sept. 5, eight out of 10 managers and professionals in the United States, Brazil, Italy and Germany rank waste reduction as a higher priority than other environmental factors, such as increasing energy efficiency or developing green (environmentally friendly) products.

However, the study of more than 1,000 people also reveals how attitudes about sustainability vary across the world. Managers in China, Korea and India for example, consider the development of green (environmentally friendly) products as a more important driver than carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, use of clean/renewable energy sources or waste reduction.

Other key findings of the research show that:

  • Globally, customers are seen as the most important and the media as the least important influences on sustainability and environmental decisions. However, there are marked differences between countries. In Korea, four out of 10 managers rank the government as the number one influencer compared to 12 percent in Germany and 14 percent in the United States.
  • Environmental & sustainability programs have a strong influence on whether a company will be considered as a potential supplier. On average, eight out of 10 companies (80 percent) globally say that environmental and sustainability factors are taken into account when they select suppliers. In India, one in two (50 percent) managers considers environment/sustainability factors of critical importance -- a significantly higher level than their counterparts in China (26 pecent).
  • Company reputation is not seen as the main factor driving a company's decision making around environmental activities. In all countries surveyed (except Korea), the health, safety of employees, customers and suppliers was rated as the most important influence. Managers in Korea, viewed the long term sustainability of their business as the most important factor.
  • Companies in the Americas are more likely to have a dedicated team responsible for sustainability decision-making than companies in Asia or Europe.

"What's clear from these results is that while there are differences in emphasis around the world, the priority for companies both big and small, is to reduce their own environmental footprint through reducing waste," said Peter Cartwright, Dow Corning executive director for environment, health and safety.

He added: "While the focus today may be on dealing with waste reduction, in the future I anticipate we'll see more emphasis on areas such as CO2 emissions and use of renewable energy sources as the whole issue of climate change gets more attention"

Detailed findings of this survey can be found in PDF format at

Check out the archives of Environmental Protection magazine Web site for additional articles related to sustainability, including: "Study: Sustainability Becoming Mandatory Component of Business Model for Consumer Businesses."

This article originally appeared in the 09/01/2007 issue of Environmental Protection.

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