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Fundamental Ways to Fight Waste and Inefficiency

  • Mike Dries
  • Antonio Galvao
September/October 2017

Imagine starting each workday by putting a match to a fistful of money — thousands of dollars up in smoke. It certainly wouldn’t make good business sense. And yet, countless companies do exactly that through myriad kinds of waste.

Supply chain management professionals from businesses large and small and across a wide range of economic sectors continue to redouble their efforts to purge waste from their operations. They recognize that doing so is essential to operating a sustainable enterprise. “Waste not, want not,” as the old saying goes. 

Viewed from a waste-reduction perspective, sustainability is a must have, not just a nice to have. The nice-to-have perspective often is based on the mistaken belief that adopting sustainable business practices necessarily requires incremental costs. All the time, we are learning that the opposite is actually true. More and more supply chain management professionals today are recognizing the solid business case for sustainability because they see its clear connection to the elimination of costly waste. Sustainability douses the flames of inefficiency that threaten every organization’s profits.

Furthermore, best-in-class companies continue to identify creative ways to improve the efficiency of their operations. They go beyond reducing water and energy consumption, diverting manufacturing waste from landfills, and improving occupational safety — all excellent aims in their own right — to some truly innovative sustainability programs.

For example, consumer packaged goods giant Kimberly-Clark recently announced the progress it has made toward achieving its sustainability goals, pointing out that it has diverted 95 percent of its manufacturing waste from landfills and diverted 5,000 metric tons of post-consumer waste through partnership programs around the world. The maker of Scott and Kleenex also has achieved a 16.8 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions compared with a 2005 baseline. Future Ready Singapore reported that Kimberly-Clark “has observed tangible results from its sustainability initiatives, such as cost savings associated with energy conservation, reduction in water consumption, and cutting down its use of fiber and packaging.”

The item goes on to say that the most visible result of the company’s sustainability efforts lies in talent acquisition and retention. Lisa Morden, Kimberly-Clark’s senior director of global sustainability, says in the story, “I often have new employees at various levels of the organization approach me and say that the work we do in sustainability and the importance we place on it is why they find it appealing to work at Kimberly-Clark.”

The global bottom line

Although voluntarily purging waste delivers both economic and environmental benefits, there also is a trend today among governments to mandate waste reduction. By 2021, for instance, Singapore will require companies doing business in the prosperous island nation to report their packaging data and submit packaging-reduction plans. According to Singapore’s National Environment Agency, unless aggressive action is taken to reduce waste, Singapore’s one and only landfill will be filled by 2035.

Indeed, with the world’s population expected to increase by roughly one-third by 2050, Singapore’s forward thinking on this issue makes a lot of sense. Waste, on the other hand, makes no sense — no matter how you look at it.

Antonio Galvao, CSCP, CLTD, is the vice president of global logistics — building efficiencies at Johnson Controls. He may be contacted at

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Johnson Controls.

Mike Dries is a retired business journalist and corporate communications executive now working as a freelance writer. He may be contacted at

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