Jaime Martínez
Business Development Director
ERM
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View from the Top

Sustainable Practices That Make Sense for Business

Fri, 09/01/2017 - 22:52

Q: In which areas do the automotive industries still have room for improvement and how do you help them?

A: Much of what is discussed in terms of sustainability is only words. Many practices regarding sustainability end up being philanthropic acts with limited effect and little action. There is a gap between what companies can do and what they actually do. The only way to close the gap is to follow in the footsteps of those who have already implemented efficient practices. There are several certifications that companies can obtain and ERM has a special division focused on certifications and verification services to support clients. But getting a certification should not be an objective. Certifications should always be a consequence of good practices.

Q: What is the impact on costs and efficiency of developing sustainable practices for the automotive industries?

A: At ERM, we believe that sustainability should be approached as a business decision. It is our belief that if every company approached sustainability the way other business areas are tackled, industries would have different results. When implementing these practices, companies should start with small steps, with clearly defined objectives to achieve results in the short-term. Positive results from initial objectives justify presenting further ideas to decision-makers. These results reflected at the bottom of the pyramid will inspire the allocation of funds for more aggressive objectives. Sustainable practices entail several advantages that can easily be put onto paper. Translating wishful objectives into concrete actions is harder. The method should be assembling a strong business case for modest objectives and achieving the targets before applying them on a larger scale.

Q: How willing are automotive companies to adopt these practices?

A: In general, automotive industries have been successful in adopting sustainable practices, applied for instance to  quality matters. This sector has advanced significantly in quality and safety. The automotive industry has managed to develop safe cars for its users. Its success in safety, built into cars, sets an example for other companies keen to begin employing sustainable practices within their industries.

The relationship companies have with the community is equally important and another area in which the automotive sector excels. Companies across all industries must generate strong communications departments. The Mexican automotive industry has become a hot topic as critics abroad claim Mexico has taken jobs from the US but this is not true. A significant percentage of automotive manufacturing has seen impressive technological advances and an increased use of automation. Technology irretrievably decreases the necessity for an extensive workforce, causing many jobs to be lost to robotics and efficiencies. We have a responsibility to study the social impact of technology and to find and adopt alternatives so industries do not leave a sector unprotected.

Q: What are the main areas in which automotive companies can implement good practices to use resources efficiently?

A: When considering energy efficiency, specifically the use of water and resources, concrete short-term objectives arise from business analysis. Automotive and aerospace companies must detect where most waste is generated or which process consumes more water. Once these areas are identified, companies need to redirect attention and resources to them. The next step is to set medium-term objectives with modest, realistic and attainable goals. Then, companies can use these successes as a springboard to continue with more ambitious objectives.

Often, companies overshoot the mark and run into problems with ambitious projects to obtain more efficiency. Projects can sound and look good on paper but they are not always achievable. Every company has areas of opportunity in operational efficiency and the aerospace and automotive industries are no exception to the rule. I would even venture to say that almost every industrial process could be made at least 10 percent more efficient.