Green Energy Products

The big question when it comes to renewable and clean energy products is whether they are as “green” as they are claimed to be.

The green argument is usually based on the environmental benefits during the operation phase of the technology (e.g. a wind turbine), on the basis that it will produce electricity with no consumption of fossil fuel and no pollution.

Any related dialogue often excludes reference to the manufacturing phase. This leaves the rest of the product lifecycle largely unaccounted for, for example extraction of minerals used in component parts; energy and waste from the production processes; transportation needs throughout, and the decommissioning phase at the end of life.

Address environmental impact

As a manufacturer of renewable or clean energy technologies you may find yourself on the receiving end of criticism and cynicism. This will be especially true if you are lauding the environmental benefits of your technology, but failing to address the environmental impacts of how it came to be. And that’s a risk, because it will take the focus away from the significant green credentials associated with the finished product.

The criticisms may seem unfair; your critics have seemingly made assumptions based on what they have read about a generic manufacturing process for wind turbines, not about your more ethical and well-monitored and governed process. But why is that? Is it because you haven’t actually talked about your process publicly?

Unless your company is publicly traded, the chances are you won’t be legally required to produce a non-financial annual report (where your environmental impact would be covered). This means that many smaller companies, whilst they may be whiter than white (or greener than green) in their business practices, are getting very little recognition for their efforts.

So, how can you start getting recognition for responsible business practice and appease your critics? The answer is simple; talk about it.

Isn’t our process a bit boring?

You might think that the only people interested in your manufacturing processes are engineers, but you’d be mistaken. Most of your stakeholders will want reassurance that you are being responsible at all stages of your operation.

Increasing focus on the environment, both in terms of peoples’ personal values, and in respect of regulation and legislation, means that the sustainability of your business will depend upon it.

Demonstrating that you are a responsible business will mitigate substantial risks, financial and reputational, which could impact on your investors’ willingness to back you, and on your customers’ motivation to buy from you.

What, where and how do I talk about these things?

When it comes to environmental impacts throughout a manufacturing phase some of the main areas to consider reporting on are:

  • Carbon footprint (CO2 emissions)
  • Materials use (including water, hazardous and non-hazardous materials and metals)
  • Waste and recycling (including waste water, waste to landfill, and recycled waste)

The level at which you are able to report your environmental impacts will depend on the processes you have in place to monitor environmental data.

There are several places where you can address the environmental (and wider CSR) impacts of your business. Your website is a good place to start.

Be engaging. Environmental performance data isn’t the most exciting of topics, but it can be interesting. Try to provide compelling data that shows (for example) how much you have reduced emissions or waste from one year to the next. Figures can be powerful.

Consider using case studies. These can work well to contextualise the steps you are taking to reduce your environmental impacts, and can be very engaging. They also work as ‘evidence’ and can be very credible.

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