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Opinion | Why Michigan environment and industry groups are joining forces

Michigan’s top business and political leaders convened last week on Mackinac Island for the Detroit Regional Chamber’s annual policy conference, where attendees focused on “The Power of &” — the idea that we can move Michigan forward by bridging different viewpoints and bringing together diverse stakeholders to develop a shared vision for our state’s future.

Madhu Anderson and Caroline Liethen
Madhu Anderson is director of government relations for The Nature Conservancy in Michigan. Caroline Liethen is director of environmental and regulatory policy for the Michigan Manufacturers Association.

That’s also the driving force behind an innovative collaboration between the The Nature Conservancy in Michigan (TNC) and the Michigan Manufacturers Association (MMA),who are working together to promote sustainable best practices in our state’s industrial sector. 

You might wonder why the largest conservation organization in the world and the state’s leading leading manufacturing organization would join together to help industry find ways to be more sustainable. Simply put, mitigating the negative impacts of a changing climate and lowering future carbon emissions matter to all of us. For TNC, our mission is to protect the land and water on which we all depend. As pressure grows from both customers and investors to manufacture more sustainably, we are committed to working with our industry partners to help them lower emissions and drive Michigan’s clean energy transition.

Both organizations are keen on helping Michigan manufacturers achieve sustainability goals and continue to grow and compete globally. Over the past decade, significant progress has been made in reducing emissions in two of the world’s largest emitting sectors: power generation and transportation. 

Industrial emissions are more challenging to address. A wide range of manufacturing processes and operations means there are no “one size fits all” solutions. We will need to work together on a variety of strategies that both increase sustainability but also are cost-effective — because we still need to make things here in Michigan.

At MMA, we know that becoming more sustainable while being economically competitive on a global scale is imperative to manufacturers’ continued success. We are committed to helping Michigan manufacturers take the lead and control their own path forward on sustainability. 

Many MMA members already are leaders in sustainability through energy efficiency measures, reducing carbon emissions and expanding their renewable energy portfolios. We’re also incredibly proud of the collaborative efforts that have finally resulted in the attainment of federal ozone standards in southeast Michigan.

Across the nation, sustainability is quickly moving up the list of top concerns for manufacturing executives. According to a 2022 survey by the Manufacturing Leadership Council, 58 percent of respondents reported that sustainability is essential to their future competitiveness compared to just 38 percent in 2021. Sixty-eight percent of executives say they are implementing extensive, corporate-wide sustainability strategies, up from just 39 percent in 2019.

The primary drivers behind this rising interest in sustainable manufacturing include better alignment with corporate values, creating a cleaner, healthier environment, and improving companies’ reputations with customers and investors. 

An overwhelming 90 percent of all respondents agreed that manufacturing has a special responsibility to society to become more sustainable.

For all these reasons, TNC and MMA are working to bring practical, actionable information on sustainable best practices to Michigan manufacturers of all sizes. Last year we hosted a series of webinars and this year we organized a series of peer-to-peer workshops highlighting the ways that manufacturers can secure green certifications for their products and facilities, acquire renewable energy and develop a plan to drive their company’s sustainability strategy.

At our most recent workshop, Andre Argenton, chief sustainability officer for Dow, noted that manufacturing leaders must integrate profitability and sustainability to achieve their company’s goals. As reflected in this year’s Mackinac conference theme, they need to use “The Power of &” to view sustainable manufacturing not as a regulatory or compliance burden but as an essential component of competing and winning in the global marketplace.

The path forward won’t be easy, but TNC and MMA remain committed to our joint objective of advancing knowledge in this vital area and helping make Michigan a national leader in sustainable manufacturing.

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Bridge welcomes guest columns from a diverse range of people on issues relating to Michigan and its future. The views and assertions of these writers do not necessarily reflect those of Bridge or The Center for Michigan. Bridge does not endorse any individual guest commentary submission. If you are interested in submitting a guest commentary, please contact David Zeman. Click here for details and submission guidelines.

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