Realizing Environmentally-Conscious Manufacturing in the Post-COVID-19 Era
Nancy Diaz-Elsayed, Julius Schoop, Katherine C. Morris
The unique and unprecedented challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic have resulted in significant disruptions to diverse manufacturing supply chains across the globe. The negative economic impacts of these unexpected and rapid changes in demand and available supplies have been severe, and the economic sustainability of many businesses has been revealed as being highly sensitive to such changes. However, while a focus on the economic impacts of the pandemic will be part of the solution towards rebirth of the manufacturing industry, we propose that environmental and societal impacts are equally important with respect to developing a resilient industrial sector. Indeed, the paradigm of holistic sustainability offers value creation beyond economics, as environmental, social and economic factors are simultaneously considered and weighed. In this article, we present strategies for addressing three sustainability challenges relevant to manufacturing production introduced by the COVID-19 pandemic: 1) an increase in waste generation, 2) uncertainty in life cycle impacts, and 3) navigating new modes of operation for manufacturing. To mitigate the risk of these impacts in the future, product development and production processes need visibility of their potentiality. We envision a full systematic integration of sustainable manufacturing principles and metrics into the business practices of manufacturing enterprises, including the products they produce and the processes used to create them. Realizing this vision will require greater availability and transparency of key data related to environmental and social sustainability factors, to create a clean and sustainable future in which pandemic and disaster readiness is realized through sustainable manufacturing.
The ASTM Journal of Smart and Sustainable Manufacturing