That makes sense, Ann. Those making non-sustainable goods are those who would be best positioned to make sustainable products. They protect their own interests. Plus, their supply chain is in place. It's much like the large oil companies investing in the development of biofuels.
I think that's a good question. Actually, many of the companies making sustainable plastics, such as DuPont, BASF, SABIC and Dow, are already making traditional plastics and continue to do so. So far, though, the amount of sustainable plastics out there is only a drop in the bucket, as we covered in my April Bioplastics feature
As price parity expands, there could be a massive change in the materials used in a wide range of goods. All things being even, why not buy green? I wonder how this prospect is affecting those companies producing traditional materials.
A. Peeples, I've also noticed a big growth in sustainability efforts and programs at many companies. And I recently discovered socially responsible investing, which is a potentially powerful tool for making changes. I think you've got a great point about green at the system level vs at the component/material level. Which is exactly what LEEDS is all about for building construction. There have been efforts underway for some time to achieve something similar in electronics--such as The Green Grid Initiative for data centers and business computing systems--but with no solid results yet AFAIK. The amount of complexity here is, of course, insanely greater than in a building's construction.
Rob, glad that answers your question. I was surprised and heartened to hear that at least some industrial/commercial customers are now asking for green materials. Of course some of their products are bought by consumers, even if indirectly. Price parity is not here yet across the board but the first signs are there.
Yes, that answers my question. I was wondering whether corporations were willing to pay a premium for sustainable materials (whether that included materials they consumed or materials they included in their products). Sounds like they don't have to if sustainable materials are meeting the price of non-sustainable materials.
Ann: I'm glad you mentioned the origins of this products competition. While not all impact resistant products such as these are petro-base, a great number of them are. It's always good to limit the use of expensive/limited resources wherever possible. According to this article: http://ourworld.unu.edu/en/plastic-to-oil-fantastic/ roughly 7% of the world's oil production is used to make plastics. If this is true, promoting eco-friendly alternatives should certainly be enforced.
I would say in the past few years the idea of corporate sustainability has grown tremendously. This is evident across the board. Where the bottom line used to rule, it seems that companies are increasingly becoming conscious of the influence they have on the world and its resources - whether that is from shareholders, conscience, or Government tax breaks is probably debatable. In finance, Socially Responsible Investing (an investment strategy which considers both the financial and social benefits and implications of a company/stock) has grown considerably. In building construction, it seems that every new building I see seeks to be LEED certified.
That being said, I completely understand the argument that given the same properties and characteristics, people may have a hard time choosing this product over others if it costs more. The problem I see is that people want green systems more often than green components. What I mean is that it is hard to advertise that one small portion of your product is green if the rest is not. If design teams are not already being environmentally conscious throughout the entire product design process, many people may see no benefit to treat this individual product/component differently.
But don't get me wrong. It is great that products such as this are being manufactured. It hopefully shows where we are headed in design and as a society. As the concepts advance and mature, costs will come down.
Rob, I'm not clear on what you mean. Many, if not most, companies now have sustainability goals, which include the materials they purchase. As I learned during reporting the bioplastics article, consumer demand to buy green products has led much of this change, and materials for single-use functions, like plastic water bottles, were developed before the more difficult to make durable/engineering plastics; which, coincidentally, were also harder to sell to, say, aerospace companies. Many consumers were, at least for a time, willing to pay more for sustainable products when corporate buyers were not. What I heard at NPE was that some corporate buyers in some cases might be more likely to consider a slight premium, but the bigger trend is that more sustainable materials cost the same or less, or cost the same but perform better.
Interesting points, Ann. There is a certain portion of the consumer market made up of people who are willing to pay a premium for green products. In the corporate world, I would imagine that would be a tad more complicated. Are you suggesting that part of a company's green initiative would allow the purchasing function to pay a premium for green products?
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Good engineering designs are those that work in the real world; bad designs are those that don’t. If we agree to set our egos aside and let the real world be our guide, we can resolve nearly any disagreement.
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