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Sustainability, ESG Must Remain a Top Business Priority for Manufacturers

By Mike Corcoran, Global Manager, Operational Sustainability, PPG

It’s no surprise that all industries are under increased scrutiny to enhance their commitments to sustainability and make significant improvements in how they operate, develop products, govern their overall ESG approach, and recruit, develop and retain diverse talent.

While manufacturers are proudly leading the charge on climate solutions, and oftentimes creating the tools needed to support this evolution, it’s clear that there is more work to be done across all industries to slow — and hopefully reverse — the potentially detrimental impacts of climate change.

There’s a popular Chinese proverb that states, “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.” If your organization is committed to leading the charge in order to protect and preserve the planet for future generations, the time for bold climate action is now.

While reversing climate change impacts will be a long road ahead, below are near-term actions and commitments companies can make to bolster their commitments to ESG and reduce their overall environmental impact:

Evaluate Emissions across Your Value Chain

According to the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM), it is likely that human activities, especially greenhouse gas emissions, are the dominant cause of observed warming since the mid-20th century. In fact, data has shown that the last decade was the hottest in 125,000 years, and CO2 emissions are the highest in 2 million years. We can and must do more as organizations to understand the most significant causes of emissions within the value chain, both upstream and downstream, and set aggressive goals to reduce these impacts. Especially important, given the Security and Exchange Commission’s recent climate-related disclosures rule proposal, is evaluating emissions that are not within your owned operations (scope 3), such as product end-of-life, use of sold products, leased assets, transportation of goods and more.

Identify Renewable Energy Opportunities within Your Operations and Increase Water Efficiency

In addition to improving the energy efficiency of your operations, including manufacturing and shipping your products, it’s important to identify areas where greenhouse gas emissions can be reduced and renewable energy can be sourced through direct investment, power purchase agreements, renewable energy certificates or green tariffs. It’s crucial to identify and source the right renewable energy partners globally to assist in your company’s transition to more sustainable solutions.

Equally as important is managing water efficiency in operations. One great example of this is an initiative we call our “Zero Discharge Project,” where PPG was able to reduce washwater generation at our architectural coatings facilities in the U.S. and Canada. We are able to save the water used to wash the tank and piping after a batch is made, then use the recycled water in production of future batches without disrupting the end product’s performance. Over the past two years, the project has reused more than 1.7 million gallons of washwater, and we are exploring implementation across other sites globally.

Commit to the Science-Based Target Initiative

Following a thorough analysis of your value chain, and direct and indirect emissions sources, join the nearly 3,000 companies strong who have committed to the Science-Based Target Initiative to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and clearly define a decarbonization strategy to do your part to prevent the earth from warming for current and future generations. Many companies, including PPG, have recently committed to setting science-based targets through the Science-Based Targets initiative, and it’s anticipated that there will be more commitments to come this year.

Partner with Customers to Understand Their Current Product Needs and Anticipate Future Needs in a Low-Carbon Economy

Now more than ever, it’s important to be in lockstep with your customers to understand their current sustainability needs and anticipate future needs that can be met through your products and services. Product management, and research and development teams are a key component of the value sustainability can bring to customers, as they can enable or enhance current product attributes and ultimately contribute to your organization’s — and your customers’ — sustainability aspirations. No matter the function, sustainability should be embedded in the day-to-day operations across an organization. It is our responsibility as corporate stewards of the environment in which we live and work.

Across the paints, coatings and specialty materials industries, business leaders and manufacturers must continue stepping up and stepping out to evaluate new sustainability commitments and goals that will drive decarbonization strategies and help protect the planet now and in the future.

Michael Corcoran is global manager, operational sustainability at PPG. He is responsible for implementing and enhancing a robust enterprise-wide sustainability program, advancing the integration of sustainability into company processes, and supporting the global development and deployment of related policies. He also works closely with ESG ratings agencies on PPG’s behalf. PPG’s just-launched 2021 ESG report is available at