Sustainability and productivity – how can businesses successfully achieve both?


Sustainability and productivity do not have to be mutually exclusive – a targeted approach to both can have both economic and environmental benefits.

By Stefan Ranstrand, President and Chief Executive Officer, TOMRA Systems ASA

Every business is aware of the challenges associated with helping to increase productivity without the move having a detrimental impact on other areas of the business.

If processes can be streamlined and output increased, most businesses would grab the opportunity to do so, but this may also come at the expense of other things outside of the organization’s specific business model and areas of operation.

In many industries, one of the most significant side-effects of increased output is the impact on the environment, with a greater use of resources understandably having an effect on sustainability.

It is therefore a tricky balancing act to weigh productivity against sustainability, but the two are not mutually exclusive; in the 21st century, there are ways to increase both, which can not only bring about tangible business benefits, but also maintain the long-term well-being of the planet.

Balancing act

A key component in the evolution of business productivity has been new innovations in technology, which has helped to significantly streamline processes and give businesses a competitive advantage.

Of course, one of the consequences of this has been the effect on the environment; when the industrial revolution brought about manufacturing on a large scale in the 18th century, there was an instant upturn in the fortunes of businesses who were able to create more for less.

However, in order to do so, a major increase in the amount of resources used to operate the machinery was necessary, from coal to other commodities such as oil.

The result was a detrimental effect not only on the atmosphere, with substantially increased pollution, but also in the earth’s natural reserves, with key resources being ruthlessly mined to an unsustainable level.

Although the following decades and centuries have seen changes in the way that machines are powered and used, the expansion of the global business world has seen a marked rise in the amount of machinery being operated and the stress placed on resources is as great as ever, which creates questions around how to reduce this unsustainable usage without compromising efficiency.

New ways of thinking

New innovations require new ways of thinking, and in order to bring about major changes, significant thought needs to go into any decisions.

Not only do machines need to operate in a more sustainable way, using less of the world’s finite resources, but they also need to give organizations the ability to operate without increasing their own need to mine valuable resources.

With the world’s population set to increase by 30 per cent over the next 40 years, resource productivity needs to increase to ensure sustainable development, which will mean creating opportunities to obtain more and use less, and also feed into the circular economy by reusing valuable resources.

Technology is at the forefront of this, and TOMRA’s mission is to support the move by providing businesses with the machinery that can help to strike the balance between productivity and sustainability.

Optimizing resources

TOMRA’s sensor-based solutions provide a variety of smart solutions for optimizing resources, and for over 40 years a constant focus has been placed on refining the technology so that resources can be sourced, used, stewarded, reclaimed, recycled and revitalized to ensure a continuous, sustainable loop.

From recycling to mining to food production to reverse vending, sensor-based technology is playing a pivotal role in supporting the circular economy and also helping organizations to increase throughput without having a detrimental impact on the environment.

To ensure that new technology continues to support businesses and their objectives, it is important to continue focusing on how to transform how the world obtains, uses and reuses its resources by looking at the next major innovations and how they can support environmental as well as business objectives.

This can only be achieved through the collective efforts of the industry and innovators, who together can realize the vast benefits of utilizing sensor-based technology to streamline processes and maximize yields and productivity, without impacting the planet’s vital resources, helping to secure a sustainable future.

* * *

TOMRA’s vision is to be a leader in the resource revolution. Through constant research and innovation, we are creating the technology to bring about optimal resource productivity and ensure a more sustainable planet. To find out more, visit https://www.tomra.com/en/about-us/our-mission/.