E3 Green Suppliers Network—How It Works
The GSN was first established in 2003 by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Department of Commerce’s National Institute of Standards and Technology Manufacturing Extension Partnership (NIST MEP). In 2010, the two agencies signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Department of Commerce (DOC), Department of Energy (DOE), Department of Labor (DOL), and the Small Business Administration (SBA), and in 2012 the Department of Agriculture signed on. Today, the GSN is part of the E3 Framework and strives to assist manufacturers and supply chains with finding ways to “enhance competitiveness, reduce costs and improve performance.”
One of the key offering of the GSN is an assessment conducted by an E3 team composed of experts from federal agency programs, local and state governments, utilities, universities, and local workforce investment boards. Assessments are tailored to the specific needs of the facility and may involve a single process or product line or the entire facility.
In general, assessment teams evaluate water, materials and energy use, greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, and facility wastestreams, however, assessments are voluntary and “do not involve or require a regulatory inspection or an audit program.” Assessment team members are also obligated to protect the company’s confidentiality. The assessment results are then provided to company management who have the decision-making power to address any or all of the different recommendations that can be made in the assessment. To date, 183 GSN assessments and 653 E3 community assessments have been conducted nationwide.
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The E3 GSN also offers a broad range of tools available to assessment teams as well as program participants and other stakeholders like communities. For example, the E3 Framework offers 10 categories of tools, one of which is Sustainable Manufacturing Tools that includes:
- International Trade Administration Sustainable Manufacturing 101 Module designed for small- to medium-sized manufacturers, with key concepts, approaches, strategies, terminology, and regulations related to sustainable manufacturing.
- The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) Sustainable Manufacturing Toolkit provides a practical starting point for businesses to improve production and product efficiency and contributes to sustainable development and green growth.
- Lean Manufacturing and the Environment tools that show how manufacturers can use lean and green methods to reduce environmental wastes while meeting other goals such as improving product quality, reducing costs, and enhancing customer responsiveness.
- The Global Social Compliance Programme’s (GSCP) Equivalence Process (EP) tool is designed to assist with benchmarking a company’s efforts to improve work and environmental conditions in global supply chains.
- Sustainable Manufacturing Clearinghouse, maintained by the EPA, contains studies, white papers, and reports on sustainable manufacturing.
- The Global Environmental Management Initiative’s (GEMI) Water Sustainability Tool assists companies with building a business water strategy that tracks water use, identifies water supply risks and savings opportunities, and builds a business case for implementing improvements.
- The GEMI Solution Tools Matrix is a collection of tools and resources on environmental and sustainability management issues that can help companies reach their sustainability goals.
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In addition, the E3 Framework provides a variety of printable brochures, the MOU, E3 metrics, and six different webinars covering a variety of topics, including hiring, funding, facilitating investment, the National E3 Webinar Summit, DOE resources, and Energy Star® for industry.
Another great resource for training future workers is The Sustainable Manufacturing Curriculum: Greening the Future by Educating Tomorrow’s Workforce. This is a series of three, two-part training modules covering Environmental Sustainability, Lean Manufacturing and Pollution Prevention, and Energy and Carbon. The series is available to educators in high schools, community colleges, trade schools, and career and vocational institutes. Each module provides a slide presentation, a teacher’s guide, handouts, activities, quizzes, and facilitator’s notes.