There is a widespread belief that the concepts of Lean and Green Business practices are somewhat at odds with each other. Lean is perceived at times as being rigid, having to perform things in a certain way, whereas Green Business is seen as being rigid in its own right, with an emphasis on being environmentally friendly and using techniques and processes that will have only the minimum effect on the environment and reducing carbon footprints, whatever the costs. But is this perception true? Is there not a case for arguing that the concepts and principles involved in green businesses and Lean are actually similar?

Reducing Waste

The Holy Mantra of Lean is to reduce waste. Waste needs to be identified, sought out and then eliminated. Waste is looked at holistically in terms of the business. Waste is eliminated when it comes to transporting items, shipping them, in moving them in the warehouse and in terms of the resources used to store them. Waste is also eliminated in terms of the resources used to produce items and even the administration systems used to support the production are subjected to analyses to reduce any wastage or unnecessary paperwork.
If green businesses are considered then there are actually some areas of common ground. For example, fundamental to the principles of green business is the concept that there should be no unnecessary use of resources. So items should not be over-transported, nor should precious resources be used to store them and so on. Which is actually very much in keeping with the principles of Lean; so the two are not a million miles away in terms of ideology; but how deep is the relationship?

A Marriage Made In Heaven Or A Holiday Romance?

It may be easy to dismiss the relationship between green business and Lean as being something of a flash in the pan, a holiday romance that will soon fizzle out. But the reality is that the two different approaches may actually result in a long term relationship that is to some extent symbiotic in its nature.

Both these types of management thinking operate from the same philosophical stance of using only the bare minimum of resources and not squandering them in any way.

Recently companies within the UK and indeed on an international basis have almost been vying with each other to prove who is the ‘greenest’ and it is increasingly seen as a means of attracting new customers.
So how better to market your company, than to show that you are ‘Lean and Green’ in the sense of being efficient and thus using resources effectively and that you are committed to ensuring that your carbon footprint is minimised?

Thus it would seem reasonable to suggest that the idea of green businesses and Lean thinking will become bedfellows and that to some extent, they can, at least in principle become ‘easy’ bedfellows.
However, like so many relationships, there will undoubtedly be times when the going is not smooth and the relationship may be tested. There has to be a mutually dependent relationship; it cannot be dominated by either

Lean or Green, both have a role to play and if one becomes more dominant, then the relationship will not be an easy one. Green cannot be the dominant force, but similarly neither can Lean, so there will have to be some parameters set within the relationship.

So the two ideologies can work together as long as they respect each other, as in any relationship, but there are limits and each must work hard to ensure that they do not take the other for granted

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