Sustainability priorities of environmental stewardship, workers’ safety, human rights and sound governance have become pronounced in the 3D printing industry. Additive manufacturing (AM) technology and solutions are well-placed to influence global issues and foster improvements through innovations, training, education and carbon footprint reduction. 3D printing, post-COVID-19, has become a game-changer as companies seek to assess the untapped potential of additive manufacturing. Prominently, 3D printing has amassed huge popularity among manufacturers, engineers and designers to keep up with the need for responsible energy consumption. Moreover, recycling, reducing, repurposing, reusing and repairing have ushered innovation in the global landscape. Companies are expected to exhibit product improvements and complement transparency, fairness, regulated, ethical and compliant operations.
3D printed parts and products have become palpable in end-products, including athletic shoes and printed cars. Stakeholders are exhibiting traction for additive manufacturing programs and embracing the responsibility to enhance lives and protect the environment. Exponential growth in digitization and a paradigm shift witnessed in the energy transition towards renewables have redefined the 3D printing landscape. Additive manufacturing could be instrumental in aerospace, manufacturing, automotive and healthcare sectors to reduce lead time, and material cost, leverage on-site production and underpin growth with sustainability targets. Amidst surging pressure to address supply chain issues and keep up with energy efficiency needs, industry players could explore opportunities in 3D printing.
Discover more regarding the practices and strategies being implemented by industry participants from the 3D Printing Industry ESG Thematic Report, 2023, published by Astra ESG Solutions
A notable shift towards AM technologies could lead to less energy consumption, reduced waste, optimized and enhanced supply chains and more recycling. In July 2021, eight companies joined the bandwagon to be part of the Additive Manufacturer Green Trade Association (AMGTA) to educate and promote the green upsides of 3D printing. Similarly, in May 2022, the global trade organization announced that 20 member companies received the 2022 Sustainability Awards. AM technologies are expected to boost environmentally friendly methods of manufacturing, mainly attributed to the innate ability to manufacture closer to the point of need, minimize material consumption and redesign parts to reduce energy consumption and weight.
Pioneering products, services and state-of-the-art technologies are unlocking opportunities and measuring sustainability metrics in line with ESG goals. The trend has become prevalent and prompted stakeholders to inject funds into sustainability portfolios. In December 2020, 3D Systems announced the rollout of its ESG initiative, bolstering its commitment to leveraging AM solutions for a host of applications. Companies are poised to advocate for sustainable technologies that will help minimize carbon emissions and eradicate waste. Notably, AM uses merely the material required to produce the final part, thereby playing an invaluable role in bolstering sustainability.
3D printing has come on the horizon as a vital cog in fostering employees’ health and safety and social programs, including entrepreneurship and STEAM education. In April 2022, it was reported that Stratasys offered access to dozens of 3D printers and funded the FIRST Robotics Competition for high school students. The company also introduced the “learning by making” program with Jerusalem Municipality, spanning across state-religious, independent-religious, state-secular and Arab schools. Additionally, the company was reported to be resilient amidst havoc wracked by the COVID-19 pandemic. Stratasys inferred in its 2020-2021 ESG and Sustainability Report that it reduced the work to 80% capacity till the end of 2020. It helped them do away with the pandemic-induced layoffs. The company offered mental health seminars on depression, social connections and loneliness. Besides, it organized an in-person summer camp in 2021 to provide fun and relief to the teams and their families.
Stakeholders have furthered their focus on diversity to add value for shareholders, employees and customers. In doing so, embracing diverse teams could propel an inclusive culture and complement employees’ unique identities, experiences and backgrounds. For instance, in 2021, GE updated a few voluntary self-identification categories and selections pertaining to sexual orientation and gender identity (based on employee feedback). The company asserted in its 2021 Diversity Annual Report that around 3.7% of its U.S. employees identified themselves as having a disability, while over 10% of the U.S. employees are military veterans. Amidst call for equal pay for all, GE is gearing to attain 100% pay equity in each of its businesses.
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Stakeholders demand greater traceability and transparency as companies seek to build trust with customers, communities, investors and other parties. Corporate governance has come to the fore as an invaluable pillar to running a business sustainably. Additive manufacturing companies are expected to devote attention to corporate governance policies, and guidelines and invest in data-driven products and solutions. Leading players are emphasizing independent leadership for a robust compliance and internal controls with applicable laws, policies and regulations. Notably, Autodesk infers in its 2022 Impact Report that 90% of its Board of Directors are independent, while 50% are women.
Stakeholders are counting on AI and ML to streamline the business. Forward-looking companies anticipate additive manufacturing to foster logistics systems and bolster resilience through the incorporation of environmental and social aspects. Leading players are likely to prioritize sustainability reporting frameworks to further organizations’ governance disclosure. In essence, GE offers disclosure as per SASB standards and provides climate-related disclosures in line with the TCFD framework. For instance, the organization has been disclosing how it assesses, identifies and manages climate-related risks. Meanwhile, Eaton has set an audacious target (2030 Sustainability Target) of over 50% enhancements in safety metrics, disclose U.S. minority and global gender pay equity assurance results, and ensure no human rights violation from major suppliers. It has also set report priority issues in line with TCFD and SASB requirements. The company asserted that around 65% of its net sales stemmed from sustainable solutions in 2021.
As 3D printing brings a seismic shift in the global landscape, stakeholders are gearing to augment their leadership position in ESG. In doing so, prominent manufacturers and suppliers are poised to inject funds into organic and inorganic growth strategies. To illustrate, in November 2022, Stratasys announced the pouring of USD 10 million in Axial3D, wherein both companies will render a joint offering to provide the accessibility of patient-specific 3D printing solutions for medical device manufacturers and hospitals. Prevailing trends indicate the global 3D printing market size could register an impressive CAGR of 20.8% from 2022 through 2030. Industry dynamics suggest sustainability priorities will witness an upward growth trajectory with a focus on, including but not limited to, people-first strategies, innovation, climate actions and transparency.
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