Researchers call for new manufacturing policy in Australia

Australian researchers are calling for policies to safeguard the future of manufacturing in Australia.

A team of researchers at Western Sydney University and the University of Newcastle has identified an ethical and sustainable culture of manufacturing in Australia. The team has, today, released recommendations for ways to strengthen and support this manufacturing culture.

“Our research has found convincing evidence that a successful future is possible for Australian manufacturing when shaped by a culture that maintains a firm’s viability while providing decent jobs in an inclusive society, and producing with a smaller ecological footprint,” lead researcher Professor Katherine Gibson said.

“This manufacturing culture is making a vital contribution to Australia, but it is not well-known or publicly visible. Policy must change to strengthen and support this just and sustainable approach.”

Gibson says that manufacturing in Australia must move “beyond business as usual” to overcome current and future challenges.

Recommendations for policy include:

  • Increase the profile of just and sustainable manufacturers through education and certification programs
  • Provide employment opportunities for people from diverse backgrounds through the development of partnerships with social enterprises and organisations who support them
  • Encourage the creation of high-quality, durable and environmentally-responsible products through customer education and the development of guidelines, standards and full cost accounting methods for product design and production processes
  • Undertake research and development into technologies for waste recycling or reuse and incorporate new technologies to facilitate the tracking of products throughout their lifecycle
  • Develop incentives for voluntary and industry-led stewardship schemes and introduce levies on products to cover the cost of responsible waste management at end of life

The team conducted three years of in-depth research with ten manufacturers in NSW who are committed to responsible manufacturing of products including blueberries and packaging, carpet tiles, dairy products, electronics repair and refurbishment, fabricated metal, fashion, furniture, mattresses and mattress recycling, and meat.

“Australian manufacturing is at a crossroads and many question its relevance to the economy, but our research with innovative NSW-based manufacturing firms shows that a positive change is already underway, and that Australian manufacturing can adapt to and be successful in the 21st Century,” Gibson said.

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