By Mark Rees
Vice President, Strategy, Research and New Business Development

Sustainability is important for organizations in any industry these days. Peruse the headlines on this subject and you’ll find the world’s most recognizable brands introducing new efforts to operate with sustainability in mind.

An interesting recent example comes from Nike, the shoe and clothing juggernaut, and its recently introduced manual for fashion designers that lays out the principles of “circular design.” Included are 10 principles the manufacturer says should be considered throughout the entire life cycle of a product, like minimizing manufacturing waste, prolonging durability, thoughtful packaging, recyclability and more.

I found this news interesting because most of Nike’s principles can apply to most, if not all, goods and services being made today. The plan also accounts for the product’s entire life cycle—a tremendously important consideration in the overall sustainability story.

Especially for those of us in the fuels and lubricants markets, bolstering our sustainability is something we can and should be actively pursuing in new and innovative ways at all times, and the stakes are high. The entire automotive market is headed in this direction. It’s why disruptive trends in mobility, like electrification, are gaining such traction; most see the path to a more sustainable future as one that decreasingly relies on the use of fossil fuels.

But we know that true sustainability must be a comprehensive approach, and it must account for all the ways that broad-scale mobility and transportation happen in today’s world. Advancement in lubricant formulation is part of that approach, and there are a few important ways that it takes shape:

  • Efficiency. Modern lubricant formulations’ greatest contribution to sustainability today is the promotion of significant new fuel economy gains for cars, trucks and off-highway equipment throughout the world. Available technology has made a real impact; my colleague, Keith Howard, explored these impacts in depth recently. At Lubrizol, we’re continuing to drive new innovation to make those gains even more meaningful for today’s vehicles and equipment.
  • Durability. Sustainability and durability are two sides of the same coin. Good durability ensures that any given piece of equipment works for an extensive period of time, and by extension, that it does not need to be replaced frequently. A long and useful life saves resources that would go into a replacement vehicle.
  • Life cycle. Perhaps the toughest challenge the lubricants industry has to answer in the quest toward sustainability is this: What should be done with a lubricant at the end of its useful lifespan?

Today, engine oil recycling is a method that has gained traction; in the United States, many service shops and retail stores offer these types of services. That’s a positive trend, as reuse is a critical part of the broader sustainability consideration. But the development of more sustainable ingredients in lubricant formulations—whether they are renewably sourced or simply have a lower carbon footprint—is an increasingly important priority for lubricant manufacturers and oil marketers. This is part of the comprehensive product life cycle and an important driver of greater sustainability throughout our industry.

Our View

At Lubrizol, we’re dedicated to minimizing our global footprint and enhancing the positive impact our products can have on the planet and in people’s everyday lives. That includes the ongoing research, investigation and development of new technologies that can contribute to sustainability.

Our commitment to the fuels and lubricants markets and helping our customers infuse greater sustainability into their end-use products are an important part of that mission. Creating more sustainable life cycles for the products that power our world is one of our major areas of focus, and we believe continued advancement in our formulations will help us get there. Consider that it wasn’t long ago when monograde, basic lubricant technology was the standard—how far we’ve come in a relatively short period of time. We believe advanced chemistry will continue to play a major role in addressing these sustainability challenges.

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