Key Takeaways from the UL Product MindSet Study, Part II

A couple of posts ago, we discussed some Interesting Facts and Figures from the UL Product MindSet, a recently released study that quantitatively surveyed 1,195 manufacturers and 1,235 consumers across a range of export and import markets in high-tech, building materials, food, and household chemicals. Then, in our last post, we reviewed four key takeaways from the UL Product MindSet Study. Today we are going to discuss our fifth, and final, takeaway from the study.


They need to take off those rose-coloured glasses, put them on the floor, and stomp them to bits. And then they need to take the bits and grind them into dust. The findings illustrate that manufacturers are so far out of touch with reality that it’s downright scary.

First of all, let’s review the standard Gaussian curve. In a standard curve, only 31.8% of the population is one standard deviation from the norm. If we accept that only one standard deviation from the norm is enough to be “ahead of the curve”, then, at most 15.9% of the population can be ahead of the curve (and, similarly, 15.9% of the manufacturers will be behind the curve). However, the report found that an extreme majority of manufacturers believed they were ahead of the curve in safety, reliability, sustainability, and innovation. In short, this means that:

  • 81.1% of manufacturers are out-to-lunch when it comes to product safety
  • 81.1% of manufacturers are day-dreaming when it comes to product reliability
  • 78.1% of manufacturers are high-on-fumes when it comes to sustainability
  • 73.1% of manufacturers don’t-have-a-clue when it comes to innovation

The reality for the majority of manufacturers (68.2%) is that, they are, at best, on the curve. But since the reality is that, if they don’t continue to progress as their supply chains evolve around them, it won’t be long before them are behind the curve, they should just assume they are behind the curve, because 15.9% of them are and 68.2% of them aren’t far from being among that 15.9% without continued improvement efforts. So when they are done grinding those rose-colored, haze-inducing, glasses into dust, they need to get to work!

Furthermore, I see no evidence that the majority of manufacturers understand sustainability. I know it’s hard with all the greenwashing out there, but if one just ignores the hype and uses a little common sense, one can define sustainability as that which sustains operations and the environment at the same time. With this definition, it is easy to see that if an organization is not reducing its environmental footprint and at least maintaining, if not increasing, profitability at the same time, it is not sustainable. So 69% of manufacturers are wrong when they say that environmental products aren’t profitable — because, defined (and designed) right, they are.

And those manufacturers who do understand some of the basics of sustainability obviously don’t understand it’s importance. First of all, it’s not just about sustaining the environment, its about sustaining operations for generations to come. If the resources available are depleted before they can be replenished, there’ll be no materials to make new products. No products, no profit. No profit, no business. It really is that simple. As a result, sustainability should be as important as safety and reliability, not only one-fifth as important. Secondly, with even the majority of consumers in developing countries (such as China where four-fifths of the population would buy a truly green product over a non-green product if proof of claims could be provided), an organization is leaving what is potentially the biggest gold-vein available to it untapped. And finally, if manufacturers as a whole don’t change their understanding and their views, then the lot of them are are being hypocritical! (It is impossible to be ahead of the curve in sustainability, as 94% of manufacturers ridiculously claim to be, while not placing the same importance on sustainability as is placed on safety and reliability.)

Yes this is harsh, but face it, manufacturers are not going to move forward if they continue to believe the all-rainbows-and-roses picture that some other misguided (or is that money-grubbing?) analysts are painting for them. But there is a bright side. Whereas a typical organization would probably pay five, or six, figures for that rainbows-and-roses report, this post is 100% free.
(So, to any manufacturer reading this, stop calling me a downer and get to work! If you do, maybe you’ll be one of the 15.9% that is truly ahead of the curve and reap the rewards that come from earning that status.)