Manufacturers step up to sustainability challenge

Latest News Mon, Jun 10, 2019 1:40 PM

Manufacturers who put sustainability and environmental improvements at the heart of their businesses reaped the benefit in cost-savings across their business, according to a new survey released today by Make UK.

Manufacturing: stepping up to the sustainability challenge takes the temperature of sustainability progress in manufacturing and shows that despite the challenge of Brexit, 50% manufacturers are making headway with their sustainability programmes with 71% of those who implemented environmentally friendly processes seeing a reduction in their costs.

However the main drivers towards sustainability remain cost savings. In fact 71% of respondents reported that the last environmental improvement they made had reduced costs.

Nearly a fifth of those surveyed said they were going further by implementing imaginative energy efficiency improvements.

Energy saving is the most typical first step for businesses to take because the cost efficiencies are easily quantifiable. Strategies put in place include onsite battery storage, installation of onsite renewable heat systems and onsite renewable power generation. Replacing outdated equipment also delivered energy cost saving benefits for those companies surveyed along with working towards voluntary standards such as ISO 14001 was another common step, introducing high level international standards.

Nearly a fifth of companies are going much further with imaginative energy efficiency projects such as demand side response, which essentially means the turn down of equipment at peak times. Again onsite battery storage to store excess energy and onsite renewables generation was widely utilised.

Additionally, businesses are starting to look past the immediate cost saving drivers towards sustainability for the long term. Investor confidence and attracting the brightest and the best could be a significant towards ensuring the most innovative systems are developed going forward.

The businesses which were most successful in driving sustainability and environmental improvements and cost-savings adopted a boardroom to shop-floor approach to promoting change, ensuring they took the whole of the workforce with them on the sustainability journey, making the environment at the heart of their business.

The UK’s decision to leave the EU has significant ramifications for environmental policy, which has largely been driven and overseen by the EU. A new framework is now being developed to manage England’s environment over the long term. Scotland and Wales have their own plans. For manufacturers, the future governance process can seem abstract, but it will set the boundaries within which they will be expected to operate long into the future.

Additionally, over the last couple of years, public concern for the environment has been given a new weight. The problem of plastics waste caught the public’s imagination and the Government is now taking significant steps to dealing with this issue. Furthermore, high profile climate groups such as Extinction Rebellion are ensuring environment issues are climbing up the political agenda.

Sam Pentony Make UK Environment Policy Advisor said: “Our survey results demonstrate that despite the level of Brexit uncertainty, our members are moving along the path towards sustainability. Whilst they are rightly conscious of the cost of implementing environmental and energy improvements, some are going much further and already thinking about the risk of climate change could pose to their businesses.

“We commend the Government for taking action on the big environmental issues of today such as plastic waste, air quality and climate change: however, business needs a solid policy landscape that can only come from proper consultation with those affected. We would therefore urge the Government to continue its engagement with manufacturers and ensure business can take the next steps along the path to sustainability”.

Energy and Clean Growth Minister Chris Skidmore said: “This is concrete evidence that sustainability in the manufacturing sector makes good business sense. It’s great to see businesses benefitting from becoming greener and cleaner and that cutting emissions can be a win-win: reducing costs, improving investor confidence and attracting the brightest and best employees.

“We’re determined to drive even more ambitious action as we strive to become the first major economy to legislate for net zero emissions. During this year’s Green GB Week starting on 4 November we hope to see the public and private sector coming together to showcase the opportunities of moving to a greener, cleaner economy.”

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