ESG Challenges: SWMAS Survey finds 75% of UK Manufacturers are not prioritising Net Zero

This quarter’s survey from South West Manufacturing Advisory Service (SWMAS) confirms that that UK SMEs can see the benefits of achieving net zero – but the vast majority are not prioritising actions to reach this goal. Sian Clay, our ESG Comms Executive takes a look at the Survey’s key data and ponders over the detail. 

Energy prices, among other challenges, are negatively impacting UK SME manufacturers’ Net Zero commitments, says the latest data from the SWMAS ‘s Manufacturing Barometer survey. 

The numbers show that 75% of respondents say: they have ‘not continued to prioritise net zero targets amidst the energy crisis’.


The SWMAS Survey gathered responses from 159 SMEs from across the UK, focusing on this quarter’s priorities and progress within the manufacturing sector.

One fact stuck out: Whilst 73% of manufacturers have committed to net zero, only 3% have a detailed carbon report ready for publication.

Only 3% of UK Manufacturers have a detailed carbon report ready for publication.


ESG Challenges (and how to overcome them)

Stepping back from the numbers, it’s clear that focusing corporate values, and deciding how to prioritise sustainability is no easy task. The UK’s manufacturing sector faces an especially challenging task in measuring both direct environmental impacts, as well as looking beyond outputs to the impacts of complex value chains. 

Often, the first step is the hardest. Here at Content Coms, we offer specialist manufacturing sector ESG comms and roadmapping expertise to guide the development of strong ESG communications. Focusing on the three pillars of sustainability: people, planet, and profit, ESG reporting can be a tool for sharing positive stories with stakeholders, while inciting positive action towards your net zero goals. 

With soaring energy prices are being cited as a major challenge to manufacturers, production optimisation and energy efficiency measures are a great place to start tackling the journey to net zero while saving capital for future developments. Taking in the big picture, innovative ESG solutions will often provide benefits company-wide, not just for a sustainability target. 

Economic misconception

According to SWMAS survey, as many as 64% of manufacturers do not believe the benefits of net zero will outweigh the cost of implementing carbon improvements. The perception that ESG reporting goes against profitability is misconceived. 

Transparent ESG reporting continues to be a priority for investors, so it is vital that ESG becomes a part of business development strategies, rather than a separated project. 

64% of manufacturers do not believe the benefits of net zero will outweigh the cost of implementing carbon improvements.


SWMAS found 48% of respondents believe that the promotion of net zero ambitions could help win future work. The UK has already introduced mandatory sustainability reporting for the largest businesses, which is expected to reach smaller companies in the coming years. 

Getting ahead of the curve by demonstrating environmental values now sets manufacturers apart from their competitors.

The benefits are myriad: Clear, transparent and well-communicated ESG reporting can contribute to business success (and contract wins). And, it can also improve stakeholder relations, boost energy efficiency, cut operational costs, increase productivity and act as a form of risk-management. 

Powerful Communication

Recognising the manufacturing sector’s connection between operations and the environment is vital to transparent stakeholder communications. As the UK moves towards our net zero target year of 2050, staying silent on the impact of operations is more damaging than conveying the start, or progress, of a journey. 

SWMAS survey found 51% of manufacturers believe net zero is a positive expansion for UK manufacturing. Building a sustainable path for manufacturing safeguards the industry’s future in a net zero world. Check out our case studies to see how our ESG and sustainability communications have benefited businesses of all shapes and sizes. 

Communicating the journey to net zero builds trust with potential investors and, importantly, enhances market performance through collective innovation. Sharing ideas, progress, and challenges can futureproof the manufacturing industry, boosting sector profitability and sustainability. 


Content Coms specialises sustainability comms strategies, ESG road-mapping and storytelling for UK & global manufacturing companies. Got a project? Let’s talk.

Sian Clay
Sian Clay
Sian Clay is on our client management team, specialising in ESG communications. She holds an MSc from the University of Bristol in Management in CSR and Sustainability.