Five things we learnt from Make UK’s sustainability report
A new report from Make UK – the representative organisation for UK manufacturing – shows manufacturers are stepping up to the sustainability challenge. We take a look at the five key findings of “Manufacturing: stepping up to the sustainability challenge.”
1. Brexit concerns: Despite the challenge of Brexit, 50% of manufacturers are making headway with their sustainability programmes. 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, whilst 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.
2. Key drivers: The main drivers towards sustainability remain cost savings. In fact, 71% of those who had implemented environmentally friendly processes were seeing a reduction in their costs whilst 79% of respondents said this was a driver for implementing that improvement.
3. First steps: Energy saving is typically the first step for businesses to take because the cost efficiencies are easily quantifiable. Half of respondents reported that they were already taking steps towards greater energy efficiency. Strategies put in place include onsite battery storage, installation of onsite renewable heat systems and onsite renewable power generation.
4. Top down approach: The businesses which were most successful in driving sustainability and environmental improvements had adopted a boardroom to shop-floor approach to promoting change, ensuring they took the whole of the workforce with them on the sustainability journey, Make UK has advised that manufacturers who haven’t already made sustainability a board-level issue should consider it as part of wider long-term business planning.
5. Biggest barriers: The biggest barrier to sustainability is insufficient return on investment. Even for those improvements that save money, the rate at which investments pay back is an issue. Most companies feel they cannot invest in projects with more than a couple of years’ payback, and even then sustainability projects are seen to be competing against requests for funding from other parts of the business. A lack of Government support and lack of skills, information and awareness and lack of interest from customers were also cited as barriers.
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.”
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.”