Manufacturing is leading UK’s ‘Green Revolution’

Posted on 20 May 2020 by Jonny Williamson

As industry looks to rebuild and grow following Covid-19, there is an opportunity for manufacturers to refocus on their sustainability goals and help deliver a ‘green recovery’.

Manufacturers who put sustainability at the heart of their businesses have seen real benefits from doing so, with 40% reporting increased profit margins and 30% increased competitiveness as a result.

Furthermore, 90% of manufacturers are aware of the government’s 2050 net-zero target and almost half see this as an opportunity to generate sustainable business growth once the world opens up again.

That’s according to research undertaken by Make UK and energy company E.ON prior to the global impact of Covid-19.

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Almost a third (30%) have made real inroads into energy efficiency investments in the past 12 months, with the majority of the changes in relation to building improvement, equipment and manufacturing processes.

Improving the energy efficiency of buildings was the second most impactful of technical measure for 11% of companies and was seen as a relatively simple step to take in the net-zero journey.

Other simple, cost-effective measures included buying energy from renewable sources, switching to LED lighting and control, and replacing outdated equipment such as fans and pump systems.

Delivering a ‘green recovery’

Businesses revealed that the cost of technology is one of the biggest barriers to moving further forward with major energy efficiencies, further hampered by the fact that accessing available government funding and grants is often difficult.

Companies also said that better fiscal incentives to enable investments in energy saving technology would provide a further boost to related activity.

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The study looked in detail at specific actions manufacturers have taken to respond to the net-zero target, with simpler measures some of the most popular across the sector.

In the past 12 months, 40% of respondents have renegotiated their energy contracts and 65% were able to get a better deal.

Businesses have invested heavily to reduce energy consumption in manufacturing processes (54%), with a further 20% looking at this going forward; while others opted to generate part or all of their energy onsite (17%).

Investment in more efficient equipment was seen as a quick fix with 71% of companies taking this action. Making this change in equipment was seen as the most impactful measure overall as almost a third (27%) of companies said the installation of energy saving technology had boosted their business.

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The majority of manufacturers (75%) understood the benefits of digitisation and more than half (57%) have already installed smart meters, and 78% now collect their energy usage data. A further 13% plan to do so.

Businesses are also recognising that a series of connected sensors to monitor their power consumption at each phase of the production process is one of the most important drivers to improvement.

Two-thirds of companies (65%) revealed that they are also engaging closely with staff, having introduced behavioural change activities to help their employees make basic habit changes to improve energy efficiency.

The main driver for implementing energy efficiency measures remains cost reduction but improving company ethos is now seen as important as part of overall business strategy.

Some 80% of board directors and senior management are engaged in energy efficiency, up from 50% in Make UK’s sustainability survey last year.

*All images courtesy of Depositphotos