The future of UK industry is leaner, greener and cleaner

Embracing sustainable transformation means developing new expertise and innovating them effectively in the marketplace. This change is already happening and the result will be the creation of a sustainability industry, the creation of jobs and additional GDP. Lee Collinson reports.

“Climate change is here, now, today.”

“A shift to clean growth is necessary and unavoidable. And it will be revolutionary, changing fundamentally what is demanded, what is produced, how, and where.”

That is the unambiguous language used in new research published by the Manufacturing Technologies Association.

The MTA’s Decarbonisation: Future Growth for Manufacturing report concludes that the UK is well placed to lead the world in this regard, noting that the “green transition plays to UK strengths.”

Over the past three decades, the UK has reduced its carbon emissions by 44% while its economy has grown by 72%, and in June 2019 it became the first major economy in the world to pass laws to become net zero by 2050.

Crucially – particularly at this turbulent, uncertain time – green growth is an important economic driver, growing approximately four-times faster than the overall economy.

Embracing sustainable manufacturing could have a transformative effect on UK GDP, adding between £8bn – £20bn in output to the nation’s manufacturing sector and the supply chains that support it, according to the MTA’s research.

The effect on jobs could be equally substantial, creating:

  • 400,000 – 1 million jobs in the economy as a whole 
  • 37,000 – 90,000 jobs in manufacturing 
  • 34,000 – 83,000 jobs in the supply chain

Moreover, the report states that these new jobs stand to be of “high-quality, well paid, and fit for the 21st century.”

The MTA’s projections are supported by numerous other studies and real-world examples, all of which point to sustainable manufacturing offering considerable promise.

However, realising such a transformation at the scale and pace required can’t be achieved without Government policies aligned to that vision.

So, is the UK Government committed to a creating a ‘green economy’? Recent indicators would certainly suggest so.

A green recovery

Already in 2020, the Government has committed to consult on ending the sale of new petrol, diesel or hybrid cars by 2035 or earlier.

They have also launched the Transport Decarbonisation Plan to cut emissions across the sector; provided more than £1bn to accelerate the rollout of ultra-low emission vehicles (ULEVs) via support for a super-fast charging network; and committed up to £100m to develop a new clean technology, Direct Air Capture.

The Government has also set aside a £289m Industrial Energy Transformation Fund (IETF) to help businesses with high energy to cut their energy bills and carbon emissions by investing in energy efficiency and low-carbon technologies.

IETF Phase 1 opened in July 2020 with up to £30m of funding available. The remainder of the fund will be released in Phase 2, which is due to launch sometime in 2021.

Also last month, the Prime Minister announced a further £350m to help drive decarbonisation in heavy industry, construction, space and transport and to secure the UK’s place at the “forefront of green innovation”.

The projects set to receive funding will work on developing new technologies that could help companies switch to more energy-efficient means of production, use data more effectively to tackle the impacts of climate change, and help support the creation of new jobs through cutting-edge R&D.

In July, the Transport and Business Secretaries chaired the first Jet Zero council meeting, bringing together Government, industry and environmental groups to discuss how to decarbonise the aviation sector while supporting its growth and strengthening the UK’s position as a world leader in the sector.

The council supports the Government’s £400m FlyZero initiative, which aims to pave the way – within a generation – for the first ever zero emission long-haul passenger flight, and is backed by grants totalling £200m, matched by industry, and delivered through the Aerospace Technology Institute (ATI).

Going green

The case for responsible, environmentally sustainable business has never been clearer. Deciding where to start, however, can be more of a challenge.

At Barclays, we believe there are five steps to improving your business sustainability:

  1. Think big, start small, learn fast – small changes can make a big difference. By making a simple list of common practices and systems, you can start identifying opportunities to become more sustainable.
  2. Lead change – combine organisational buy-in with board-level expertise and support.
  3. Repair and prepare – businesses must balance short-term pressures with the opportunity to align their recovery to longer term sustainability strategies.
  4. Place change within reach – green and sustainable finance can help to make bigger changes possible, as well as sending a clear signal that a business is investing in a more sustainable future.
  5. Collaborate – to deliver sustainable change, businesses must work together to develop ways of improving sustainability – individually and collectively. 

Is your business actively pursuing a more sustainable business model in 2020 and beyond?

Perhaps you’re utilising renewable energy and packaging materials, or using data to drill down into your energy use to identify where efficiencies can be made?

Maybe you’re exploring how to reshore production to reduce transport costs and emissions, or seeing how you can monetise your manufacturing waste streams and by-products?

Perhaps your doing something innovative that no-one else has thought of.

I’d love to hear your thoughts, so please connect with me on LinkedIn.


*Images courtesy of Shutterstock