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Manufacturers need more ‘transformational thinking’ on sustainability

With the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow now over, new research shows that sustainability concerns are impacting UK manufacturers far more than their global competitors.

According to PwC’s latest Manufacturing Operations pulse survey, 70 per cent of UK manufacturers said that a growing demand for sustainability now topped their list of operational impacts, compared to just 53 per cent of manufacturers globally.

Despite this, less than a quarter of those surveyed identified sustainability as a business priority, although the vast majority (81 per cent) said they were investing in reducing their energy use and measuring energy efficiency.

Cara Haffey, Industrial Manufacturing Leader at PwC UK, explained:

“COP26 offers a key staging-post for the sector with the governance and legislative decisions that flow from Glasgow likely to shape action for years to come.

“We’re already seeing a significant level of progress across the sector, but more transformational thinking is needed if the industry is to be truly sustainable in the long term. It is perfectly possible, for example, to argue that a circular economy mindset towards creating reuse or recycle-ready products could have mitigated the current microchip crisis, making the retrieval of valuable parts more practical or cost-effective.

“Manufacturing firms are well-placed to take this on board; after all, project management at scale is a core expertise across the sector and most are accustomed to defining key performance indicators whether as a means of measuring production floor efficiency or monitoring engineering targets.

“Those firms that can align radical and responsible change across their operations, implement a fair transition business model to get them to net zero and measure progress in a transparent and accountable manner, will be well positioned to meet future challenges and secure a sustainable future.”

A separate report (focusing on the steel, cement and chemicals industries) by HSBC - which has just launched a £500 million Green Fund for SMEs - concludes that the current trend of manufacturers ‘muddling through’ the transition to net zero could unnecessarily increase costs and miss potential opportunities.

Greater Manchester businesses are being urged to start their own green journey through Bee Net Zero, a new platform which signposts the advice and support available within the city region. This includes the Growth Hub’s online Journey to Net Zero programme, which is designed specifically for businesses at an early stage in their journey.

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