Britain’s manufacturers are leading the charge towards Net Zero as the sector makes a huge leap forward from just 18 months ago when very few companies had a specific Net Zero strategy in place. The positive influences of COP26 and increased practical help in implementing positive green strategies in the workplace has turbocharged industry in the Race to Zero.

According to recent research published by Make UK, the manufacturers’ organisation, almost two thirds (65 per cent) of manufacturers have taken positive action towards their Net Zero target in the past 12 months, while 35 per cent of businesses already have a fully formed Net Zero strategy in place and have started to implement it.

The research – ‘COP26 6 Months On’ – shows that a further 14 per cent have set their Net Zero strategy but have not quite set it in motion and over a third of companies said that achieving Net Zero is high priority for their business.

These figures are all the more impressive against a background of unprecedented challenges for manufacturers who have had to navigate the changes to trading rules following the UK’s full exit from the EU alongside the global pandemic. Despite this, manufacturers have realised the critical importance of Net Zero and the benefits a green economy can bring to their business and made headway accordingly.

Changes being made

Tackling their own internal factory emissions has been the number one focus, with 77 per cent of companies working on energy efficiency followed by nearly half (48 per cent) looking to optimise their production processes. A further 32 per cent want to increase their resource efficiency by using or wasting less resources.

This could be something as simple as moving production lines nearer to the exit, so forklift trucks move only a short distance to load up the final products, to introducing complex energy saving sensors across the whole of the production line and full-scale electrification of processes. Some 32 per cent of companies have started to use on-site renewable energy generation with a further one in ten manufacturers now keen to improve their buildings for space heating and cooling.

Outside the factory it is encouraging to see that almost three quarters of manufacturers are already engaging with their supply chain to deal with their emissions (scope 3 emissions). These ‘indirect’ emissions from the value chain constitute the bulk of a company’s emissions, but they are not directly under the business’s control and are therefore harder to manage.

This is being done mainly by communicating their own net zero ambitions across their own supply chains (53 per cent of companies took this route), while a further quarter (33 per cent) are working on cutting their logistics journey and transport emissions from third party vehicles.

The report also revealed that nearly half of companies found digital transformation an important enabler towards Net Zero. And 37 per cent had already implemented at least one digital project related to sustainability while a further 35 per cent had a digital project in the pipeline in the next 12 months.

Stephen Phipson, CEO of Make UK, said: “Britain’s manufacturers have long shown that they are at the forefront of innovation globally and they have already gone a long way to improve their processes in the quest to reach Net Zero. They are making huge leaps forward and have taken much from initiatives such as COP26 as a driver for further change.

“With energy costs at historic highs, cutting energy consumption has taken on a further layer of urgency, and new business opportunities from the green economy make change even more attractive. We will continue to work collaboratively to come up with solutions which work for manufacturers and allow them to forge forward towards Net Zero with even greater speed.”