The last decade has seen an immense shift in focus towards environmental responsibility across all industries. ESG (Environmental, Social and Governance) goals have begun to dominate corporate conversations, as increasingly stringent government targets and consumer preferences demand lower carbon emissions.
As research into the effect of greenhouse gases and fossil fuels becomes more extensive, sectors are required to take accountability for their emissions. As a result, eyes have focused firmly onto the manufacturing industry, which contributes 24.6% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions.
It’s never been more vital for manufacturers to take responsibility and reassess all aspects of their production process to reduce carbon emission levels, from sourcing and procurement to manufacturing and transportation. Even the smallest of changes could have a significant, positive impact on industry’s carbon footprint.
Eco-friendly manufacturing can also have a considerable impact on business wins and profit. It’s recently been found that 44% of consumers are now more likely to buy from a brand with a clear commitment to sustainability, a number that is likely only to increase. As more and more people assess their personal contributions to global warming, many are re-evaluating the businesses they partner with.
In recent times, manufacturers have engaged with sustainable initiatives purely from the point of view of efficiency, as they aim to streamline supply chains and counter rising commodity prices. But sustainability goes beyond these bigger challenges, and many smaller, more tangible changes can have an immediate and positive effect.
Switching to Renewable Energy
- Even if manufacturers are unable to alter their manufacturing processes directly, they can at least aim to power these processes using renewable energy. Businesses currently relying on fossil fuels can make the switch to renewables, like wind and solar energies, to reduce their overall carbon footprint.
Internal Green Initiatives
- A commitment to sustainable manufacturing can start with the people in your business. Campaigning for energy savings across an entire business, from manufacturers seeking energy-saving efficiencies, to office workers remembering to switch off technology at the end of the day, can have a ricochet effect on a company’s wider sustainability targets.
- Encouraging staff to simply ‘think green’ can also have a considerable impact on general emissions levels, for example by inviting colleagues to use trains, buses, and bikes rather than driving to or for work.
Looking beyond day-to-day practices, it’s also important that businesses reassess their wider processes. Although globalisation and increasingly advanced technology has prompted global sourcing, the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic combined with ecological initiatives have encouraged many to source parts and materials closer to home.
Onshoring, Nearshoring, and Reshoring
- As increasing numbers of consumers turn to those with sustainability credentials, product traceability has become a key consideration for manufacturers aiming to improve their carbon footprint. Transportation and logistics contribute a third of the world’s carbon emissions, and this figure has actually increased by 8% since pandemic measures have lifted. It’s never been more important, then, for manufacturers to limit the amount of transportation they require.
- Onshoring and nearshoring offer invaluable solutions to this problem. If a manufacturer is based in Europe, parts sourced from the Far East will evidently require significantly more transportation than parts sourced from the UK, facilitating an overall lower carbon footprint from the very beginning of a production process.
- Aside from its sustainability benefits, a by-product of onshoring and nearshoring is the reduction of lead times, meaning manufacturers can rely on a steady stream of parts to meet demand. Localised sourcing also allows businesses to avoid unexpected shipping and customs charges, and the physical proximity between customer and supplier also enhances more fruitful communication and therefore an overall more efficient production process.
Aside from its inherent ecological advantages, sustainable manufacturing offers businesses financial and logistical benefits, alongside a competitive advantage. Environmental responsibility will play an increasingly important role across all industries, and accountability is crucial to drive meaningful and measurable improvements for our planet.