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Net Zero from a Manufacturing Perspective

In line with the Paris Climate Agreement to limit the impact of global warming to below 1.5°c, the UK Government was one of the first countries to commit to net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. Whilst many will argue the change is not happening fast enough, change is happening. Legislation already requires large companies to declare energy and carbon output figures, and many consider this will filter down to smaller companies in time.  Just this year, both Siemens and Apple announced net-zero goals, with many more following suit (Forbes)

So, how will this affect your manufacturing business and what actions do you need to take?

Compliance with any new legislation will drive change but prior to that, if you form part of a supply chain or are a significant manufacturing partner to companies aiming for net-zero, reducing your carbon footprint will become essential.

UK manufacturing ranks 9th in global manufacturing output (MAKEuk) and has a big part to play in reducing greenhouse gas emissions.  It is part of a sector that generates 36% of global carbon emissions (Manufacture2030) so it is essential for manufacturing companies large and small, to make the conscious shift to adopt carbon reduction strategies.

It is time for UK manufacturing PLC to act or face a decline.

Change is challenging, especially with limited resources and budgets.

Industry jargon, false claims also referred to as greenwashing, and a general lack of knowledge and support can make it hard to know where to start.

So, here are the basics.

My Carbon Footprint

Carbon footprints, usually expressed in tonnes, are calculated by adding together the total amount of greenhouse gases that are generated by the actions taken. To put this into context, the average person in the UK has a carbon footprint of 10 tonnes equivalent to filling 24 million balloons with carbon!

Where Do Emissions Come From?

Daily actions involved with industrial processing, transportation, heating, and lighting factories all use energy and release emissions.  The delivery vehicles that move your raw material and finished goods through to the cars and airplanes that support business travel all impact on your carbon footprint.

What Does Carbon Net-Zero Mean?

In simple terms, Net-Zero is

‘Where the amount of greenhouse gas emissions, including carbon dioxide, produced by a person, country, or business is balanced out by the number of emissions removed’. 

Carbon neutral is also used to describe Net-Zero.

The best way to get to net-zero would be to not produce gases in the first place, however, this would be incredibly hard, especially in manufacturing. So, the aim is to reduce the ones you can control and offset the balance remaining.

The most accessible way to offset emissions is to get involved with reforestation schemes or sending renewable energy back to the grid for others to use. Other options are being investigated, such as sucking CO2 directly out of the air but require significant investment and further research (GreenNetworkEnergy).

How Can I Reduce my Manufacturing Carbon Footprint?

Whilst each business is unique, there are key areas to focus on, some of which are free and easy to adopt whilst others require more time, resources, and investment.

Travel and transportation

  • Reduce business travel (air and road)
  • Invest in digital communication tools such as ZOOM, TEAMS, and good conferencing equipment
  • Buy local where possible and ship in volume, using multi-drop couriers
  • Consider electric vehicles and invest in charging facilities

Energy

  • Switch energy supplies to renewables sources for both gas and electricity and if budget allows, invest in solar technology
  • Use less energy by switching off lights, machines and other equipment when not in use and consider sensors which automatically switch lights on and off
  • Choose energy-efficient equipment when replacements are due

Waste

  • Reduce material consumption and remove ‘waste’ and inefficiencies from the process
  • Reduce packaging and move to sustainable materials such as card, paper, and bio bags
  • Recycle more
  • Reduce skip waste and implement a zero-landfill policy
  • Avoid single-use plastics

 

Should I get Certified?

With conflicting information and greenwashing coming to the fore, it is important to back up your carbon statements with credible facts. 

Future Net Zero is developing the FNZ standard whereas PAS 2060 is being used as the basis of a new ISO standard.  PAS 2060 is a good starting point as it sets out a framework that helps you assess your carbon emissions. Using a three-tiered system (SCOPE 1, 2, and 3) moves you forward towards the goal of net-zero.

Working with trusted agencies (The Carbon Trust and BSI) to achieve PAS 2060 is an option but one that comes with a heavy price tag.

An alternate route would be to complete your calculations in-house following PAS 2060 guides, moving through Scope I, 2, and then 3.

Specialist consultants (Spedan Consulting) can help with collecting and calculating emissions and companies such as Manufacture2030 have developed software which helps measure and monitor your carbon emissions

How Will Net Zero Benefit You?

Moving towards net-zero will help you maintain current business and provide opportunities for new business by providing a low carbon manufacturing route.

It helps improve brand credibility and strengthens both employee and customer advocacy by committing to positive action on climate change - it is a good thing to do!

By committing to a carbon reduction process, inevitably, you will save money by improving efficiencies, reducing waste and energy consumption, and driving forward innovation across the business. 

And finally, you will meet future industry, legal, and customer requirements and expectations

 

Isn't it time you started to #ACTNOW

 

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Net Zero from a Manufacturing Perspective