Industry takes leading role in charge to Net Zero target

Almost two thirds of UK manufacturers have taken positive action towards their Net Zero target in the past 12 months, new research from Make UK has found.

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The research - COP26 6 Months On’shows that over a third (35 per cent) of businesses already have a fully formed Net Zero strategy in place and have started to implement it, whilst 14 per cent have defined their Net Zero strategy but not set it in motion. Over a third of companies said that achieving Net Zero is high priority for their business.

Despite the challenges of navigating Brexit and the Covid-19 pandemic, plus ongoing inflationary pressures, manufacturers have realised the importance of Net Zero and the benefits a green economy can bring to their business.

In a statement, 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.” 

Almost half (48 per cent) of companies in the North stated that achieving Net Zero is a high priority for their business right now compared to 28 per cent and 25 per cent in the Midlands and South respectively. Tackling their own internal factory emissions has been the primary focus, with 77 per cent of companies working on energy efficiency followed by 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.

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.

A quarter of companies are training their staff on sustainability to make sure they have the right skills for the transition to net zero, and almost three quarters of manufacturers are engaging with their supply chain to deal with their scope 3 emissions.

Nearly two thirds (62 per cent) of manufacturing businesses are driven to take further action on net zero by the rising cost of energy, while another two thirds (63 per cent) are being pushed by their customers or their employees (31 per cent) to strengthen their green credentials. While overall awareness of government-led initiatives is not high, there was good engagement around COP26 (such as Race to Zero and the SME Climate Hub), with a quarter of companies saying these helped speed up the process.

Some 38 per cent of companies see competitive advantage through the introduction of innovative products or services and having a positive Net Zero strategy as a key attraction for recruiting new talent to the business (35 per cent).

A quarter of manufacturers also mentioned commercial opportunities such as being listed as an approved supplier for public/private procurement schemes (24 per cent), access to new higher value ‘green’ markets (24 per cent) and access to finance for new projects (25 per cent) as a driver to speed up their decarbonisation journey.

“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,” said Phipson. “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.”