Report urges manufacturers to `build-in’ sustainability

UK manufacturers need to improve the efficiency with which they use resources by five to 10 fold to meet the need for sustainability, says a report published this week by the Institute for Manufacturing.

The improvement depends on building in sustainability from the product design stage and `cannot be considered a bolt-on’, says the report. `Environmental management systems such as ISO14001 can lead to more sustainable manufacturing techniques, but they stop short of providing the necessary holistic view,’ says the IfM.

It defines sustainability as `the conceptualisation, design and manufacture of goods and services that meet the needs of the present generation while not diminishing economic, social and environmental opportunity in the long-term’.

Three factors are behind its increase in importance: treaties on limiting emissions of greenhouse gases and waste minimisation; green consumerism and pressure from investors; and the fluctuating price or availability of materials and resources.

As an example of what needs to be done, the report cites Interface Corporation of the US, which has invented a new floor covering which can be completely remanufactured into an identical new product. It lasts four times as long and uses 40% less material than ordinary carpets.

The IfM is organising a consultation day at the end of June and is looking for industrial partners for further research.

* The Engineering Employers’ Federation is launching a scheme to encourage members to improve their environmental reporting.

A survey by Business in the Environment last month criticised the engineering and machinery sector because of a poor showing in a survey in which it evaluated FTSE-listed companies against 12 environmental criteria.

The EEF will act as a facilitator for discussions, which should get under way by late summer, aimed at benchmarking environmental reports and agreeing which indicators industry should report on.

Paul Reeve, the EEF’s head of safety and environment, said: `Business in the Environment has made a mistake in saying engineering is off the pace. There are a lot of companies out there not reporting on good news.’

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