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Manufacturing is the largest emitting industrial sector, generating 16% of total UK greenhouse gas emissions in 2019.

This means that if the UK is to meet its target of becoming net zero by 2050Link opens in a new window, manufacturers have a considerable part to play.

Climate change and sustainability drivers, such as consumer behaviours, could incentivise SME manufacturers to develop innovative solutions that support moves to decarbonise the economy.

From developing renewable energy technologies to manufacturing products that capture carbon or use fewer non-renewable resources, SME manufacturers can support net zero through their decarbonisation actions and the products they make.

What are the benefits of sustainable manufacturing?

Becoming more sustainable can reduce costs and increase profits.

A survey carried out before the Covid-19 pandemic by Make UK found that manufacturers who put sustainability at the heart of their businesses enjoy substantial business advantages, with 40% reporting increased profit margins and 30% increased competitiveness.

Not all manufacturers face the same net zero challenges so while some standard approaches broadly apply, such as replacing inefficient lighting and switching energy suppliers to those that use renewable energy generation, manufacturing can be complex, involving plant, materials, and processes that can be difficult to decarbonise.

An initial approach could be to examine your supply chain, use of materials, waste management and operations to identify where more sustainable systems can be introduced.

There are two broad types of sustainable activities for SME manufacturers to consider: sustainable opportunity activities and decarbonisation activities.


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