Following the Government’s publication of its Net Zero Strategy, setting out a pathway to reaching net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, Gambica’s Nikesh Mistry outlines some of the simple steps the organisation’s members are taking on their journey to a sustainable future.
This Net Zero target understands that some emissions will remain, and it is unrealistic to achieve a “gross-zero” target (reducing all emissions to zero). However, the hope is that the leftover emissions can be offset by natural “carbon sinks” such as forests and oceans.
Since this announcement, the Russian invasion of Ukraine, political uncertainty, the global pandemic and other factors have fundamentally changed the economic landscape in the UK, imposing a great deal of pressure on households and businesses with high energy prices and inflationary pressures.
Given this changed economic context, the Government has commissioned a review of its approach to net zero. This aims to better understand the impact of the different ways to deliver its net zero pathway on the UK public and economy and how economic opportunities of the transition can be maximised. This strategy can be found on the gov.uk website; however, for UK manufacturers, GAMBICA members have discussed some simple steps which can be taken to assist in their journey towards a more sustainable smart factory.
The first method is, of course, technology. With Industry 4.0 at the forefront, using smart technology to optimise processes is becoming the norm. While many SMEs haven’t achieved complete digital adoption, many government-backed initiatives and catapults are helping bridge this gap with tailored and efficient solutions. If utilised correctly, we can succeed in a greener manufacturing process. With AI and robotics being used more than ever, smart technology can help re-design or improve manufacturing processes by minimising resources and simultaneously maximising output.
The second is resources. Optimisation of resources is one of the core processes for sustainable manufacturing. From raw materials and machinery to natural resources such as water, fuel etc., they all must be sourced at a reasonable cost and quality to ensure a maximised output. Manufacturers must question the procurement of their resources and calculate if a resource can be recycled or replaced with a more sustainable version. This should not only focus on new sourcing methods but also the optimisation of existing usage.
The importance of waste treatment and recycling is the next method. Manufacturers must take responsibility for their waste treatment and recycling using schemes like B2B Compliance, one of the biggest WEEE schemes aiming to protect the interests of obligated B2B producers.
Next up is energy usage. Switching to solar is one of the most efficient and obvious moves, and while not achievable in all cases, it is worth looking at when considering greener practices. Having an energy audit conducted to discover areas where you may be wasting energy is a brilliant way to start. Whether it’s the factory itself or physical equipment, ensuring minimal waste through energy is imperative. This could be key to improving operational efficiency and ultimately reducing the carbon footprint of our factories.
And last but not least, one which often gets overlooked, but is becoming increasingly important, is packaging. One of the major contributors to waste in industrial and manufacturing processes is the use of synthetics and plastics in packaging. While there are new taxes in place to assist with this, it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be analysing ways in which we can reduce this and create a more sustainable environment. Replacing synthetics with natural or recyclable materials may incur an initial cost, but it will prove more efficient in the long run.
Above are just a few ideas of how we, as an industry, can take a step back and reassess what we are doing. The best time to act on this is now, before we start filling our factories with full capacity again. So let’s take this opportunity to help achieve the Net Zero target faster than before.