Manufacturing Commission urges Britain to lead green revolution

Britain's manufacturing industry is in desperate need of a second Industrial Revolution, this time based on stronger energy efficiency policies from Government and an embedded sustainability mindset within big businesses.

That’s the crux of a new inquiry report from the UK’s cross-party Manufacturing Commission, which outlines the vital measures that Government and industry must take “to ensure British manufacturing is here to stay”.

The 130-page report – Industrial Evolution: Making British Manufacturing Sustainable – is being launched in Parliament today (27 October), one month ahead of the crucial Paris climate conference, at which the Commission hopes world leaders will take heed of its recommendations.

“This report sets out how we can start redesigning our industrial system to make it more sustainable, improve our national security, and ultimately enhance our quality of life,” said Chi Onwurah MP, who co-chaired the inquiry with Professor Steve Evans from the Institute for Manufacturing.

“We believe that we must take advantage of this leadership moment to make the UK more productive, efficient and resilient, and be a provider of solutions to the rest of the world.”

Strategy game

At the top of the Manufacturing Commission’s list of 24 recommendations within the report is the need for UK Government to promote energy efficiency measures through the provision of low-interest loans (repaid through subsequent savings from efficiency gains), tax credits and carbon reduction schemes; encouraging resilience investment, and decreasing the knowledge gap in energy and resource efficiency.

Moreover, the Commission claims that too many firms are currently structured in such a way that responsibility for resource and energy efficiency is mired at middle-management level, rather than being a key consideration in the strategic direction of the company from the CEO down. Policymakers must therefore consider how they can focus management attention on the potential gains from a long-term strategic investment in sustainability.

The Commission’s recommendations fall under five sub-categories of resilience, innovation, collaboration, system redesign and leadership. Under the latter, the Commission states that sustainability “should be entrenched across the UK’s education system” – particularly in engineering and management courses.

Change for life

Under ‘resilience’, the Commission repeats calls for the establishment of an Office for Resource Management within BIS; and under ‘system redesign’, it reiterated the need for new standards for remanufactured products, and the utilisation of private-sector procurement to provide a market for such products.

The report concludes: “Britain gave birth to the Industrial Revolution over two centuries ago. In this new world of constrained resources, growing popula­tions and planetary boundaries, we must fundamentally change the way we make things. We ultimately need another industrial revo­lution, based on a deeper understanding of the interaction between manufacturing and the physical world it takes place in.”

The Manufacturing Commission’s report was compiled over the course of a nine-month inquiry with input from business, academia, the public sector and the civil service. Read the full report here.

On-site solutions

As British manufacturers continue to battle against the perfect storm of green policy uncertainty and fluctuating energy prices, edie recently asked James Wyse – who has taken up the newly-created role of National Sustainability Lead at the manufacturer’s organisation EEF – for potential solutions. Wyse said on-site solutions such as rooftop solar panels and anaerobic digestion (AD) have become “vital tools” for businesses looking to secure future energy supply and lower energy bills.

At a global policy level, the EEF’s  senior climate and environment policy adviser Susanne Baker previously told edie that large UK manufacturers could be forced to move their operations overseas if countries cannot agree a unilateral cap on emissions at next month’s climate talks in Paris.

The release of the Manufacturing Commission’s report comes on the same day that the EEF has appointed Claire Jakobsson as its new head of climate, energy and environment policy. Jakobsson will be taking over the reins following Gareth Stace’s departure from the role to become Director of UK Steel.

Luke Nicholls

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