Survey: 3 in 4 manufacturing executives don't understand their company's carbon footprint

A survey of more than 150 C-suite executives at UK-based manufacturers has revealed a gap in understanding about calculating and reducing emissions in line with climate science and the national net-zero target.

The UK's manufacturing sector employs some 2.7 million people and represents 69% of the national private sector's annual R&D investment

The UK's manufacturing sector employs some 2.7 million people and represents 69% of the national private sector's annual R&D investment

Conducted by management consultancy Vendigital in May 2021, the survey asked the 152 respondents for information about their knowledge on carbon measurement and management, as well as their business’s plans for transitioning to net-zero across their direct (Scope 1 and 2) and indirect (Scope 3) emissions. The results were published in a report late last week.

On a positive note, 98% of respondents said that their organisation is investing in decarbonisation initiatives for the 12 months ahead. But the professionals, broadly, seemed keen to invest in initiatives with a low upfront cost and with quick payback times, in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The most popular move cited by respondents is joining the UN’s Race to Zero Initiative. There was also strong support for making processes more efficient, procuring renewable electricity and investing in emissions management and tracking.

Only one-third of respondents worked for organisations with sustainable sourcing strategies, with two-thirds saying they would only align their sourcing strategies with net-zero if there was also a cost benefit. Similarly, only 35% of respondents worked for organisations that have already appointed a head of sustainability or are planning to do so this financial year.

Moreover, the survey revealed a gap in knowledge among members of the C-suites themselves. 74% of the respondents admitted that they do not have a complete understanding of their company’s absolute carbon footprint and the changes that will need to be made to reduce emissions.

Vendigital’s director Dominic Tribe said: “The lack of investment is concerning when you consider that decarbonisation initiatives can take many years to implement, and even longer to deliver a cost-benefit. Without immediate action, UK manufacturers could lose ground in the race to net-zero.

“Manufacturers are facing a major challenge to decarbonise their products and operations in a short timeframe and significant investment will be needed. They need to find ways to take cost out and invest strategically to ensure they remain both commercially and environmentally competitive.”

‘Made Smarter’

In related news, the All-Party Parliamentary Manufacturing Group (APMG) and thinktank Policy Connect have today (12 July) published a report outlining the case for a new national programme, called ‘Made Smarter’, that would support and mandate UK-based manufacturers to align their operations and value chains with net-zero by prioritising efficiency in-house in the near-term.

The report stipulates that, by improving energy, resource and process efficiency alone to match the best-in-class, the UK’s manufacturing sector could become 24% more profitable while slashing annual emissions by 9%. At the same time, it could generate 30% more new jobs.

A robust ‘Made Smarter’ plan, the report states, would cover skills and economic resilience as well as climate action in the form of emissions mitigation. It outlines how businesses see supply chain resilience and good digital technology as the biggest factors in whether they will successfully adapt to future disruption including the transition to net-zero. Skills gaps were also raised as a key concern but potential area for opportunity.

The report comes as the AMPG, in collaboration with the Manufacturing Commission, is undertaking an inquiry into how the sector can be supported to deliver a green recovery from Covid-19.

APMG member Jack Dromey MP said: “We will not be able to rise to the enormous challenges of combatting Covid-19, mitigating the impacts of climate change, and levelling up the economy without a resilient manufacturing sector.  Neither should we fall behind competitor countries that are investing massively in their manufacturing sectors.”

APMG member Sarah Olney MP added: “It really is imperative that the corporation tax super deduction, announced in the Spring Budget, is designed and implemented in such a way that recognises our environmental obligations. If we are to reach out net-zero target, then the Government ought to explore ways of using this initiative as a way of incentivising businesses to reduce their carbon emissions. Otherwise, it is a wasted opportunity and one we cannot afford.”


The Net-Zero Business Barometer from edie

New for 2021, edie’s bi-annual Net-Zero Business Barometer provides a regular temperature check and progress update regarding the decarbonisation of organisations across the UK.

The Barometer is supported by Inspired Energy and based on an in-depth online survey, conducted between June and July 2021, which 161 polled in-house energy and sustainability professionals at organisations of all sizes and sectors to analyse net-zero carbon progress to date and future decarbonisation plans. 

Click here to download your copy of the findings (this is a free report). 


Sarah George



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