An exhaustive exercise conducted by academics in the Midlands to identify best practice among UK manufacturers has established a link between companies with good environmental practices and commercial success.
The annual Manufacturing Excellence (MX) Benchmarking Survey found that the more successful companies are not only the most efficient in reducing waste but that energy efficiency is now a parameter for them when buying new technologies.
Furthermore, it concluded that sound environmental responsibility has significantly helped manufacturers secure new contracts.
The survey, conducted by the Institution of Mechanical Engineers (IMechE), the Warwick Manufacturing Group and Durham Business School, asked over 230 questions to audit each of the 120 companies taking part - regardless of their size, sector or location.
It concluded that:
* 60 per cent of manufacturers accept used products from customers for recycling.
* 60 per cent have a formal policy for reducing energy consumption.
* 50 per cent are accredited environmental management standard ISO 14001
* 45 per cent have introduced switch-off policies and the reduction of heat requirements for processes and facilities.
Dr John Garside, a Principal Fellow at the Warwick Manufacturing Group said: ?Manufacturers are being forced to look at their environmental policy and energy efficiency with a renewed sense of urgency in the face of spiralling costs.
?Those that are already ahead of the game have discovered welcome additional benefits in the form of sales orders.?
Among the Midland firms which have benefited from being environmentally friendly are Copa in West Bromwich, which manufactures water filtration systems.
The firm has many water companies as customers who all require the highest standards of safety and environ-mental control.
Some of the key practices employed by the more successful organisations include setting up facilities on site to recycle materials such as paper, steel wood and plastic, and designing products to ensure they can be easily dismantled at the end of their operating lives and include no harmful materials.
Other abilities include identifying and reducing any environmental impact from the sourcing of materials through to final product delivery and training staff in environmental procedures and increasing their aware-ness of the environmental impact of business decisions.
Further analysis of best practice in UK manufacturing companies will be conducted next March when entries to the 2006 MX Benchmarking Survey are due to be submitted.