Manufacturers should adopt more eco-friendly production techniques to combat the recession, a report claims.
Turning to sustainable resources management will also assist in preparing businesses for an increasingly regulated post-recession economy, according to the EEF, the manufacturers’ organisation, and Barclays Commercial Bank.
They say manufacturers are missing out on making far more efficient use of environmental resources to cut costs and to adapt themselves to increasing amounts of environmental legislation.
The report, Resource Efficiency; Business benefits from sustainable resource management, identifies and analyses positive effects of resource efficiency in UK manufacturing and outlines major benefits and opportunities for companies. Its aim is to promote a greater understanding of sustainable manufacturing as well as to describe ways of making a wide variety of factories more eco-friendly.
The report is the first in a series being launched by EEF in its “Manufacturing Your Future” campaign which is offering companies advice, guidance and support in the economic downturn.
Commenting on the report, Darby Allan, EEF’s health, safety, climate and environment (HSCE) Leader for the Midlands said: “Many companies underestimate the true cost of inefficient business processes because of a lack of understanding of environmental costs.
“Behaviour change is often a first step towards realising considerable savings. However, in some instances doing things differently will require more significant investment and market forces alone may not be enough to provide for the necessary change.
“The government must set out clear objectives and timescales for sustainable resource management as part of its low carbon strategy, which businesses can use to plan their operations strategically.”
Ray O’Donoghue, head of manufacturing at Barclays Commercial Bank, said: “While environmentalism has traditionally been considered a back seat issue during a recession, the strong correlation between resource efficiency and cost control should be pushing energy use and waste management much further up the corporate agenda.”
The report suggests that more than reducing costs, successful resource efficiency increases the utility of materials, energy and water throughout the life of products and services. It can also ensure more cost-effective compliance with existing and future legislation, while promoting competitiveness through product differentiation and an enhanced corporate reputation.
“With both US and Australian leadership now signed up to the fight against climate change and a new international climate change agreement likely to be signed in Copenhagen in December, sustainable resource use will eventually replace battling recession as the top issue for manufacturing leaders,” Mr O’Donoghue said. “For any industrial company that has the capacity to look beyond day to day business issues despite economic challenges, the time to start acting on resource efficiency is now.”
The report highlights the urgency of implementing resource efficiency with fluctuations in energy (and raw material) prices, heightened consumer awareness of climate change and government sanctions adding to this urgency.
The report outlines the potential for sustainable development if government continues to work with the private sector to encourage greater investment in recycling, renewable energy and production, and offers practical steps for manufacturers to boost the resource efficient credentials.
Manufacturing companies taking the lead on implementing a resource-efficient business model can also improve their competitiveness and gain access to new markets and sources of capital.
They also appeal more to investors while cutting the risk of not complying with legislation.A closer relationship with suppliers may also be forged off of the back of a resource efficiency programme, leading to reduced risk of supply chain failures.
To achieve the goals set out in the report, government, in partnership with industry, should seek to provide a long-term strategy for resource management with clear objectives and timescales, and a regulatory framework that is risk-based, proportionate and coherent and incentivises resource efficiency.
n The report can be downloaded from www.eef.org.uk