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07 January, 2020

For a minute, let’s challenge the idea that for business to do anything positive on environmental sustainability, regulation is the answer. In our latest report, Manufacturing: stepping up to the sustainability challenge, we found that manufacturers of all types and sizes are making inroads into sustainable business practice, not just because of regulation but for a variety of reasons. Cost saving is clearly a major benefit, with nearly 80% of respondents to our survey stating that this was the main driver for making an environmentally positive change to their business.

On the other hand, we learned that others are going much further, by implementing onsite renewable power generation and emerging technologies such as demand side response. Some manufacturers are also looking further afield to their wider supply chains.  

The question is really therefore, why are businesses like these, who are not always household names, going beyond regulatory compliance. The answer is as ever complex and varied but there are three main factors I think we can draw out of the report - the big three if you like:

Firstly, cost saving is a really big driver. Particularly where those savings can be quantified and where they are obvious at an early stage. Secondly, customer demand. This is crucial to why businesses are doing more than the bare minimum on the environment. Significantly, standards such as ISO14001 are playing a role in securing future business. Nearly 40% of our survey respondents said they had achieved such a standard and many customers are demanding this standard be in place.

Third, long term business sustainability. The impact of climate change hasn’t gone unnoticed by manufacturers or investors. Increasingly, a healthy business is one that is environmentally sustainable and more than just conscious of the impact of climate change. 

Of course, we can’t ignore the fact that more work is required. Of those who said they were doing more than their peers, it is arguably typical that those businesses had a deep rooted culture of environmental responsibility. This can often manifest itself in a “boardroom to shop-floor” approach. In other words, environmental responsibility is driven from the top.

*First published in PWE Magazine

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