UK car manufacturing sector prospers while cuttings its environmental impacts

UK car manufacturing sector prospers while cuttings its environmental impacts

As our Next Manufacturing Revolutioncollaboration gathers momentum, uniting leading manufacturers, academics and associations in the pursuit of improved performance via best practice in business, technology and resource efficiency, PR professional Katharine Earley reviews a British automotive manufacturing success story that combines progress on environmental and carbon impacts with hope of economic recovery and a brighter outlook for UK manufacturing.

The UK automotive industry has revealed groundbreaking progress in reducing its environmental impacts while reporting its highest manufacturing output in eight years. The news coincided almost exactly with the launch of theNext Manufacturing Revolution initiative, and provides an encouraging indication that adopting a more sustainable approach to manufacturing can and does result in profitable outcomes.

Auto manufacturing in Britain has seen dramatic improvements in environmental performance since 2010, the annual Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) sustainability report confirms, with significant per vehicle reductions achieved in energy and water use, carbon emissions and waste to landfill. Meanwhile, UK automotive manufacturing turnover is up more than 12% to £55bn, with production figures up 17% for the year to date.

I read the latest SMMT news alongside a flurry of positive green announcements from the global automotive industry – Toyota has just been named as Interbrand’s ‘Greenest brand in the world’ for the second year running (with HondaVolkswagen and BMW all appearing in the top ten), while Toyota and BMW are strengthening a research partnership to advance low carbon vehicle technologies. It seems to me that the news of a British auto manufacturing revival delivers a much-needed a sense of optimism to help counter both gloom surrounding the economy and critical media commentaries on the perceived state of UK manufacturing.

The greatest progress on sustainability highlighted by the SMMT report was in water usage, with the total amount of water used across the auto manufacturing industry falling by more than 10% since 2010. This is attributed to investment in water-saving technologies, enhanced resource efficiency processes and reduced fresh water usage within paint shops. Manufacturing CO2 emissions per vehicle have dropped by more than 13%, while manufacturing waste to landfill has dropped by 20% per vehicle, suggesting that despite the increase in sales, total carbon emissions and waste levels still fell.

Investment in the UK car manufacturing industry has been largely driven by global vehicle manufacturers (such as Jaguar Land RoverBMW and Japanese giants ToyotaHonda and Nissan), with more than £5.5bn of capital being invested in the sector in the past two years. David Cameron himself visited Toyota’s Derbyshire plant back in November as the company announced £100m of investment and 1,500 new jobs in the UK for 2012, while Honda is now mass producing the new European Civic at its Swindon factory, promising 500 new jobs and a 100% increase in output to 180,000 units during the course of this year.

Overall, it’s certainly positive news that a historically high-emitting manufacturing sector has enjoyed business growth and profitability while cutting its carbon and environmental footprints and improving its energy, resource and waste management processes. There is of course still a long way to go and the majority of carmakers have yet to reach a zero emissions manufacturing operation. Let’s hope that next year the figures are even more impressive!

This article was published on the 2degrees network website.