Sustainability in Manufacturing: 5 Effective Ways for the Industry to Reduce its Impact

The manufacturing industry is one of the main drivers of carbon emissions worldwide, with direct emissions (5.2%) and indirect energy emissions (24.2%) accounting for almost one-third of global emissions. Given the considerable market size of the industry in major countries, like the US ($7,958,200m), Germany ($3,053,689m), and Switzerland ($365,591m) and the amount of emitted emissions, the need for an industry decarbonisation becomes evident. In Europe alone, the manufacturing industry accounts for an annual total of 880 million tonnes of CO2e, making it one of the continent’s largest emitters of Greenhouse Gases (GHG). 

manufacturing industry co2 emissions

With the growing importance of sustainability, the trend of the increasing demand for carbon friendly products can already be observed in several industries, including the manufacturing industry. Nowadays, it is not only customers that are increasingly looking for brands that act on a clear purpose-driven message, but also investors’ interest is constantly rising, with global sustainable investments having reached a high of $30 trillion

And while focusing on net-zero will generate a positive long-term impact on your company's financial success, it will also contribute to the conservation of natural resources, and prepare you for further tightening of carbon emissions regulations that can be expected in the near future. 

Are you interested in learning how to make operations in the manufacturing industry more climate-friendly? Tapping into the following 5 ways surely is a great way to start. So let’s dive right in!

5 Effective Ways for the Manufacturing Industry to Reduce its Environmental Impact

#1 Analyse your environmental impact & set ambitious reduction targets 

First things first - in order for you to reduce your Corporate Carbon Footprint, you first need to analyse your own environmental impact. We recommend a two-step procedure in which the Corporate Carbon Footprint is first calculated to obtain an overview of all emissions generated by your company, taking into consideration Scopes 1-3. After the analysis, you can identify effective reduction measures and set ambitious reduction targets on scopes 1-3, for example through the Science Based Targets Initiative, and report on your progress. 

We advise you to conduct a thorough analysis of your value chain, as well as your supply chain, to develop a sustainable sourcing strategy implementing emissions metrics, and to work together with suppliers to address their emissions, and possible reduction measures. Our Climate Impact Manager can serve you as a great tool to increase transparency across your operations, gain a better understanding of your emissions hotspots, and develop a holistic reduction strategy. 

You could also consider switching to clean technologies or equipment and machinery that does not require fossil fuels, but can run on renewable energy sources, such as solar, wind, hydroelectric etc. 

#2 Drive a circular economy

A circular economy is essential to drive change and reduce carbon emissions in the long run, which is why it should already be a crucial part in the initial product development and design process. By focusing on optimising your value chain and production processes, as well as adopting a 3R “reuse, reduce, recycle” approach, you can help to make the manufacturing industry more sustainable. If you want to go one step further you can also adopt a 5R approach: “repair, reuse, refurbish, re-manufacture, and recycle”.

Showcase: The Swedish car manufacturer Volvo has already recognised the importance of circularity from an early stage. Already in 1992 they established a re-manufacturing programme enabling customers to buy re-manufactured components, such as engines, filters, gearboxes and rear-axle transmissions. The re-manufacturing process uses less energy than producing completely new components from scratch. Volvo generally strives to work with materials that can easily be recovered, re-manufactured and recycled, with the goal to increase their re-manufacturing business by 60% by 2025. For example, in 2021 by re-manufacturing over 37,000 parts, they were able to save more than 4,000 tonnes of CO2.

volvo circular economy

#3 Invest in R&D & look into new materials

Going hand in hand with the previous point, the development and production of new machinery and “closed-loop” manufacturing processes that show improved properties would facilitate the shift to a more circular economy and significantly contribute to the decarbonisation of the manufacturing industry. 

In addition, you can consider looking into the use of alternative materials for the production of your products to reduce your Product Carbon Footprint. Swap out any hazardous or resource-intense materials and replace them with sustainable alternatives or recycled materials. 

#4 Invest in quality machinery & maintain and repair your equipment adequately

Investing in high quality machine parts will pay off in the long run, since those parts will have a longer life cycle, which not only decreases the need to replace them more frequently, but also lowers the amount of waste created. Conducting regular maintenance of your equipment and manufacturing processes prevents pricey equipment and personnel failures and inefficiencies, as well as possible energy-wasting leaks. 

This way, you can optimise your operational processes and reduce emissions and energy costs.

#5 Invest in data and analytics applications in manufacturing

Thanks to data and advanced analytics applications, you can increase your factory’s level of productivity and create a positive impact on the environment and society. By applying machine learning algorithms, you can increase your company’s resource efficiency, which will help you in the optimisation process of your parameters to reduce the consumption of natural resources and energy. 

The virtual simulation of your operations can also be a very effective tool to reduce the waste and costs that are associated with die try-outs. 

Developing and implementing effective measures to reduce emissions in the manufacturing industry is a complex process, which requires a systematic approach on a global scale. Yet, by starting to reduce carbon emissions and shifting towards a circular economy today, you can contribute to start driving the manufacturing industry towards net-zero. 

Are you ready to take action? Contact us!

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