Manufacturers increase investment in green strategies

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Manufacturers are showing a greater commitment to resource efficiency but concerns remain at the lack of use of eco-design, says a survey published today (10 March).

Measuring Performance - EEF Environment Survey 2009 says Britain's manufacturers are continuing to increase their investment in environmental strategies and resource efficiency in order to improve business performance. Research among nearly 300 manufacturing companies across the UK revealed that firms are embedding resource efficiency in to their business culture, with almost 4 in every 5 companies citing cost savings as the main driver behind improved environmental performance. "In the past the environmental agenda was seen as detracting from profitability but increasing evidence suggests this perspective has changed" according to Gareth Stace, head of climate and environment policy at EEF. "Businesses are now increasingly aware of the benefits that can be reaped by adopting an environmental agenda. In many cases manufacturers realise that resource efficiency can help keep an organisation profitable" Lean manufacturing also featured highly with three quarters of companies surveyed applying it to at least some part of their process, with many applying it across the whole organisation. However, the survey found that despite considerable legislation and promotion there has been a disappointing take up of eco-design. This is an approach which focuses on reducing environmental impacts of the product during its whole life, from raw material acquisition, through production and finally to end of life treatment, recycling and disposal. By incorporating this, manufacturers would be able to tap in to a growing market for resource efficiency products worth an estimated £75bn. But two-thirds of firms say they have not or are not planning to adopt this strategy. The poor take up of Eco-Design is in part due to the significant investment required, EEF says. The survey suggests that this is a major problem for companies with nearly two-thirds of firms saying that an impact on cash flow or profit margins was a barrier to improving their environmental performance, which is an increase of 12% on last year's survey. According to EEF this is where the government can and, must do more, to help. "Businesses especially SMEs need further support to implement improvement strategies. There is a clear role for government here in making business aware of easily attainable 'quick wins' as well as those areas that require investment such as Eco-Design," said Stace.. "This can be achieved by providing clear and targeted information to organisations. If organisations are provided with clear information on the business benefits of adopting environmental measures, they are likely to adopt them without being pressured to do so." The survey findings include: • 79% of companies cited cost reduction as the main driver for improved environmental performance. • 83% of companies who adopted environmental strategies say it led to cost saving • 90% of respondents have taken some sort of action on waste reduction • 67% said that impact on cash flow or profit was a barrier to environmental performance, with a similar number blaming lack of management time. • 20% of companies do not know whether Carbon Reduction Commitment applies to them