A new report from Policy Connect has said that resource and energy efficiency should be an economic priority for the UK.
Industrial Evolution: Making British Manufacturing Sustainable was produced by Policy Connect’s Manufacturing Commission, which was chaired by Chi Onwurah MP and Professor Steve Evans.
The report warns that the growing global middle class will put pressure on resources, and that the UK manufacturing sector will need to respond to this to survive.
It suggests that in areas such as clean technologies, eco-design and new business models, the UK is well placed to be a world leader and to take advantage of the growing market for more sustainable goods and ideas.
While serving environmental objectives, a sector-wide focus on productivity gains through energy and resource efficiency should be regarded as an economic priority with the global market for sustainable business operations expected to reach $1.5 trillion to $4.5 trillion by 2020.
Conservative estimates suggest that the UK could gain through energy and resource efficiency around £10 billion per year plus 300,000 jobs and a 4.5% reduction in annual greenhouse gas emissions.
The report shows evidence that green initiatives raise company profits, but many companies are not benefitting because responsibility for energy and resource efficiency is often at middle management level rather than being a key strategic priority for the chief executive downwards.
Ideas suggested for policymakers in the report include:
Measures to decrease the knowledge gap on energy and resource efficiency, such as data sharing and sustainability champions within a firm’s hierarchy should be promoted
Sustainability should be entrenched across the UK’s education system particularly in engineering and management courses
The Office for National Statistics should develop an enhanced data infrastructure for tracking material flows
An Office for Resource Management should be established within BIS to advise and coordinate policy-makers on the challenges and opportunities around resource security.
Government should make greater use of procurement to provide a market for sustainably manufactured goods
The UK should take a lead in establishing standards for open data in energy and resource efficiency
Government should expand efforts to foster voluntary agreements around the efficient use of materials and waste reduction
The National Industrial Symbiosis Programme (NISP) should be refunded as a national initiative.
In the introduction to the report, Chi Onwurah and Steve Evans wrote: “Britain gave birth to the industrial revolution over two centuries ago. In this new world of constrained resources, growing populations and planetary boundaries, we must fundamentally change the way we make things.
“We ultimately need another industrial revolution, based on a deeper understanding of the interaction between manufacturing and the physical world it takes place in.”