Sector trends

The business case for the green transition

Sustainable Manufacturing Insights Series: how becoming sustainable makes businesses healthier and more profitable.

The webinar featured insights from:

  • Steve Barbour, Managing Director of Composite Braiding; 
  • Andrew Clifton, Global Sustainability Manager at Rolls-Royce; 
  • Steve Foxley, CEO of the Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC)
  • Margarete McGrath, Strategic Propositions Global Lead at Dell Technologies
  • Professor Andrew Schofield, Programme and Technology Integration Director at BAE Systems
  • Mark Yeeles, Vice President of Industrial Automation at Schneider Electric

The spotlight guest was Roger Morton, Managing Director for Technology and Innovation at European Metal Recycling (EMR).

Key takeaways

  • The main opportunities that sit alongside manufacturers’ growing obligation to be sustainable are reducing production costs and gaining new business
  • SMEs and larger manufacturers have their own unique parts to play in achieving industry-wide sustainability
  • Sustainability is a global journey that can’t be completed by businesses acting individually; collaboration and transparency are key, and technology supports both
  • To start reaping the rewards of sustainability, businesses must first assess their current position; they can then identify opportunities, measure improvement and build confidence

The business case for going green is strong – and not only for cost-efficiency

Sustainability is fast becoming a licence to operate for manufacturers, but the case for going green isn’t just about surviving. There are also significant business opportunities that sit alongside the obligation.


By optimising energy usage and limiting waste – two of the simplest ways to reduce emissions – businesses naturally cut operating costs. They become leaner and, in turn, more resilient and versatile; these are vital characteristics to have in the current climate, but will also keep manufacturers healthy in the long term.

Green manufacturers can create new commercial opportunities, too, as the appetite among consumers and other businesses for sustainable products continues to grow.

The real big advantage, which we weren’t expecting, is the huge interest in our low-carbon products that we're seeing from our customers. Everyone is talking to us in a way that they weren’t a few years ago about low-carbon materials, and that’s creating all kinds of commercial opportunities in all different sectors.

Roger Morton
Managing Director for Technology and Innovation, EMR

Manufacturers of all sizes have a part in creating industry-wide change

Innovation is what drives sustainable change, but industry-wide sustainability will only be achieved if new, greener ways of working can be applied at scale. 


SMEs with their smaller, more defined remits have a vital role to play here as they’re better able to develop, pilot and measure new technologies. Large manufacturers can then learn from the innovations of SMEs and apply them at scale.


It must be a two-way exchange, however. With greater resources, large manufacturers must support innovation at SME level. That means investment in collaborative problem-solving - one company could fund R&D for a smaller supplier, for example: the investor improves production efficiency as a result and the supplier can provide the same, proven solution to others.

Over the last five to ten years, the need for collaboration and working in partnership – with academia, research centres, SMEs, start-ups, blue-chip companies, technology providers – has grown significantly.

Professor Andrew Schofield
Programme and Technology Integration Director, BAE Systems

Sustainability is a global, industry-wide journey, not a competition between siloed businesses

While being green can make businesses more competitive, the journey there relies on effective collaboration and knowledge-sharing between companies of all types and sizes. 


Most manufacturers will find that others in their networks have similar concerns and objectives around sustainability. Each organisation also has expertise that can be used to benefit the wider shift towards greener manufacturing – if that expertise is shared openly and honestly. 

I’d encourage all businesses to start having conversations with their suppliers, particularly their tech providers. Every technology company right now is really focused on supporting customers with reducing their carbon footprint, but also with driving greater efficiency through data, analytics and cloud technology

Margarete McGrath
Strategic Propositions Global Lead, Dell Technologies

The best starting point is to know your baseline

Knowing where to start is a common stumbling block for manufacturers that want to be more sustainable. Digital analytics is a crucial part of the journey, but, for that to be useful, businesses must first be able to accurately assess their current position so they can identify opportunities, create objectives and measure progress.

Businesses want to perform analytics hastily, without having access to the right data. My advice is to start collecting your data through sensor technology, to give you a better understanding of where the baseline sits today. Then build your programme from there

Mark Yeeles
Vice President, Industrial Automation, Schneider Electric

If you would like to find out more about sustainable manufacturing solutions or how to make your business more sustainable, please speak to your Relationship Manager, contact WMG at wmgbusiness@warwick.ac.uk or submit an enquiry to the High Value Manufacturing Catapult at: hvm.catapult.org.uk/talk-to-us.


For SMEs, there is also the opportunity to join like-minded businesses in the Net Zero Innovation Network – find out more here: 

WMG SME Group | Net Zero Innovation Network (warwick.ac.uk)

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