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All over the world, entire sectors are finding and refining ways to “green up their act” without sacrificing competitiveness or growth. The balance isn’t always an easy one to strike, but climate change is likely to go down as the defining challenge of our times so the pressure is only building. Environmental pollution, waste reduction and energy efficiency are all crucial factors – we’re trying to keep the planet hospitable, after all. What’s often understated in all this, though, is the simple fact that greener methods and end products are just good business.

In manufacturing, more and more greened-up businesses are seeing improved bottom lines, better reputations and even a more motivated workforce. Green manufacturing firms have created jobs while other businesses have been shedding employees, and are building a new and increasingly vital skills base.

The COVID-19 pandemic is putting strain on every sector, but innovation and a tight focus on sustainable products and processes are still key tools in taking manufacturing forward. We’re talking about an industry with innovation embedded in its DNA here. It’s not only essential that manufacturing lead the charge into a greener future; it’s basically inescapable. Businesses across the sector are switching to more sustainable materials, ecologically sound packaging and even “green electronics”. Manufacturing firms are driving down their water consumption and reducing their carbon footprints. “Bio materials” like wheat straw plastics are starting to gain a foothold as a waste-reducing option, offering a 90% drop in water use and a 40% energy saving in production.

More efficient use of energy alone provides some of the biggest benefits of green manufacturing, shifting into decarbonised power and more sustainable electricity. Meanwhile the Industrial Internet of Things (IIOT) is connecting processes and streamlining information use throughout the sector. Linking up sensing and actuation equipment is a great way of optimising energy consumption, and predictive technologies are working to cut downtimes to a minimum and boost productivity as a whole.

Looking at the challenges thrown into manufacturing’s path by the COVID-19 outbreak, one of the biggest shocks felt by the industry comes from the sheer universality of the impact. The demand for products, the ability to supply them and the workforce available to produce them have all been hit at the same moment, and on a global scale. Not all the impacts have been the same, of course. Some manufacturers have seen an enormous leap in demand from panic buyers, while others have seen the call for their products plummet. Meanwhile, businesses that are heavily dependent on overseas suppliers have been struggling to adjust – or even to meet their basic day-to-day needs.

Again, though, that same spirit of innovation driving green manufacturing is a pivotal factor. Developments behind remote diagnostics and long-distance collaboration, just to pick out some examples, are suddenly being thrown into sharp focus at a time when social distancing requirements risk costing manufacturers up to half their on-site workforce. Businesses already set up to take advantage of these technologies and ideas have a significant jump-start on those that aren’t.

With the world set to have consumed 75% of its natural resources in the next 30 years, CO2 needs to come down by almost half by 2030 to avoid the worst, most irreversible damage. That alone should be enough to push any industry in a greener direction. If you need a more immediate reason, though, a glance through the list of productivity boosts, public relations advantages and added resilience to unprecedented crises should be enough to convince you of the obvious truth: innovative green manufacturing is an idea whose time has come.

Get credit for your green innovations in this difficult climate with research and development tax credits claim assistance from RIFT. Find out more about R&D tax credits for the manufacturing sector, deep dive into the world of business innovation with our insights, or contact RIFT R&D today on 01233 653008 to find out how we can maximise your benefits.

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