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How the UK can become the world’s green-shoring destination of choice

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Katherine Bennett CBE, CEO

Katherine Bennett CBE, CEO | High Value Manufacturing Catapult

3 min read Partner content

Where there is challenge, there is opportunity.

Hitting the UK’s net zero target appears to be an incredibly difficult, almost herculean task. In manufacturing alone, we believe the country needs to more than halve greenhouse gases by the end of the decade for the country to reach net zero in 2050. That’s around 41bn megatonnes, the sort of number that is difficult to contextualise but is clearly enormous.

Yet the scale of that head-spinning ambition has the potential to make the UK extraordinarily competitive during this new environmentally friendly industrial revolution. By hitting such targets, we would become a global ‘green-shoring’ destination – a low carbon region where the world’s biggest manufacturers want to secure their most efficient supply chains.

The High Value Manufacturing Catapult, which brings together academia and industry to commercialise some of the UK’s best ideas, recently identified a small fix that could help us become a green-shoring country of choice. We need a clear means of accounting for carbon emissions in manufacturing supply chains.

Our research shows that the bulk of manufacturing emissions occur in the early stages of production, such as the extraction of minerals. These emissions, known as scope three, are not typically within a manufacturer’s or production company’s control. They account for as much as 60-90% of all greenhouse gases, yet are poorly understood.

Also sometimes referred to as ‘embodied’ emissions’, we lose track of their threat because companies do not have a unified methodology to assess whether they are increasing or decreasing. We need visibility. If we cannot quantify emissions and do not possess reliable data sources, there is little chance of identifying pressing issues in the supply chain and how to solve them. And it is far easier to get that data when the supply chain is under your nose, than halfway around the world.

That is why we are calling for the Government to create a single, well understood carbon accounting standard, helping UK companies to make smart choices. Strategic organisations like the HVM Catapult can then properly oversee emissions across the sector, making sure we stay on target.

By proving emissions are on the decline, we can then encourage investment from overseas companies that want to benefit from locating in countries with top notch environmental credentials. In other words, becoming a world leader in carbon data is fundamental to any net zero aims.  

Of course, more exacting accounting standards mean that there is an even greater burden of proof on industry to cut emissions. We would like to see a swathe of industrial eco-parks across the country to help reduce those pollutants.

The parks should be self-sufficient in clean energy production, resilient against the type of global supply and pricing issues that have been all too damaging in 2022. Their creation would spur regeneration, encouraging other parts of the supply chain to locate nearby, saving transport costs – both financial and environmental.

This relocation would include bringing back processes and skills that have been internationally outsourced during the decades that the UK moved to a more services-led economy. The less time a product sits in the back of a cargo ship, the less energy and money is wasted.

The eco-parks could be stimulated through regional development strategies and fiscal incentives as part of the UK’s ‘levelling up’ agenda. This would attract private investment into regions and communities, spur economic growth, and result in high-skilled, advanced manufacturing jobs.

The carbon accounting idea is such a minor change, the eco-parks a huge undertaking. Yet small and big together here are beautiful. Combined, these initiatives could lead to the UK being, once again, the world’s leading industrial nation.

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