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Environment bill places greater onus on manufacturers

The transformative Environment Bill is set to introduce legally-binding improvement targets in an effort to address ecological priorities. It aims to lay the groundwork to ensure the UK is in a position to meet our ambitious 2050 net-zero carbon targets.

A new, independent Office of Environmental Protection is set to be established, tasked with scrutinising environmental law and given the power to take enforcement action even against other government and public bodies that fail to meet environmental targets.

Environmental targets

However, crucially, while the general areas that the Bill will cover have been laid out in broad strokes, the specific legislation has still not been unveiled. For many manufacturers it will inevitably impact on a number of processes and systems, meaning that any preparations that can be made now could prove invaluable down the line, as stricter requirements start to come into force.

Major players, such as Tata Steel, BASF Plc, Cemex, Make UK and the UK Chemical Industries Association had all raised concerns to Government about the need to balance environmental protection against other priorities in an increasingly competitive sector.

As a result, and in part due to the rapid growth in renewable energy in the UK, with many major manufacturers moving towards 100% renewables or having already achieved it, both energy legislation and overall carbon emissions will not be the direct focus of much of the Environment Bill.

Instead, it will focus on wider aspects of environmental sustainability, including air quality, waste plastic, maintaining biodiversity and the sustainable management of both waste and water.

Alarm bells

Following the announcement of the Environment Bill, car manufacturers became one of the first sectors specifically targeted by the upcoming legislation.

The draft bill included new oversights for the industry that could see car makers forced to recall vehicles that do not meet environmental standards, a move that could affect millions of vehicles and send alarm bells across the wider manufacturing sector.

The UK automotive industry, led by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), has called for realistic policies from government to support the transition to a low carbon future, with a warning that the anti-diesel agenda and slow take-up of electric vehicles could mean industry misses its next round of CO2 targets in 2021, with negative consequences for the UK’s own climate change goals.

Overall, the Environment Bill is intended to both tighten the UK’s environmental sustainability efforts across the board and to pick up where the extensive EU legislation ends.

Direct impact

While the direct impact of the new rules remains difficult to predict, given the lack of clarity over specifics, manufacturers are among those most likely to be impacted by new rules surrounding air quality, plastics and waste management.

Even if not directly affected by these new compliance issues, larger companies, such as those who are members of the Renewable Energy 100 club (RE100.org) – 205 members already and rising – are well advanced in their implementation of new technologies and business process re-engineering to meet green targets.

Inevitably, these organisations will also require their supply chain partners to fall in line as new rules require them to be transparent about their wider carbon footprint and sustainability impacts.

The people power demand for changes in packaging and use of plastics is unlikely to reduce as the profile of such matters increase in media and protests.

People power

“For the first time Whitehall is rightly placing the responsibility on producers and manufacturers rather than the shopper, who has wrongly carried the plastic guilt for decades,” said A Plastic Planet co-founder Sian Sutherland.

“Plastics pollution is not a shopper problem. It’s not even a litter problem. It’s a production problem and this new bill will finally make change happen. As shoppers we buy what we are sold and we desperately need to be sold something other than plastic.”

Similarly, even the more temperate LGA – which represents council leaders – also said the government needed to ensure that producers pay the full cost of recycling.

LGA’s environment spokesman Cllr David Renard said: “To help councils increase recycling rates, manufacturers need to use packaging that is fully and easily recyclable and government needs to ensure producers pay the full cost of recycling packaging.

“More importantly, manufacturers need to reduce waste at the point of source to stop unnecessary and unrecyclable material becoming an issue in the first place.”

Political uncertainty

With manufacturing suffering enormous political uncertainty in its long-term capital investment planning cycles, it is unsurprising many manufacturers are embracing and revisiting energy and technology cost reduction methods and techniques and, in particular, if funded by third parties.

Many organisations have previously investigated technologies that could reduce cost and carbon emissions, but with increasing cost pressures and, with further costs to come through, now is the time to consider options.

This might include on-site generation, such as CHP or Solar PV, to avoid paying pass-through charges, it may include payments for providing Demand Side Response (DSR) capacity, or monitoring to see not only where and how energy is used, but to use new software to attack cost and emissions through machine learning techniques and AI.

New Energy Strategies

In the near future more and more manufacturers may consider changing operational patterns to take advantage of cost reduction opportunities or may focus on business continuity in the event of power outages induced by fluctuating renewable generation on network changes.

Energy efficiency and increased productivity will continue to be priorities driven by both cost and environmental pressures, but the introduction of a new Environmental Bill is likely to make an energy managers life just a little bit harder!

It is becoming an even more pressing issue for manufacturers, given the energy-intensive nature of the sector, and the significant amounts of water use and waste it has the potential to create, to ensure that their house is in order to avoid disruption further down the line as new, ever-increasing and more stringent rules are put in place to ensure collective compliance with the broad objectives of the Environment Bill.

To find out more about how Inenco can help you to develop a strategy that looks at both energy and the environment, speak to our experts on 01253 785 294