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Achieving a net zero future in food & drink manufacturing

While the need to drive towards net zero emissions has become universal, the food and drink manufacturing sector faces particularly acute pressures.

24 March 2022

The need to drive towards net zero emissions has become universal, the food and drink manufacturing sector face, particularly acute pressures.

Major retailers have become engaged in an ongoing race to demonstrate green credentials. Big supermarket chains are looking to secure an advantage over competitors with new sustainability initiatives. Much of the onus on securing further improvements are being placed onto suppliers, particularly manufacturers. Ensuring that your organisation has a comprehensive sustainability strategy in place and is making quantifiable progress towards your net-zero targets is becoming increasingly crucial for maintaining business with retailers.

The UK food and drink manufacturing sector has already made collective progress towards cutting carbon emissions, slashing them by 53% compared with 1990 levels. However, as expectations shift from lowering, towards achieving net-zero, the steps and easy wins many have already taken are no longer sufficient. That being said, the first step should always be to ensure that these early steps have been covered. Improved energy efficiency through engaging with staff can generate reductions of 2-4% in overall consumption, often with little cost and a relative payback period of around 6 months. Further analysis of the process can often find energy reductions of around 4-7%. Installing building management systems, LED lighting and more efficient motors and other production machineries all offer further reductions, in many cases paying for themselves with attractive payback periods of a few years.

Increasingly, manufacturers are turning to renewable energy to drive further progress towards net zero.

While on-site generation, such as solar PV, is a good option for many, this can also be achieved through renewable energy procurement contracts or green corporate Power Purchase Agreements. Both guarantee that 100% of your energy comes from clean sources, either via your supplier or purchased directly from a generator. With many solutions now available at minimal or even no additional cost compared with standard procurement, these solutions offer considerable reductions to both Scope 1 emissions and indirect Scope 2 emissions.

Following an in-depth study of the progress of the food and drink manufacturing sector towards net-zero by Centrica, a subsequent summary stated that, while many manufacturers had already secured efficiency ‘easy wins’ and maybe using on-site generation, it is unlikely to be enough to meet current targets.

The pathway for every business to achieve net-zero is different but inevitably will involve embracing innovation.

This includes utilising Internet of Things technology to dig deeper than the data provided by meters to achieve better analytics, monitoring and control.

Technology solutions, including CHP, battery storage and solar, as well as driving greater returns from these options through increased energy optimisation, will also play an important role in reducing emissions as well as giving you greater control over how you source and use energy. Further left field technologies like hydrogen and carbon capture storage will become the norm and hopefully will be more financially accessible. At current, these technologies are only available at a premium.

Navigating the complex measures needed to ensure your business is on the road towards achieving net-zero is challenging.

With over 350 manufacturing clients across the UK, Inenco is providing expert consultancy and utility management to several clients within the food and drink sector. To find out how we can help you, contact one of our net-zero experts on 08451 46 36 26.