ERP Manufacturing Insights

Carbon Neutrality Challenges in Manufacturing

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Carbon neutrality challenges in manufacturing

Even the world’s biggest manufacturers have admitted that climate change poses an enormous threat to human flourishing and are now taking steps to fulfill their duties to the planet. But the only solution that will create long-term planetary cooling is a massive reduction in carbon emissions. To do this, many experts have suggested that businesses need to become carbon neutral.”

What does it mean to be carbon neutral? Why is it difficult to achieve? And what methods can be used to achieve the rapid movement to carbon neutrality that it will take to preserve the health of the planet? The answers are complicated, but businesses are increasingly serious about finding them. 

What Is Carbon Neutrality?

The term carbon neutral” is used often, but what’s the actual definition? First, it’s important to understand, on a very simple level, what’s causing climate change. Many processes of the modern world create emissions of carbon-containing gases known as greenhouse gases,” which accumulate in the atmosphere. When the sun warms the Earth, the Earth absorbs it and then tries to re-emit it back into space — but the greenhouse gases trap the heat in the atmosphere. Over time, this causes the planet’s climate to warm.

A business or home that’s carbon neutral is one that is putting a net zero amount of these greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. That doesn’t have to mean the business or home emits no carbon, but if it does, carbon neutrality demands that it be offset through methods like planting trees (which helps remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere). Many free tools are available to get a general estimate of a business’s climate impact and begin taking the first steps on the long road to carbon neutrality. 

Why Is Carbon Neutrality a Challenge?

Carbon neutrality is difficult to achieve because nearly every aspect of the modern Western lifestyle creates greenhouse gas emissions.

All of the following create substantial amounts of carbon:

  • Driving a vehicle.
  • Using public transportation.
  • Using air conditioning or heat.
  • Raising animals for meat or dairy.
  • Manufacturing materials like iron, steel or cement.
  • Generating electricity from fossil fuels.
  • Clearing forested land.

Moreover, it’s not just CO2 that’s the problem. Several other types of gas, including methane and hydrofluorocarbons, are greenhouse gases that produce similar or greater effects as carbon dioxide. It’s almost impossible to imagine the world without many of these processes — so how can the business community pivot to greener versions?

Industrial workers of the world day2
Many manufacturers are moving toward carbon neutrality

What Are the Trends in Carbon Neutrality?

With the acknowledged difficulty in becoming carbon neutral, businesses have had to turn to new technologies and organizational structures to trim their carbon emissions. These take many forms:

For many businesses, sustainability plans and reports are increasingly seen as a necessity. A sustainability plan enables a company to take a methodical and committed approach to carbon neutrality with well-defined goals and targets, and issuing regular sustainability reports fosters accountability and keeps relevant stakeholders informed. Many manufacturers still haven’t gotten on board with sustainability initiatives — but increasingly, businesses that don’t may be left behind, so it’s important to begin investigating the steps to take now.

Allocating resources more efficiently is one big step toward achieving carbon neutrality. To do that, many businesses have chosen to embrace technologies such as manufacturing ERP software that provides a central platform for resource management and communication. Cloud-based ERP is a particularly popular option because of its easy scalability and low barriers to adoption. These manufacturing software technologies also have numerous benefits beyond carbon reduction. They can also help businesses become substantially more efficient.

Carbon offsets are another technique that’s recently gained popularity. A company can reduce its net carbon footprint by purchasing these credits” that go toward renewable energy projects, reforestation programs and other ways of protecting the environment. It’s important for anyone buying carbon offsets to ensure that they’re legitimate and enforceable. Carbon offset scams that promise but don’t deliver are unfortunately all too common, so verify any offsets through an authority like the Climate Action Reserve.

What Manufacturers Are Moving Toward Carbon Neutrality?

As previously mentioned, it’s no easy task for a manufacturer to become carbon neutral. Some businesses in other sectors, such as the UK banks HSBC and Barclays, have achieved carbon neutrality, but progress has been slower in the resource-intensive manufacturing sector. However, many are taking substantial steps in the right direction:

Siemens, the massive multinational manufacturer of industrial automation, medical devices and more, has set some of the most aggressive targets in their sector, including total carbon neutrality by the year 2030. Their results thus far have been impressive: a 33 percent reduction in CO2 emissions, a 15 percent reduction in energy costs and 80 percent of their plants in their home nation of Germany powered by renewable energy. They’ve promised a 100 million Euro investment in energy efficiency projects in 2020 — and if anyone has the resources to do it, it’s Siemens.

A consortium of major manufacturers, including huge names like DuPont, Ford, BP and Unilever, has come together with environmental organizations to lobby the U.S. government to take aggressive action against climate change. The CEO Climate Dialogue, as the group calls itself, is pushing for a carbon tax that will encourage businesses of all kinds to adopt policies that will lower emissions.

Legendary auto manufacturer Jaguar Land Rover has certified all of their UK manufacturing sites as carbon neutral, and they’re working toward the same goal for their international sites. They’ve reduced the energy used in vehicle building by an impressive 42 percent since 2007, and they continue to invest in new technologies and purchase offset credits.

Healthcare, electronics and home goods manufacturer Philips has also been meeting their aggressive sustainability targets. Their internal operations are on track to becoming carbon neutral in 2020, and with the recent opening of a new wind farm, their commitment to 100 percent renewable energy is undeniable. 

Manufacturing erp engineering a better world
Engineering a better world

Nothing about fighting climate change is easy. It will require a massive effort from businesses, consumers and governments alike. Fortunately, more and more businesses are taking the plunge into a greener future and developing the first steps that will help them create a planet on which everyone can continue to live, work and flourish. 

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