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Rob Sinfield

VP Manufacturing, Sage

Under pressure to become more sustainable, it’s time for UK manufacturers to look at how technology can support their sustainability practices, while still providing high quality reasonably priced goods.


The one key target manufacturing must achieve is to be net zero by 2050; but reaching this goal will be a significant challenge. At Sage, our global research identified 91% of SMEs believed there will be barriers preventing them from prioritising and making the changes required to meet these demands. The challenges faced by manufacturers and other businesses vary significantly and in complexity.

However, there are three major categories that are shared:

1. The cost of change

First is the cost associated with making changes, which can impact profitability and business continuity. These costs can be aligned to procurement of resources, supply chain, distribution, workforce and other fluctuating market influences. Therefore, it’s not simply a question of cashflow, it is the unknown financial risk often associated with change.

2. Digital and green skills gap

To overcome the skills gap, manufacturing needs access to digital and green skills within their workforce. Management and technological innovation are recognised as core skills needed to support the manufacturing of goods in a more sustainable way. However, the identified technical nature of ‘green skills’ has led to a significant skills gap in the UK.

3. Implementation time

Time is a precious commodity and businesses are always challenged to implement changes, improve efficiencies and enhance productivity, while maintaining current production. Releasing the already limited skilled workforce to focus their time on implementing environmental changes, is perceived as time taken away from their day jobs, which circles back to the financial cost implications of becoming green.

It’s not simply a question of cashflow, it is the unknown financial risk often associated with change.

Supporting sustainability efforts

Many manufacturers are committed to embedding green and sustainable policies across their businesses. Yet achieving these targets will require significant changes to their manufacturing practices and business systems. Such changes can be difficult to implement and are often hindered by the lack of technical and green skills within the UK workforce.

In October 2021, we worked together with Make UK to understand the current state of green and digital skills within the manufacturing sector. In the report, ‘Unlocking the Skills Needed for a Digital and Green Future’, we found that although UK manufacturers have already started to develop green and digital skills, almost four in 10 manufacturers haven’t yet identified the necessary green skills to manufacture goods and products in a more sustainable way.

Utilising digital transformation

At Sage, our Sustainability and Society Strategy is built with the view and aspiration to help our customers become sustainable. We believe digital transformation can help manufacturers unlock their potential and in turn become more sustainable and meet the goal to be net zero by 2050.

Our mission is to support UK manufacturers through the use and continued development of the right technologies. Such technologies can deliver business-critical benefits, such as data analytics, automated production lines, supply-chain insight reducing costs, provenance and traceability, improved supplier and customer relationships, and improved business management; all of which aid and enhance a sustainable business performance.

Now is the time for British manufacturers to maximise the support and technology available to help drive sustainability as a core value.

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