Leading organisations identify priorities for a sustainable manufacturing future

The Sustainability Association, launched by the Institute for Manufacturing (IfM) in early 2021, has held its first member meeting with manufacturers including Toyota, Airbus, Emerson Global, Modulair Group, Worthington Industries and others joining together to tackle the core issues of implementing sustainable change. The meeting is the first in a series of activities designed to help its members achieve sustainable transformation in their organisations.

Key issues including how to achieve carbon zero, how digital can support sustainability and how to achieve quick wins using existing technology and know-how have been identified by members as collective problems for the Association to address in order to tackle sustainability.

Using existing tools and cutting-edge research blended with virtual and in-person events with expert speakers and workshops, the Association will unpack these topics, providing its members with the right knowledge and expertise to start implementing meaningful changes straight away:

For manufacturers, there is now a real opportunity to be proactive in recognising future challenges, taking decisive action, and making the most of the opportunities that will come from a global shift toward sustainability. It’s a daunting task. But it’s one manufacturers should – and need – to address as the sustainability imperative continues to grow,” says Professor Steve Evans, Director of Research in Industrial Sustainability, Institute for Manufacturing, University of Cambridge


Sustainability Association November meeting - voiting on themes

Sustainable manufacturing: From vision to action

At the meeting, directors and senior executives from a range of global technology, engineering, and pharmaceutical companies heard from leading experts (Professor Steve Evans and Dr Sheikh Ali, Siemens Factory of the Future) on how digital has a strong role to play in driving sustainable business and how these two areas of change are interlinked; and how the development of agile biorefineries can affect other forms of manufacturing (from Gary Punter Fellow, Institute for Manufacturing and Associate Professor Nik Watson University of Nottingham).

An important part of the event – and Association membership – is the opportunity to create a strong community of businesses that are motivated towards achieving a more resilient and sustainable future:

Hearing about areas of progress and innovation is always inspiring – even those that were not directly applicable to my company – sparked a conversation with other attendees that helped to develop ideas and plans for driving sustainability,” says Association member Peter Lake, Director Operational Excellence, BTG Specialty Pharmaceuticals.

Next year, I am looking forward to more inspiration from those leading in the sustainability arena, and in sharing and learning from other association members on how they are overcoming challenges and taking action to approach net zero.”

While Association members vary in size, Ian Bamford, Commercial Director Centre for Industrial Sustainability at the IfM, says that sustainability challenges are surprisingly consistent:

What’s extraordinary about sustainability for business is that although companies may differ in scale and the sector they operate in, the challenges they are facing are very similar. The Sustainability Association gives members the chance to meet with like-minded peers from different industries who are trying to solve similar problems.”

For member Patricia Lorton, Director of Sustainability, Worthington Industries, the Association will help focus attention on key areas needed to bring about transformation:

Bringing about change sustainably is complex so it was good to share common challenges with like-minded peers. I’m looking forward to next year’s programme which will help us understand which areas should be central and how can I prioritise actions for our business.


Focus areas for 2022: Seven themes to support sustainable manufacturing

Looking ahead, the newly established Association will be shaped and driven by its members so that future activities can focus on areas where members feel most value can be added.

We want to bring interesting, useful ideas and exciting thought leadership to our events and provide members with the right kind of content they need to move forward. We’ve listened to the challenges and aspirations of our members through workshops and have established themes that will drive content and discussions as we move into 2022 and beyond,” says Ian.

Members had the chance to vote on the themes during the recent meeting, and those selected are:

Theme 1: Effective sustainability measurement, reporting and prioritisation

Theme 2: Quickly achieving improvements in resource and energy efficiency

Theme 3: The emerging role of Digital Activity to transform the sustainability journey

Theme 4: What will it require for manufacturers to achieve carbon zero?

Theme 5: Introducing radical manufacturing approaches to the Sustainability Association

Theme 6: Creating sustainable Industrial Architectures and System wide changes

Theme 7: How to create an effective business case for sustainable transformation


To help members to connect with each theme, the Association have a series of engagement and research activities planned for the coming year. These include:

  • Short (3-6 month) research driven ‘sprints’ where ideas and tools researched and developed at the IfM are fed back to members
  • Expert presentations and discussions
  • Member sharing activities such as good practice or common challenges
  • Insights into future opportunities from ground-breaking start-ups and research groups

Sustainability Association membership

If you are looking to tackle sustainability in your organisation – what it means and how it relates to your business – we would like to hear from you. The Sustainability Association can provide training, tools and practical leadership support to enable businesses to progress sustainability initiatives.

To find out more about the Sustainability Association, including the programme of activity for 2022 and pricing options, visit the Sustainability Association webpage or submit an enquiry.

Sustainability Association