The UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties or COP26 in Glasgow is currently taking place and has brought together leaders from all over the world. Their intention? To discuss and accelerate action towards the goals of the Paris Agreement and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.
Whilst these discussions are being undertaken, MTC is working hard towards its own sustainability target and aims to reach carbon neutrality as defined by PAS 2060 (BSI, 2014) by 2023. The MTC is working to achieve this through reduction and mitigation measures, using offsets only where strictly necessary. This ambition will address our Scope 1 and 2 emissions, with our Scope 3 emissions at Net Zero ahead of 2041, as defined by the West Midland Pledge (West Midlands Combined Authority, 2021). Net Zero is defined as including our Scope 3 Emissions.
When it comes to sustainability, I personally believe that the whole system needs to be considered. There are nine currently known planetary boundaries (Planetary boundaries - Stockholm Resilience Centre), it is generally understood that we are negatively impacting four of these and climate change is only one, biodiversity, land-system change and biogeochemical flows being the other three. For me it is important that the transition to Net Zero is sustainable and considers all the boundaries and it is key that the MTC and High Value Manufacturing Catapult (HVM Catapult) lead by example. How can we enable sustainable change if we do not embrace it ourselves?
McAloone, T. C., & Bey, N. (2009). (Environmental improvement through product development: A guide. Danish Environmental Protection Agency. http://www.kp.mek.dtu.dk/English/Research/areas/ecodesign/guide.aspx).
The MTC has, since inception, been involved in projects that embody an ethos of modularity and efficiency. In many cases these translate to sustainable benefits, it is only now that these are becoming the driver for the projects rather than a side benefit.
Resource efficiency is a key factor in the transition to Net Zero with analysis from the ‘Enabling Conditions for Net Zero Programme’ conducted by the Catapult network suggesting that UK Consumption Emissions are around 43% and these are largely associated with materials processing. It has also been calculated that 80% of the environmental-social impact of a product is defined during the design stage, according to McAloone, T. C., & Bey, N. (2009).
This ties into the need for an economic model, like the Circular economy model (Ellen MacArthur foundation) that encourages longevity and re-use following the waste hierarchy, prioritising reduction of consumption, increase of resource retention with as little energy as possible to move to secondary and tertiary material uses.
For the MTC this focus on resource use needs to be borne out in the design and remanufacture projects we do as well as our own practices. There has always been a focus on design for X, usually being assembly & manufacture, however MTC are increasingly looking at factors such as disassembly and the lifecycle of materials used in this field (case study circular economy demo I-Dreams).
Remanufacturing is commonly known as “a series of manufacturing steps acting on an end-of-life part or product in order to return it to like-new or better performance, with warranty to match” (APRSG, 2014). This process can be confused with other characteristics within circular economy such as; reconditioning, refurbishment, and repair. Remanufacturing techniques have been demonstrated in projects looking at cladding of worn parts such as train wheels and laser cleaning for refurbishment of all manner of parts including turbine blades.
For the MTC itself Scope 3 or indirect emissions, excluding electricity, heat steam and cooling which are captured by Scope 2, equate to more than two thirds of the emissions MTC produce with the items we procure being the largest proportion of this. The challenge in this space is having the data to calculate these emissions as we need to understand our supply chain. We have started to develop methods of capturing and more accurately estimating this in line with Greenhouse Gas (GHG) protocol. It is also understood that there is duplication of resource supply occurring across the business where better systems or procedures could be integrated to decrease this and reduce waste produced. We are also working with external businesses on various waste streams to identify re-use cases, enabling increase in longevity where we can and recycling or worst case utilising the waste to energy route if not.
A third of our Scope 3 emissions in 2019 were related to employee commuting. This is one area where we are looking to make a change. MTC is currently trialling a fully flexible working week for employee wellbeing, meaning many employees now enjoy a compressed working week. This combined with hybrid working should result in less employee travel. There are also schemes to enable employees to move to electric vehicles with onsite charging availability and employee car sharing (Covid permitting).
As with the supply chain, better understanding of the data and measurement have been key to benchmark our energy use. Additional metering and connectivity have been added to the building management system to help MTC identify inefficiencies and put in procedures and systems to tackle these and reduce our Scope 2 emissions, which is purely electricity use. I believe it is important to add that the focus should be on the right data not data for data sake, as data and the components required to collect it also have a carbon footprint and therefore use resource. By analysing our own data we have been able to identify where additional measurement and integration is needed. This data will then inform choices on how we transition our Scope 1 or direct emissions, such as our gas usage in boilers and our combined heat and power (CHP), to technologies that can be renewably driven as well as reduced. The MTC already has a couple of solar arrays and through the understanding gained from benchmarking and proper measurement it is possible to understand the business benefit of additional renewable generation onsite.
Externally in this space we have been involved with the electrification agenda, with our main focus being the innovation, industrialisation & scale-up and sustainability of motors with projects ranging from technology such as cooling techniques to the lifecycle analysis, supply chain assessment & demand profile assessment. The HVM Catapult, including MTC, have also been looking at various aspects of the upscaling of green hydrogen, as this is another key aspect of our ability to move away from a dependence on unsustainable fuels.
The challenge for any company is moving towards a more sustainable culture with people mindfully engaged with the need to transition. We have got to a point where there is wider engagement and initiatives being developed across the business by the teams affected and it is heart-warming to see.
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