Dynamics Matters Podcast Ep 91: Manufacturing a sustainable world

With special guest Marie Wells, Head of Sustainability, MTC

✔ How to create a sustainable organisation

✔ How to measure how sustainable your organisation is

✔ Top tips for maintaining your sustainable approach

Transcript

Welcome to episode 91 of the HSO Dynamics matters podcast.

Your regular sonic dive into the world of Microsoft technology related matters and much more besides.

And I’m your host, Michael Lonnon.

How sustainable is your organisation? Do you measure it? Do you know how or even what to measure? And why is it important?

When thinking about creating a more sustainable organisation these are all valid questions to ask yourself. So, to help you answer some of these, I spent some time chatting with Marie Wells, Head of Sustainability from HSO customer MTC.

What it comes to creating a more sustainable organsiation, what Marie doesn’t know about sustainability isn’t worth knowing. Not only that, Marie practices what she preaches and shares lots of good tips around creating a greener home environment.

So, grab a brew, sit back, relax, and enjoy the show, this is a good’n.

Michael Lonnon
So, tell me a little bit about your role as head of sustainability.

Marie Wells
So as a head of sustainability, I wear three hats or three main hats. One is trying to enable the MTC to become a sustainable business, lead by example. Try to create use cases through our own transition, and also own where we screw up. Because sometimes where we go wrong is valuable learning for others as well. Then what capability do we offer to the manufacturing industry to transition themselves. So how can we help with data, how we design things, understanding their business and understanding where they might be able to use better technology from a sustainability perspective, that kind of thing. So the strategic level of that to feed down into the teams. Then last but not least, there are seven catapult centres of which we are one or seven high value manufacturing catapult centres, there are a few others that don't sit under that hat, and trying to make sure we're aligned in what we do across the catapult centres. So getting involved in the net zero working group for that group of centres, talking about what we do in at sort of arena as well.

Michael Lonnon
Can I ask before the next question because I am quite intrigued about why are they called catapult centres?

Marie Wells
I'm not sure. But basically, I suppose it's because we're supposed to cover the valley of death. What I mean by the valley of death, is universities develop things up to technology readiness, level three, right standardly. Industry won't touch a thing until it's at least technology readiness level six or seven. So you can see there is this whole gap where new innovation just goes away. So we're there to fill that gap.

Michael Lonnon
Why do you think sustainability is important in manufacturing, generally?

Marie Wells
About 45% of UK emissions are from manufacturing one way or another. A lot of that is stuff we buy into here. So I migrated on to coffee is the supply chain of that. Interestingly, if you look at the manufacturing footprint of the aerospace industry, not the use or end of life, just the manufacturing 80 odd percent is digging the material up and turning it into something they can use. Not that actually making the thing. So it's really important, but what's even more important is when you take that into account, you suddenly realise that if you start reusing, remanufacturing, recycling and retrofitting, you will hopefully reduce that 80% quite considerably, because you will have to put less energy in to make those things but you have to be designing in the right way for that to work. So manufacturing becomes key to that. Design casts the biggest shadow I think within that space. If we're not thinking about reuse and re manufacture and secondary materials up front will never move things.

Michael Lonnon
So you have been in the role for over two years now, are you seeing that change is more of a consideration of thought being put into the designing in the right way as you put it?

Marie Wells
There is some, you've got the obvious people like the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, and the circular economy hub, and stuff like that doing stuff in this space to provide tools and things. But you do see quite a bit of resistance to it and an understanding of what that means. So we're trying to help with what does design for sustainability look like. There are so many factors. The Earth is a large system, and there was a worry that we were becoming very, very carbon focused, because carbons easy ish to measure. But there are nine planetary boundaries. So if you're just looking at the environmental pillar of sustainability, you've also got biodiversity land use water, amount of microplastics in the environment, phosphorus and nitrogen loading all of these things, and we're exceeding or like threatening about six of those boundaries, only one of those is carbon.

Michael Lonnon
It's enlightening. Do you think manufacturers generally understand that, because you do read a lot about the carbon footprint of organisations, you do not read about these other boundaries. So what do you think can be done to help, is it an education process as much as anything?

Marie Wells
Yeah, I do think there is an educational element, there is a behaviour element there. There's a social element, I work in technology, but I do not believe that technology is going to swoop in and save us it's part of the answer. It's not the whole answer and I think that's really important. I don't necessarily think the standard of living needs to decrease to do that. It's just what we perceive to be what we need for that standard of living that needs to change.

Michael Lonnon
What do you think the benefits are for manufacturers for taking a more sustainable, or adopting a more sustainable approach to the way that they manufacture things?

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Marie Wells
So there were a few things. First off, if you're starting at carbon, and reuse, and re manufacturing, actually, there are some cost savings to be had from using less energy looking at your demand reduction. I mean, we did an energy shutdown, it was one of the first things I did in post just went round and said, when can you turn off all your kit? Why does that bit of kit need to be left on? If your answer is I don't know whether it will turn back on again, it's turning off or find out. We turned everything off and we found we could be saving 100k a year just from doing that and then they put the systems in place to do it and they saved more than that.

Michael Lonnon
Do you think like in that example there reticence, because they're not sure what's going to happen then?

Marie Wells
You see it as well in reuse and secondary materials. There's a, but what if it isn't as good as new, what if it's contaminated? So validation is a huge thing and it's true, we might have to think slightly differently. If we think slightly differently about how we make stuff, maybe we can make sure it's less contaminated once it's recycled, but we’re not through that we’re using stuff that already in existence. I have only heard this anecdotally, so I will put that out there but apparently there was a building built completely from secondary materials in Brighton and they use three times as much material and the question is, did they need to use three times as much material or were they concerned, because it was secondary material it might not be as robust, I don't know. But it's an interesting question and one I think we'll have to face at some point.

Michael Lonnon
I was going to ask you how you measure good sustainability. That's probably not the right phrase, but how do you measure the success of a more sustainable approach you mentioned something really simple that there is a financial benefit from doing so. There are other things that organisations can use, KPIs that you can use to track whether they're on the right path or not?

Marie Wells
Carbon footprint is more widespread. Understanding your scope one and two is relatively easy to do. Our first carbon foot printing tool was me in an Excel spreadsheet, and the government conversion factors which are released every year. Scope three is more difficult. There are various different tools and people who are developing ways of doing it but you all use different number sets so that you can't cross compare, if someone says their carbon footprint is this, and they've used this tool and someone else's, their carbon footprint is that and they've used that tool, different datasets, you can't compare. What you can compare is how they transition, how much have they decreased in a year, how much are they going on that journey. So it's still very much a comparator and I think that's a challenge for the industry. For the other boundaries it's harder it I mean, how do you measure your corporate social responsibility, how do you measure your biodiversity and your biodiversity in your supply chain, and I think we're still grappling with that. So you have to use more qualitative, rather than quantitative measures currently, which makes people, I think, view it as more woolly than we need.

Michael Lonnon
We need some consistency in the measurable, I think.

Marie Wells
There's some really interesting things that universities and research institutes are doing around this. I can't remember exactly who it was but we had a presentation this week, from someone who had created this dashboard which you can get online and see how much deforestation you get from the UK, as supply of coffee for example. They've done all sorts of various different ones and it's really interesting, quite a fun play as well. I'm sure if you Google the right words it'll come up.

Michael Lonnon
I’ll have a little look at that after this. Rumour has it that you're using your own home improvements as a testbed for sustainability. Is this true and if it is, what are you doing?

Marie Wells
I do a bit, I kind of feel like I have to live my ethics, I was lucky enough to save a bit of money over the COVID fun, so the first thing I did was change the windows. I've got a 1950s build, when Pino finds house, which means solid concrete wall, no cavity, so we had to get the house clad. I've since added solar panels and a battery and the last thing I did about a month ago now is we are on a heat pump, so we have no gas in this house. We've got four kilowatts of solar panels and we generated about 40% more than the house used this year. Obviously, some of that went to grid and we still pulled from grid, because you don't get it when you want it. I'd need a second battery probably to utilise all of that and that's not including the car, one of the cars is electric. I want to get to one car household but haven't got there yet. We did drive to Croatia in the electric car, there is on my YouTube a video log of every charge stop we took in Croatia and on the way you can see I think, at the start us being quite nervous about it and on the way back being much more less a fair.

Michael Lonnon
Great experiment, I love that idea. There is some great tips there for other people.

Marie Wells
It was really useful because I shared that with my employees at MTC, which is part of the reason I did it. I shared every stop on my Facebook for my friends as well and it really did spike conversation. I did the same with the heat pump, I haven't given a video out at work yet because I wanted to get the cost balances and do a final video on that beforehand. It just sparks conversation and there are already a lot of people who have transitioned to heat pump well before me but there are also a lot of people who are nervous because they don't know, so just seeing someone talk about it and do it might help one person or two.

Michael Lonnon
And they will, people will tend to be a little bit reticent to do things but if they see other people that they respect, like, know or whatever, seeing the positive impact of it then they're more likely to do it.

Marie Wells
That’s what I think too.

Michael Lonnon
The final question for me then, so the MTC is aiming to be carbon neutral and to go back to carbon by 2023. What are you doing that's going to help you get to that goal?

Marie Wells
I unfortunately am going to have to use some offsetting, which I really don’t want to do. We have scoped out most of the technology we need to change, away from gas usage as this is our biggest challenge. We have gas heating; we have a CHP and we already have a plan for the CHP. So hopefully in the next month or so we will be putting solar thermal collectors on the roof and taking out the CHP, plumbing in those thermal solar to our absorption chiller so that our thermal solar provides our cooling as well as our heating and when it's providing enough it will be used in preference to the boilers. Obviously, the boilers will kick in when there's not enough so then we're hoping the next phase would be to extend that and put some kind of thermal storage on and then on and on as gas is our biggest problem. It depends how you measure it, if you use market-based analysis which means you say, I am buying my electricity on this tariff, this tariff has a conversion factor of zero because it's fully renewable and that's backed by certificates of generation. Not all certificates of generation are equal. Some of the electricity companies trade them. Zero because it's fully renewable I think is a good practice and I know some of the companies are lobbying against that being allowed so I suspect that we'll change. We do have a fully renewable tariff so that's scope one, but I still report both ways. I report it market based and what's called location based which means UK fuel mix, assuming everybody gets the UK fuel mix, how much have we reduced, and I've just been doing our carbon footprint so if I can look at the numbers, because they're not my head.

Michael Lonnon
Live statistical analysis. Love it.

Marie Wells
Using market-based analysis this financial year it looks like and I haven't done the checking in a loop yet so it might change slightly. Our scope one and two is decreased 51% and against our benchmark here of 54. If you do it location based that's still 17% this financial year and 31% since our benchmark year which I'm quite proud of because that's been driven by the employees at MTC, I'm just the spokesperson, I haven't made that happen, they've made that happen. Collaboration and people are key and I'm lucky they've engaged with it.

Summary
Although there is progress in creating greener operating practices, there remains push back because of perceived negative impact. Marie recommends continual reinforcement and education of reasons why sustainability is important, including its benefits to the organisation.

Unfortunately there is still no single consistent measure for the elements that make up sustainability efforts. Having a champion in the business will help co-ordinate efforts and continue banging the green drum. And if you can find a Marie Wells, you’ll have someone able to influence the most important element in reaching your green goals, your people.

And on that note, thanks for listening, until next time, take care of yourselves.

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