CEO Update

Impressive sustainability gains a step in the right direction

19 July 2019 #CEO Update

This week we were in Parliament to launch SMMT’s 20th annual Sustainability Report, which since 1999 has sought to highlight the efforts made by UK Automotive to live up to its social, economic and environmental responsibilities.

What is remarkable about this year’s report is not just the tremendous progress made on sustainability by the industry over the past two decades, but that it has managed to do so while increasing turnover and productivity – even as it faced regulatory challenges, technological changes and a global financial crisis.

Despite those challenges, turnover has risen 70.6% since 1999, while productivity has increased by a massive 208%. Today, automotive manufacturing workers are among the better paid in the country, earning 40% higher than the national average. Environmental improvements have been significant too – in the last 20 years average CO2 emissions per vehicle produced have fallen -31.2%; energy use -43.3%; water use -14.9%; and waste to landfill dropped by an impressive -95.4%. In fact, a third of signatories to the report sent zero waste to landfill in 2018.

On a similar theme, industry representatives were this week invited to Number 10 to discuss the ability of the new car market to achieve net zero by 2040 while sustaining and even enhancing vehicle production in the UK. Announcements on infrastructure are welcome, including a simplified payment system for public chargers and new build home charging requirements. Likewise, the establishment of a Green Mobility Transition Board is also good news – as all stakeholders will need to work together if shared environmental ambitions are to be met.

We are, however, in a global race and remaining competitive is essential, which includes securing significant giga-scale battery production in the UK, combined with a long-term commitment to infrastructural and supply chain investment and consumer incentives. Of course, there are other immediate challenges and for the UK to be in a strong position in the coming years, any future relationship with the EU must deliver frictionless trade and a supportive business environment to encourage investment.

Today’s Exiting the EU Committee’s welcome report examining the consequences of a ‘no deal’ Brexit only serves to reinforce what the industry has been saying all along about the disastrous impact that leaving without a deal would have. We want an ambitious future relationship and that means a deal. ‘No deal’ may be the default legal option but it is not an option if we want the UK industry to prosper or even survive.

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