SMMT Reports

2020 UK Automotive Sustainability Report

The UK Automotive industry generates more than £100 billion in trade annually and is Britain’s biggest exporter of industrial goods, supporting thousands of vital skilled jobs. That success is fuelled by innovation, so automotive is a major investor in R&D – making it crucial to UK plc, and a key partner in helping the UK to reach its ambitious environmental targets.

The automotive industry’s commitment to sustainable business growth and emissions reduction has been another point of continuity through a time of change. This report highlights how the sector delivered on those commitments throughout 2019, and continues to strive to do so, despite myriad challenges from ambitious net zero goals, Brexit uncertainty and, of course, an unprecedented global pandemic.

Over the past 20 years, the industry has shrunk its annual manufacturing carbon footprint by more than 1.3 million tonnes and saved around 1.2 million cubic metres of water. Last year alone, just over 1kg of waste went to landfill per vehicle produced a -23.1% reduction on 2018, and a -97.4% drop on 1999, when more than 40kg per vehicle was disposed of with no second life.

During 2019, the industry recorded significant reductions in total energy (-11.3%) and water use (-8.5%). However, factory shutdowns – in part as a response to Brexit uncertainty – hampered manufacturing productivity, demonstrating the importance of free trade in helping the industry to most efficiently use resources and maintain its progress on sustainability made over the past two decades.

Even after these huge strides, manufacturers still find more ways to more efficiently produce vehicles that themselves are more efficient with every new model, with today’s cars emitting, on average, -29.3% less CO2 compared with their 1999 equivalents, alongside the next generation of zero emission capable cars. Work also continues apace on the major challenges expected within the next 20 years – battery recycling and reuse, sustainable materials and workforce upskilling.

The SMMT Sustainability Report 2020 is the 21st edition – the longest standing sector sustainability report.

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