How manufacturers can reduce carbon emissions

Sustainability

Last updated: 17. May 2023

Manufacturing warehouse

The tools and initiatives that enable manufacturers to reduce carbon emissions.

Zmicier Vaskovich

Climate Strategy Advisor

Johnny McCreesh

Climate Strategy Advisor

Evan Farbstein Headshot

Evan Farbstein

Content Writer

Read bio

Table of Contents

The manufacturing and production sector accounts for one-fifth of global carbon emissions and 54% of the world’s energy usage. 

Reducing the carbon emissions from the manufacturing sector will play a vital role in reaching global climate targets – while for the manufacturers themselves, the benefits of carbon management extend beyond sustainability.

Manufacturers that effectively manage their carbon emissions will stay compliant with existing and future legislation, minimize waste, and increase efficiency.

At Normative, we help manufacturers across many regions and sectors to manage their emissions. While every business’s carbon reduction journey is unique, there are trends and commonalities that apply throughout the industry. Here are some common challenges, effective solutions, and useful tools to reduce manufacturer carbon emissions. 

Common carbon management challenges in manufacturing

Carbon management begins with carbon calculation, because – as the famous adage says – you can’t manage what you can’t measure. 

However, one of the most common carbon management challenges is accurately and comprehensively calculating emissions.

Manufacturers often have complex and international value chains. Their suppliers are dispersed across the globe, and the emissions data from these suppliers may be low-quality – if they track any data at all. This can make it difficult for manufacturers to collect the data needed to calculate their value chain emissions. 

Manufacturers need comprehensive calculations to effectively manage emissions

If any manufacturing has been outsourced, the data collection necessary to calculate emissions becomes even more complicated, as many different products can be manufactured for different clients at the same factory. 

The consequences of poor emissions calculations are far-reaching.

When manufacturers work from incomplete calculations, their carbon reporting and reduction initiatives will also be incomplete. This wastes valuable time and resources that could have been more impactfully invested.

Additionally, manufacturers with incomplete emissions data will not be able to provide the high-quality climate impact reports required to win contracts with potential customers. 

Normative calculates carbon emissions for manufacturers

Our carbon accounting engine calculates supplier emissions using transaction data that businesses already have on hand – resulting in accurate, comprehensive, and science-backed emissions estimates.

Book a demo

How to effectively reduce manufacturer carbon emissions

Reducing emissions in scopes 1 & 2

A large portion of manufacturer carbon footprints tends to originate in scopes 1 and 2: emissions occurring on-premises or from the purchase of energy.

In general, manufacturers use high quantities of carbon-intensive fossil fuels like natural gas and diesel. Therefore, manufacturers can achieve significant decarbonization by reducing their usage of these fuels.

Replacing fossil fuels with renewable energy

In scope 1, manufacturers can drive reductions by replacing on-premises fossil fuel sources with low/no carbon energy sources like biomass, recovered heating, heat pumps, and electric heating.

In scope 2, switching to renewable energy sources can also make impactful reductions to carbon emissions. To validate an energy source’s renewability, manufacturers should look for those backed with Guarantees of Origin (GOs) or Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs).

In addition, once manufacturers are operating on renewable energy they can earn yet more reductions by electrifying their vehicle fleets.

Reducing emissions in scope 3

While scope 1 and 2 emissions may form a large share of manufacturer carbon footprints, there are still sizable reductions to be found in scope 3.

Scope 3 reduction initiatives will vary widely by type of manufacturer, but many of these reductions are found in procurement – for instance, by switching to materials with a higher percentage of recycled content.

Manufacturers can also make impactful emissions in their downstream activities.

Industrial manufacturers, for example, can make significant reductions by addressing their use of sold products. Whereas manufacturers in the fast-moving consumer goods industry (FMCG), in turn, can drive impactful changes in their products’ end-of-life treatment. Manufacturers that also sell their products at retail outlets can find more carbon reduction opportunities in our article for retailers.

Case study: Norican Group

A global leader in industrial manufacturing, Norican Group uses carbon accounting to meet customer & investor expectations while working toward science-based climate targets.

Impactful emissions reductions for manufacturers, by scope:

  • Scope 1: Replace fossil fuels with low/no carbon options.
  • Scope 2: Switch to renewable electricity and electrify vehicle fleet.
  • Scope 3: Increase usage of recycled materials.

FAQs

How much carbon emissions come from manufacturing?

The manufacturing and production sector accounts for one-fifth of global carbon emissions and 54% of the world’s energy usage. 

Frequently asked questions


How can manufacturers reduce their emissions?

Manufacturers can reduce emissions by replacing fossil fuels with low/no carbon options, switching to renewable electricity and electrifying their vehicle fleets, and increasing the usage of recycled materials.

Normative calculates carbon emissions for manufacturers

Our carbon accounting engine calculates supplier emissions using transaction data that businesses already have on hand – resulting in accurate, comprehensive, and science-backed emissions estimates.

Book a demo