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5 Trends in Sustainable Manufacturing

7 minutes read · 28th Mai 2024

2024 is the Year for Action

5 Trends in Sustainable Manufacturing

Across the globe, consumers are looking to manufacturers to produce sustainable products, both in how they are produced as well as the materials used. This is motivating many manufacturers to look for ways to decrease their environmental impact. As the global economy settles, many manufacturing organizations are looking to use the change in consumer behaviors as an opportunity to truly embed sustainability as a core value.  

With the goal of creating a sustainable future, 5 distinct trends are dominating the changes we’re seeing manufacturing businesses make this year. 

Trend 1: Smart Manufacturing and Energy Management Systems 

Smart manufacturing is bringing about a widespread digitization of production operations that allow manufacturers to collect, analyze and optimize performance, often in real-time. This optimization is a huge lever for sustainability, as processes can be optimized for the highest quality product at the lowest environmental impact.  

Efficiency lies at the heart of improvement within manufacturing. Whether you’re trying to cut down on costs or increase output, the goal still comes down to improving efficiency. However, a new type of efficiency is currently taking the world by storm. With an increased interest in improving energy efficiency over the past few years, typically motivated by a combination of sustainability goals, reducing costs and reducing risk, Energy Management Systems promise an exciting future. 

Energy Management Systems combine industry 4.0 with a sustainability focus to provide a framework for factories to manage and optimize their energy usage. Not only do they reduce costs, improve operational efficiency and make factories more environmentally friendly, they can also be used to enhance staff wellbeing and improve brand image. Virtual simulations are another example of the power of the crossover between smart and sustainable manufacturing. Used to design, run and test operations, they reduce the need to run machines during commissioning or trials, minimizing the amount of energy spent on unsellable product. 

Trend 2: Sustainable Product Redesign 

Green Chemistry is transforming the materials and chemicals sector by focusing on minimizing the environmental impact of products and the processes they require. This is driven by consumer demand for sustainable and bio-based alternatives and has countless benefits for the environment, including safer air, water and food and reduced chemical disruption to ecosystems. This change is backed by governments and organizations, as demonstrated in the UK by the recent funding of 21 collaborative research and development (CR&D) projects by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and Innovate UK. These projects aim to develop unique solutions in sustainable biomanufacturing, enhancing the UK’s global position in this growing market. 

Trend 3: Circular Economy Practices 

A key element of redesigning products for sustainability is taking a holistic view and considering the entire life cycle of the product. Circular economy practices are becoming more embedded in companies’ value-generation processes, considering the end of life of the product from the moment it’s designed. Both reusing and recycling can be made difficult by a product’s design and considering these two end-of-life states as early as possible in the design process for new products will improve a manufacturer’s ability to maximize circularity. 

Actions can be taken for existing products to reuse as many components and sub-assemblies as possible, a method that is particularly effective for electronic products where high value items such as motors, batteries and rotors can be reused in servicing and new products both internally and externally. Components that cannot be reused should be responsibly recycled, either on-site or by partnering with external recycling companies. It is important to remember that as society takes more action to create a sustainable future, consumers will lean on information about a product’s designed lifecycle as a key decision factor. Improving circularity can be a lengthy process – getting ahead now could make all the difference. 

Trend 4: Reporting, Requirements and Commitments 

We are seeing a global increase in regulations surrounding sustainability reporting, disclosure and compliance. The Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (CSRD) comes into effect this year for public interest organizations with >500 employees. It will eventually apply to ~52,000 companies, both those based in the EU and those non-EU companies making more than €150 million annual revenue in the EU market. It mandates that companies must report on both actual and potential impacts in the short, medium and long term, and explain what climate plan they have in place to meet the Paris Climate Goals. This increased transparency gives companies with better traceability and clear sustainability goals a competitive advantage with both consumers and investors. Many traditional manufacturing companies currently do not have the data availability to meet these new regulations. Early preparation and improvement of data availability will be crucial to staying competitive in the future market. 

Trend 5: Reshoring 

An increasing number of manufacturing companies are using reshoring as a strategic move to mitigate supply chain risks, moving manufacturing operations back to the company’s home country. While reshoring has been prevalent since the pandemic encouraged the diversification of supply chains, recent global events have re-emphasized to manufacturers the serious risks associated with geographically-stretched supply chains. Due to this, the trend of reshoring production facilities is gaining momentum. This momentum is supported by large governing bodies; the UK Government has committed £4.5 billion to bring more production into the UK from 2025 with its UK Advanced Manufacturing Plan. In the US, Executive Order 14005 ensures that taxpayer money is invested in products “Made in America, and Executive Order 14017 looks to review and strengthen the resilience of supply chains. This has a particular focus on the medical industry, using the Defense Production Act to address the supply of PPE, tests and vaccines.

While not a direct cost-saving action, reshoring increases reliability and resilience of a manufacturer’s supply chain, reducing lead times and supply chain costs. More importantly, it massively reduces the emissions associated with a product. Combining the increased reliability and consistency of products with the positive environmental impact guarantees increased customer satisfaction and brand trust, two things that are becoming ever more crucial in this consumer-driven landscape. 

Bonus Trend: Reducing Waste and Emissions 

Waste reduction is a familiar manufacturing goal that is seeing a boom in popularity as part of manufacturers’ sustainability strategies. Unilever set the standard back in 2016 by achieving its Zero-Waste-to-Landfill goal six years ahead of schedule, saving $225 million, and continues to make progress, pledging to use only 100% recyclable, reusable or compostable packaging by 2025. With government backed schemes and rising landfill costs, waste reduction is now, more than ever, an advantageous business strategy 

While profit margins benefit from the reduction in raw material and landfill costs, and the extra revenue from selling recyclable waste, the positive environmental and social impact cannot be understated. Avoiding landfills significantly reduces greenhouse gas emissions, pollution and avoids the destruction of local ecosystems. New pollution prevention and emission control technologies can further these benefits, by monitoring and controlling emissions generated by production. This can drastically improve the health and wellbeing of both employees and the local community, through direct health benefits and positive environmental impacts. 


Sustainable manufacturing has been widely discussed for a while now, but in 2024 we expect to see real action from market leaders across all manufacturing sectors. We are seeing government schemes and new compliance regulations come into action, setting the scene for organizations to take the leap towards a more sustainable way of working. With consumer behaviors changing to favor sustainable products and companies, capitalizing on these trends now could be the edge you need to stay ahead in the market.

At Chartwell, we make rapid, remarkable and sustainable improvements to manufacturing operations. Contact us today to see how we can help achieve your sustainability goals. 


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