Carbon Neutral and Net Zero are well-recognised terms that have been building on the pressure for businesses to reduce their environmental impact and their carbon emissions as we collaboratively fight against climate change.
‘Net Positivity’ is now encouraging businesses to not only reduce their carbon usage, but are encouraging them to give back to society, the environment, and the global economy, giving back more than what they initially take. This approach will enable companies to drive financial success and sustainability for generating ‘net positive’ impacts for society and the environment.
Businesses are becoming more conscious of operations and aware of how they are perceived, but there are also evident behavioural changes amongst the consumer. Textile companies have seen a shift from fast fashion to a demand for locally sourced and manufactured materials as there has also been a significant rise in interest for hybrid vehicles and the UK government aim for all cars and vans to be electric by 2035. The Google search engine has also experienced a 580% increase in the search for ‘veganism’ between 2014 and 2019 as eye-opening documentaries are exposing the everyday consumer to the environmental impacts being suffered as a result of the meat and fish industries.
The Virtual Engineering Centre (VEC) has been supporting a number of SMEs and businesses across the North West in seamless adoption of Industry 4.0 technologies, supporting their digital transformation and reducing their carbon footprint where necessary. Let’s Rethink This are an innovative design company, looking to develop products such as deodorant, using sustainable materials for reducing our environmental impact. The company have worked with Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) for using 3D Printing for the product development stage as the VEC has then developed a digital animation for showing investors and customers how to easily replace the deodorant pods, instead of buying new products which are mainly created using plastics.
Melo World, a competitive award-winning manufacturer of Visual Management & 5S solutions for production and operations facilities have also been exploring how digital tools can support them in reducing not only their waste, but to also reduce the waste of their customers and clients to ensure even more businesses are reducing their paper-based systems and unnecessary material waste. Along with the CW4.0 teams at the VEC, they have been exploring how e-ink technology can be used across the factory floor as they develop new signs to replace traditional paper-based notification boards, becoming easier to read across the factory floor and updated using real-time updates.
Many conscious and ambitious businesses believe this philanthropic approach will allow them to seize new opportunities through enhanced company innovation, improving brand reputation and stakeholder relations, which in turn can result in greater sales.
For businesses to become Net Positive, organisations need to start to plan for long-term success through developed strategies for de-risking operations and improving the rate of innovation.
3 STEPS TO TAKE FOR BECOMING MORE NET POSITIVE
Broad Partnerships for collaborative approaches
The Virtual Engineering Centre (VEC) are leading the LCR4.0 Holistic project, a European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) initiative that aims to deliver the first Liverpool city region-wide digital supply chain ecosystem across multiple sectors for an improved collaborative approach.
The VEC and the St George’s Hall Trust recently delivered the UK’s first Digital Heritage Symposium, bringing together the city’s heritage and digital leaders to showcase how Industry 4.0 technologies can be adopted for supporting the preservation and promotion of digital assets and venues. The event launched a wider strategy for using digital heritage as the accelerator for combating indices of deprivation across the city including employment, education and income.
Pioneers of digital heritage at the event included Maggie Mullan Architects Design (MMA) who uses the practice of digital modelling for the restoration of heritage buildings, re-purposing these for modern multi-purposes, enabling communities to make the most of these.
The full case study here: Creative Adaption for Multi-Purpose use of Heritage Sites
Investing in Innovation
Organisations need to invest in innovation and challenge the very business model it relies on. The COVID-19 pandemic has made many businesses realise the need for diversification and becoming more dynamic in their operations is key to long-term success.
The Forest Tribe Theatre aims to be highly diverse, working closely with specialist schools across the North West. The theatre is passionate about ensuring children with additional needs are given a safe place to freely connect on a creative level with artistic shows being performed at hospitals, hospices, educational environments, and libraries.
The Industrial Digitalisation team at the VEC recommended Forest Tribe Theatre introduce haptic tools for increasing the interactivity of shows and AI technology for capturing information that can help to identify the more engaging parts of the shows. A Haptic platform will immerse audiences in a heightened sensory experience, capturing data on audience movement. Haptic devices can also be developed to best suit all audiences, based on differing physical abilities including mobility, ease of use, comfort and inclusivity.
Forest Tribe Theatre was heavily involved in the development stage of this process and manufacturing bespoke equipment for being suitable for a range of needs and uses and is now looking to make future investments for expanding on these operations for the future.
This project was delivered through Cheshire and Warrington 4.0 (CW4.0), an ERDF initiative for supporting local manufacturing businesses in adopting Industry 4.0 technologies to improve their products, services and overall efficiencies. Read the Forest Tribe Theatre case study here.
Reducing your environmental and economic impact
Businesses can consider corporate social responsibility as an opportunity to gain a competitive advantage. In changing times going beyond assessing how you can reduce impact on the environment to taking a Holistic view of how your business can actively improve the environment, economy, and your community can distinguish you from the competition.
These could be small steps from removing paper-based systems and recycling unused materials, to encouraging a car-share initiative amongst their staff and teams – there are always ways in which we can reduce our impact whilst at the same time, improving efficiencies and productivity through the use of digital tools.
Improving your business’s corporate social responsibility is believed to improve not only your current teams’ alignment with your operations, but also makes you more appealing to customers and consumers, with an applied ethical and aware culture; something we all want to be associated with.
LCR4.0 and CW4.0 are ERDF funded projects (European Regional Development Fund) and aim to support SMEs across the Liverpool City Region, Cheshire and Warrington in the development of digital strategies ahead of adoption of Industry 4.0 technologies for improving productivity, job creation and skills across many traditional workforces.
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