The growing focus on ESG standards intensified last month as the war in Ukraine sharpened the urgency of moving to more sustainable energy sources

Public sector
Suppliers to the UK Government now have to demonstrate how they deliver social value. Among the factors used to assess supplier bids will be how they align to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), their commitment to equality, diversity, training and development, and helping communities recover from COVID-19. New procurement standards are designed to support the SDGs.

Westminster City Council, which spends £500 million a year on products and services, is increasing its focus on ESG when choosing suppliers. Considerations like diversity and carbon emissions will now count for up to 20% of supplier assessments, up from 5% currently. The council says the new policy is part of Westminster’s efforts to become a carbon-zero council by 2030.

“Social value and ESG commitments are central to creating a better world. At RS Components, our 2030 ESG plan has already cut emissions from buildings by 62% since 2014. Last year, 67% of our energy came from renewable sources. And we are demonstrating our commitment to equality – 44% of our board are female, including our chair,” said Damian Wynne, Industry Sector Manager at RS.

The NHS will be banned from buying from areas of the world linked to modern slavery, the Government has announced. This move follows allegations that the NHS purchased PPE from a supplier linked to the use of forced labour. Another PPE supplier’s imports were banned by the United States over similar allegations last year.

Utilities and power
Eight new nuclear power plants and a doubling of renewable capacity are at the core of the Government’s new Energy Security Strategy. The plan, which aims to generate 95% of UK electricity from low-carbon sources by 2030, will also create 480,000 clean energy jobs and boost the construction industry. The move comes in response to concerns about energy security in the wake of Russia’s war in Ukraine.

“Building new capacity in the power industry will pose challenges at a time when supply chains for basic components are under stress. That’s why it’s essential to work with a trusted supplier who understands your business,” said Chris Cruise, Industry Sector Manager at RS.

A new “dating service” called ‘Plots for Kilowatts’ has been launched to bring together electricity consumers with landowners who could host a wind farm. Communities with a local turbine (or fan) receive up to a 50% discount on the unit price of electricity generated when the turbines are spinning. Octopus Energy says 5,000 communities have already expressed interest via its ‘Fan Club’.

The energy smart meter rollout has stalled, with half of all homes still without one and the chances of completing the rollout by 2025 now looking remote, according to a new analysis by Utility Week.

Process manufacturing
Chronic staff shortages are disrupting the food and beverage industry, according to a new report from MPs. The Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Select Committee says 500,000 out of the total 4.1 million jobs in the food and farming sector are unfilled. Across the industry, the MPs noted that supply chain issues caused by COVID-19, Brexit and international turmoil had suppressed revenues by 15%-20%.

More than three-quarters of food and beverage manufacturers are unaware of the UK’s new plastic packaging tax, according to a new survey. The tax, levied at £200 per ton of plastic packaging containing less than 30% recycled material, came into force on 1 April. The tax will impact an estimated 20,000 manufacturers and importers of plastic packaging, the government says.

The war in Ukraine is creating a global shortage of edible oils which is disrupting food manufacturing. Ukraine and Russia together make up 76% of world sunflower oil exports but, since the war started, Ukrainian exports have fallen by 95% and Russia is imposing export quotas. As well as creating shortages and supply chain issues, the prices of alternative oils have also risen.

“The Food and beverage sector has never been under such intense pressure. Avoiding downtime is business critical and enhancing your planned maintenance regime is critical,” said Craig Stasik, Industry Sector Manager at RS.

A third of manufacturers say they have yet to benefit from the government’s Levelling Up initiatives, according to a survey by the manufacturers’ organisation, Make UK. A majority of those surveyed want more emphasis on skills training and improving transport links.

Manufacturers have accelerated the digital transformation of their businesses as a result of the pandemic, according to a new survey by The Engineer. Two-thirds said COVID-19 had accelerated progress and half were spending more on digital transition. The survey found that manufacturers are ahead of other sectors, with 59% adopting the Industrial Internet of Things, 53% using robotics and 47% using artificial intelligence.

“The digital transformation of manufacturing offers unparalleled opportunities for process and efficiency improvement. By integrating Industrial Internet of Things monitoring and e-Procurement you can not only avoid outages but have the parts ready when you need them,” said Richard Graham, Industry Sector Manager at RS.

Transport and defence
Trials of the UK’s first autonomous bus service have started in Scotland. The driverless bus will run on a 14-mile route from Edinburgh, across the Forth Road Bridge to Inverkeithing in Fife. The new service will operate on preselected normal roads using onboard sensors and navigation controls. A “bus captain” will be present to take over in case of emergency.

Leonardo Aerospace has begun work on the third phase of a £360 million contract to support the UK armed forces’ Wildcat helicopters at Yeovil in Somerset. As well as maintenance and technical enhancements, the contract includes digital training for engineers and aircrews maintaining and operating the aircraft.

“Innovations like autonomous buses will help encourage people to return to using public transport after the pandemic. As initiatives like this increase, it’s vital that operators and manufacturers work with agile suppliers who can innovate with them as new products come to market,” said Greg Sharp, Industry Sector Manager at RS.