News & Events

Tuesday 01 September, 2015

The power of six in Sustainable Manufacturing

Six is a number that’s been top of mind recently. We are currently in the midst of a six-month research study with Cranfield University which considers the current and future landscape of sustainable manufacturing across the food and drink industry. As part of this study, we recently published the first of two white papers which identifies six major themes for development, which we believe the food and drink industry need to address in the coming years to achieve rapid and fundamental change – these include:

  1. People – are fundamental to enacting change and must be engaged, well trained, flexible and skilled throughout all areas of an organisiation
  2. Big Data – is set to play an ever more important role in organisations and society as a whole
  3. Technology – may not be the sole solution to creating a sustainable future, but linking with Big Data and localisation, technology has the power to lead the way in realising some radical innovations for the sector
  4. Collaboration – will develop further in the coming years into a more symbiotic relationship between a company and its supply chain
  5. Value – will have a fundamental impact on what resources are used. The servitization[1] and the adaptability of products that can be used beyond their intended purpose to deliver ‘value beyond profit’ will grow
  6. Resilience – the ability to adapt to change, and do this at speed, will be key to future decision-making as industry’s seek to maintain a supply of quality, ethically-sourced raw materials

‘Six’ is also a number with significant importance to us at Coca-Cola Enterprises (CCE). We have six manufacturing sites across Great Britain and in our most recent Corporate Responsibility & Sustainability Report, we identified six material issues that matter both within our business and to stakeholders, as we continue to place sustainability at the very core of our operations. At CCE we take our responsibilities in the future of manufacturing extremely seriously, and are constantly looking for new ways to progress and improve. However, this is a collaborative effort for our sector and beyond, and we will continue to involve our industry peers as we work with Cranfield University on the research findings that will form the second Sustainable Manufacturing for the Future white paper, due to be released later this year. 

Through this collaboration, we are clear on the important role that leadership plays, be that across academia, industry or government. Across the board, leaders recognise that large scale changes in sustainability are urgently needed. Some will be radical, and we know many businesses have already begun this journey, experimenting with new processes or approaches. Others have imminent plans. 

Some of these were discussed at the recent EPSRC Centre for Industrial Sustainability Annual Conference, with case studies from across the manufacturing industry. These included Toyota’s guiding principle of ‘Monozukrui’ on craftsmanship and sustainability, to how Rype Office are using remanufacturing to reduce the high levels of old office furniture going to landfill. It was exciting to see that the six themes we’ve identified align across the projects and strategies of some of the industry’s most forward-thinking businesses. It mirrored a consensus from our initial roundtable which launched the project back in March; that the industry’s understanding of the way forward is maturing and will continue to do so. From a corporate level to the shop floor, it became evident from discussion there is a movement away from the era of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) – which has suffered from accusations of ‘greenwash’ – toward a fundamental understanding that being a responsible business involves shared value creation. 

The journey towards sustainable manufacturing of the future in the food and drink industry is complex. Issues are inter-related, both within a business as well as between businesses – and indeed across sectors. None of the themes we’ve identified can be addressed in silo but understanding each will facilitate a better understanding of what Britain’s largest manufacturing sector needs to do to make the most of the opportunities the six themes provide. As an industry we excel at continual improvement in risk mitigation but what our initial white paper identifies is the opportunity to develop skills in radical innovation that’ll side-step major challenges with truly game-changing strategies. Rapid and fundamental change will depend upon strong leadership within and across companies, accepting the need to change and taking those steps forward together. This clearly means working across boundaries, and not limiting efforts to within the food and drink sector alone. 

The project research team is now delving deeper into each of the six themes, before delivering the final findings on how sustainability will evolve within manufacturing and what a sustainable factory may look like in 2050. We eagerly anticipate the results, and look forward to sharing these this autumn. 

In the meantime, all those interested in contributing to the next stage of project, exploring the above themes in even more depth to identify the most important ideas and innovations which will help to progress and improve our industry, should contact us at or tweet at @CokeCCE for more information.

[1] The servitization of products describes the strategy of creating value by adding services to products or even replacing a product with a service.

Steve Adams

Director, Supply Chain Group Operations


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