The urgency of fighting climate change and protecting vital resources is today a well-known fact. “We are all aware that preserving our planet and ensuring good living conditions for future generations are among the biggest challenges ahead of us,” said Minister of the Economy Franz Fayot when he opened the first day of the Smart Manufacturing Week, which is organised by Luxinnovation on 8-10 June 2022. “Digitalisation, innovation, decarbonisation and reshoring are seen as key levers to accelerate the transition towards a more resilient, digital, circular and climate-neutral manufacturing sector. This is the reason why the focus of the 2022 edition will be on sustainable manufacturing.”
Sustainable manufacturing: crucial for all
The fact that sustainability is important, relevant and necessary for all companies was highlighted during the opening session of Smart Manufacturing Week. “The automotive, chemical and plastics industries have been confronted with sustainability issues for a long time, but the importance of sustainability is now growing across all sectors,” emphasised Maiya Shibasaki, Head of Corporate Sustainability at Siemens Healthineers, who was one of the keynote speakers.
Companies need to assess what areas they can influence and where they can play the biggest role, and develop their strategies accordingly.
Dr Shibasaki pointed out that everyone can make a difference. “Companies need to assess what areas they can influence and where they can play the biggest role, and develop their strategies accordingly. Sustainability is often mainly connected to environmental issues, but there are strong links between the environment, the economy and society. One striking example is that half of the world’s population does not have access to timely and affordable healthcare. We chose this as a focus area where we can make a difference.”
The importance of addressing sustainability from a wide, comprehensive point of view was also underlined by Stephan Neugebauer, Chairman ERTRAC and New Technologies and China Director Global Research Cooperation at BMW, who gave a keynote speech on the way to achieve carbon-neutral road transport. “Electric vehicles are certainly part of the solution, but not the whole one,” he said. “The issue of carbon-neutral transport is closely intertwined not only with vehicle use, but also with infrastructure and energy generation. The automotive industry is already able to produce electric vehicles – just go out and buy them! But they are not of much use without a sufficient charging infrastructure and the production of clean, renewable energy.”
Sustainability for the planet – and the business bottom line
While global warming and climate change call for radical changes of our society, it is also necessary to be realistic about fundamental needs that will have to be met also in the future. “Transforming road transport is essential, but our children will still want to move around and use goods that need to be transported,” Dr Neugebauer pointed out. “Mobility is the life blood of our society, our social life and our economy.”
Companies that are on a sustainability and transformation journey are highly competitive.
Industry has a big role to play. “Think broadly about business as a force for good,” keynote speaker Andy Schmidt, Chief Community Officer at Seismic, encouraged the audience. He presented the B Corp framework, which provides both a sustainability certification for organisations and a management tool that they can use to understand, measure and improve their impact on the world. “Put people and the planet at the centre of your product design, and look for opportunities that you can capitalise on. If you don’t to it, others will,” he said.
Mr Schmidt also pointed out the positive results of a structured sustainability approach. “Companies that are on a sustainability and transformation journey are highly competitive. They are not only striving to be the best in the world or in their markets, but they also compete to become the best for the world.”
Moving towards sustainability
Luxembourg-based companies wishing to take the first – or their next – steps of their sustainability journey can get support from Fit 4 Sustainability, the latest in the family of “Fit 4” performance programmes launched by the Ministry of the Economy and managed by Luxinnovation. “The ‘Fit 4’ programmes are essentially decision making tools for company executives that help them take stock of the current situation of their business, define their potential for improvement and implement an action plan,” said Arnaud Duban, Head of SME Performance at Luxinnovation.
The “Fit 4” programmes are essentially decision making tools for company executives.
Fit 4 Sustainability focuses on three topics: energy consumption and carbon footprint, water use and pollution, and the potential to implement a circular economy approach. The programme is open to small as well as large companies, regardless of their sector of activity, with varying subsidy levels according to their size. Interested companies are welcome to contact Luxinnovation. Mr Duban also mentioned that a call for experts able to assess participating companies and drawing up action plans is open until 30 June 2022.
Smart Manufacturing Week: focus on companies
Smart Manufacturing Week will continue to explore the topic of sustainable manufacturing on 9 and 10 June, with sessions on the factory of the future, the decarbonisation of mobility, and intelligent and sustainable materials for the construction sector. The programme features a mix of experts and company representatives.
“We want companies to be on stage to share their experience, and we want businesses to inspire each other,” says Caroline Muller, Luxembourg Materials & Manufacturing Cluster Manager at Luxinnovation and the main coordinator of Smart Manufacturing Week. “This is truly a cross-sector event, and we hope that the event will yield both new insights and new partnerships that will allow Luxembourg industry to further strengthen its competitiveness and sustainability in the future.”
Photo credit: Luxinnovation / Sophie Margue