The progress of UK Automotive in sustainable development was recently revealed by new data published by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT). The 20th annual Sustainability Report shows environmental, economic, and social gains achieved by the sector over the past two decades including the 20% increase in vehicle reuse and recovery.
Over the past 20 years, automotive manufacturing has grown to become one of the UK’s most important economic assets, turning over £82 billion in 2018 – an uplift of 70% since the first Sustainability Report was published in 1999. Automotive manufacturing workers wages have seen an increase, with an average salary of £41,800, 40% higher than the national average. Meanwhile, productivity has increased considerably, with automotive output per job growing by 208% from £32,000 to £100,900.
Brexit remains the biggest threat to the future competitiveness of UK Automotive. The country’s future relationship with the EU must deliver frictionless trade, assure our competitiveness and create an environment ready for investment. This is vital for not only future economic growth, but to further improve the sector’s sustainable development.
Mike Hawes, SMMT Chief Executive, said:
“Sustainability lies at the heart of the UK automotive sector and manufacturers are committed to balancing profitability and output with social and environmental responsibilities. Industry has invested heavily in ever safer, more efficient technology, but in processes and measures that have significantly reduced its environmental impact.
We are on the cusp of a transport revolution and this sector has the potential to be one of the world’s leading forces driving the change. For the UK to reap the full benefits, any future relationship with the EU must assure our competitiveness, delivering frictionless trade and a supportive business environment to encourage investment.”
Key priorities for a sustainable UK Automotive sector
According to the report, the ELV sector has come along way and continues in its quest for improvements by working with government and stakeholders. At the same time, the industry appreciates that the UK waste regulation needs to evolve and be refined. This was also recognised in the government’s Resource and Waste Strategy, published in 2018, which announced a revision of the ELV regulations in 2021. This creates a great opportunity to ensure that circular economy principles are embedded in the regulation by enabling products to be kept in use for as long as practicably possible before being responsibly disposed of. But with this comes challenges.
While the ELV situation has improved considerably since 1999, some issues are yet to be resolved including that of unlicensed operators. With the profitability in the ELV sector, there are a substantial number of illegal operators in business who are likely putting the environment at risk and with site infrastructure, depollution and recycling activity being at a lower standard than at legitimate sites. Not only this but they divert business from legitimate operators who made large investments to achieve the 95% target, creating an unfair playing field. Other challenges include the tightening of vehicle deregistration (a vehicle should be removed from a registered keeper/ DVLA’s record only when it is sold on or a Certificate of Destruction (CoD) is issued). However, in many cases, the due diligence is not performed resulting in vehicles being sent to illegal operators. Other factors include unaccounted for ELVs (likely they have been exported or unofficially scrapped) which affects the UK ability to meet the ELV target.
According to the report, the key priorities for a sustainable automotive sector with regard to the ELV sector, is that there needs to be a tightening of the vehicle deregistration system, with more effective enforcement, to ensure that all vehicles enter the correct channels at the end-of-life stage.
To find out further information about the ELV sector from the report, see pages 29-32.