Top 10: Sustainable Factories

Unilever, Microsoft, IKEA, Siemens, Schneider Electric, Nestlé, Google, Apple, Interface & Danone are the forces behind our Top 10 sustainable factories

Manufacturing giants are leading the way in building a more sustainable future  -and that work starts on the factory floor. Unilever, Microsoft, IKEA, Siemens, Schneider Electric, Nestlé, Google, Apple, Interface and Danone stand as the vanguards of our Top 10 sustainable factories. 

10. Interface 

As a Carbon Neutral Enterprise, modular flooring company Interface has modernised its factories, products and supply chain, using carbon-storing raw materials to lower its carbon emissions. 

So far, 79% of energy used at owned manufacturing sites is renewable and 59% of materials in the flooring products are recycled or biobased. The company has a goal to achieve carbon neutrality by 2020.

9. Danone 

The multinational food-products corporation Danone is committed to achieving net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, especially those from its manufacturing sites.

The World Economic Forum awarded Danone’s factory in Poland as an Advanced Fourth Industrial Revolution Lighthouse, for its digital transformation. The factory has reduced its greenhouse gas emissions by 50% and cut its energy consumption by 23%, by combining energy and production data to improve energy efficiency. It has also cut water usage by 25%.

8. IKEA 

By 2030, the world's biggest furniture brand has set a goal to become a fully circular business and it has already made efforts to reduce the carbon footprint of its factories.

Inter IKEA manufactures IKEA products and aims to reduce absolute greenhouse gas emissions across the value chain by 50%.

"It's still going to be challenging and a lot of hard work, but there is at least a realism in the goal of 50%," said Par Stenmark, Chief Sustainability Officer at Inter IKEA.

7. Schneider Electric 

Environmental regulations continue to be a challenge across manufacturing and energy management company Schneider Electric has set clear targets for carbon neutrality, including across its manufacturing operations. The company is also developing solutions to drive sustainable operations - with automation technology supporting these changes. 

6. Siemens

Global tech titan Siemens wants to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2030. At its Chengdu factory, in China, waste is monitored to the motto “Discard – Reduce – Recycle”, with avoiding waste in the first place being the automotive first measure. The factory introduced reusable and recyclable ESD boxes to replace the traditional cardboard boxes, made of cellulose. When the ESD box is empty, it is collected by a robot and prepared to be returned to the supplier.

5. Nestlé

Nestlé is working to reduce emissions and reach net-zero emissions by 2050. Since 2016, all of our factories and offices in the UK and Ireland transitioned to 100% renewable grid-supplied electricity by investing in the development of new wind power capacity.

Each day, 4.5m KitKats are manufactured by Nestlé, in 14 countries. The Guinness World Records certified KitKat as the world's most global brand, which put the sweet treat in our no.1 spot for our Top 10 Biscuit Manufacturers.

4. Apple

Apple’s operations have been carbon-neutral since 2020 and the company has been working hard to extend this across its entire global supply chain by 2030. 

In one example, through shipping half of all carbon-neutral Apple Watch products, by total weight using non-air modes of transportation from the factory, Apple is reducing total transportation emissions by 50%.

However, treatment of workers at Apple’s Foxconn plant in China has raised serious sustainability concerns about employee welfare.

3. Unilever

Unilever aims to hit zero emissions across its operations by 2030, followed by net zero emissions across its value chain by 2039, alongside finding new low-carbon ingredients, expanding its plant-based product range and developing fossil-fuel-free cleaning and laundry products. 

“We are also building factories of the future by integrating advanced digital technologies across our end-to-end operations, while sustainably reducing our environmental footprint,” explains Reginaldo Ecclissato, Unilever Chief Business Operations and Supply Chain Officer.

2. Microsoft

Microsoft will be carbon-negative by 2030, removing more carbon from the atmosphere than it emits. Amol Adgaonkar is a part of Microsoft's manufacturing and mobility industry team. He leads Microsoft’s strategy for factory solutions, helping manufacturers accelerate their digital transformations or AI journeys. He spoke with Manufacturing Digital to discuss factories, sustainability and its partnership with PTC. 

“If you look at a product lifecycle or a manufacturer's view of the entire lifecycle of their operations, PTC covers it all and covers it really well,” said Adgaonkar. “They're on almost every factory floor helping customers transform bits from product design to manufacturing. PTC is uniquely positioned in terms of bringing capabilities like a digital thread to life.”

1. Google

Millions of people use Google everyday and many are asking what they can do to become more sustainable - in their lives, schools, workplaces and factories. 

Google's sustainability strategy revolves around three key pillars: 

  • Accelerating the transition to carbon-free energy and a circular economy
  • Empowering individuals and communities through technology
  • Creating positive impacts for the people and places where Google operates.

Google has committed to operating all of its data centres and offices on 24/7 carbon-free energy by 2030. 

At Sustainability Live 2023, Head of Sustainability for EMEA Adam Elman, told us more. 

“We know sustainability has to start at home, we have to get our own house in order, and we're really focused on how we can make sure our operations are sustainable. Building on our legacy of leadership in climate action and clean energy, we've set big ambitious goals and we're trying to drive transformational change towards that net zero future.”


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