Automotive supplier drives down carbon footprint

A Sunderland Tier One supplier is trailblazing new measures that will drive down its energy use, supporting a push towards city-wide carbon neutrality.

Marelli, one of the world’s leading global suppliers to the automotive sector which employs more than 900 people at its plant in Washington, has rolled out a range of retro-fit improvements that will deliver a carbon reduction of more than a third between 2021 and 2023, equating to a reduction of 7.88t of Co2.

The company – an energy intensive business that produces plastic and synthetic components used in the interiors of cars produced by a range of OEMs including Nissan, has carried out an extensive programme of improvements to its 1980s factory, including installation of full LED lighting across its office and shopfloor, lighting sensors to minimise wastage; artificial intelligent compressors which reduce energy linked to compressed air creation; a zero to land fill policy, with reuse of materials driving up efficiency, and a concerted effort to support colleagues to do their bit to recycle at work too.

The improvements have not only driven down energy use and costs but have also created a more attractive working environment for the Marelli team, with a lighter, brighter and more contemporary feel to the office and factory floor.

Phil Wood, Vice President and Regional Leader at Marelli, which has been based in Sunderland since 1986, said: “We’re really proud of the improvements we have made, which put us right at the forefront of industry when it comes to driving down carbon reductions and creating a cleaner, greener facility.

“The whole automotive industry is committed to achieving reductions in carbon emissions, and in the current climate – with unprecedented energy costs – it not only makes good business sense, but it is absolutely the right thing to do.”

Mr Wood said Marelli plans to implement a range of additional measures that will generate further improvements to the firm’s energy efficiency.

“We’re some way along the journey. We have focused on measures that are simple, low-cost and easy to do when it comes to driving carbon reductions, but we remain ambitious and we’re looking at many other options to drive down our footprint.

“We can see real merit in further digitisation, which will allow us to more fully understand where energy is being used within our facility and how we can optimise our efficiency. It’s a real area of focus for us, and it sets out a clear message to colleagues and customers that we’re serious about the role we play in protecting the planet.”

The business started its programme of improvements during the pandemic, when it was able to make significant improvements to the facility without impacting production, and has continued to roll out a range of projects since with the same aim of minimising Marelli’s carbon footprint.

“Some of the changes have been small, others much bigger, but in all cases, we have worked to understand the benefits each improvement would generate, so we can make the right decisions for the business. We’ve come a long way but we’re not stopping yet.”

Marelli’s sustainability commitment fits well with Sunderland’s ambitions to become a carbon neutral city by 2040. The council has brought together partners in the city to developed a Low Carbon Framework that establishes a target for Sunderland to be carbon neutral by 2040, and to ensure the local authority achieves this aim by 2030. The Framework was a response to the council’s declaration of a Climate Emergency in March 2019 and a range of businesses and partners are now working together to ensure Sunderland reaches its goal. The council is also championing businesses like Marelli, that are doing their bit to address the climate emergency.

Councillor Graeme Miller, leader of Sunderland City Council, said: “Sunderland was very quick to the table when it came to recognising the scale of the challenge we face, when it comes to the climate, and ensuring we co-created a plan with our partners across the city to tackle this crisis head-on. Businesses like Marelli, that are really pushing ahead on this agenda are great examples and we’re delighted that they’re advocating for the many benefits of improving energy efficiency, not only in respect of the financial benefits, but the positives for colleagues and – most critically – for the planet.”