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Are you the kind of leader that is up for a challenge? The BIG challenges affecting our societies, UK manufacturing and the whole planet?

At The Manufacturers’ Alliance annual conference, 15th May 2024, our Founder and Managing Director Gary Sheader, presented what he feels are the 3 biggest challenges / opportunities that will affect the UK manufacturing industry over the coming decades. The things that we must do to evolve sustainably.

He kicked off his message to the room with… “the government will not save us”. If you are waiting for UK government to save your business with some magic pot of gold, you will be waiting for a long time. It’s not happening. It will need to be UK industry that leads us out of the situation we are in and towards a better future.

UK manufacturing will need great leadership if we are to evolve sustainably and address the big challenges ahead. We will need a commitment from business leaders to come together and work collaboratively. Making the future of business a force for good will require the change makers to roll their sleeves up and work together to tackle the big priorities.

The top 3 priorities Gary shared at the conference were…

1. Prioritising Sustainability

The climate crisis is having a devastating effect on our ecological system and is the greatest threat to all living things on our planet right now. There are many heroes who are publicly leading positive changes towards a better world, including Sir David Attenborough, Greta Thunberg, Yin Yuzhen, Isatou Ceesay and many, many more.

The climate crisis is such a big challenge, it can feel overwhelming. We ask ourselves, what can I do about such a big issue? And the answer is that we all can and should play our part in eliminating this threat for future generations. We can do this both personally and professionally by…

Reducing. Reduce our consumption of things we don’t really need and remove all forms of waste. Reduce the amount of the earths resources we are consuming. Reduce the amount of energy and fuel we consume. Reduce the amount of single use items we use and then throw away. Reduce food and material waste. Re-balance ourselves with nature and stop overconsuming.

Re-using. Re-use and repurpose everything we possible can – be creative and innovative. Re-use clothes, books, toys, and furniture by taking them to a local charity shop or selling them. Re-use boxes, containers and bags for multiple shopping visits. Re-use water bottles instead of consuming more resources. Re-use like ‘triggers broom’ (you will need to Google this one if you don’t know it).

Recycling. Recycle glass, plastic, metals, wood, paper and all things that can be recycled at your local recycling centre. Recycle food and garden waste via compost bins. Recycle all our materials and products and do what we can to create a more circular economy. Aim for a footprint that pushes zero towards landfill.

Educating. Educate yourself in the bigger sustainability picture and how we bring more balance to the planet. Gary Sheader shared his journey with educating himself on sustainability, “I’m learning like everyone else. Over the past 18 months, to educate myself, I have spent time with indigenous tribes from the Amazon, attended festivals, attended workshops, learned to forage, read books, listened to podcasts, watched documentaries and talked to people who have a passion for being more sustainable. I feel much more connected to nature and life on our planet as a result of educating myself. There’s a lot to do, but I love learning, so that’s OK.”

Businesses that have a strong bias towards sustainability and have embedded this within their culture have such a great time being creative with some of the ideas above. They are also educating their own families and friends on how to get better at being more sustainable. The world of business can have such a positive impact on our societies when we put the effort it.

Q. What could you do to lead a more sustainable life?


2a. Innovation

Businesses and teams that survive and thrive are the ones that understand the landscape they are operating in, and continually adapt to their environment. The greatest enabler for this is to make the time to understand your landscape and adapt. Creating the time and space to learn and innovate needs to be the norm in a modern industrial business.

Innovation becomes scarce in business when we stop committing the time to change and improvement efforts. We get caught up in the day to day, we cut back too far on resources, or we become fixed on what we expect from people and the system we operate in. Whatever the reason for not committing the time to changing things for the better, you are now moving backwards.

Great leaders of teams ensure that time is factored in for review meetings, improvement ideas, and keeping the momentum with change efforts. They appreciate the time and effort that goes into building momentum, and don’t want to lose the inertia once created.

Q. What is the greatest threat to the long-term survival of your business?


2b. Technology

Technology will play more and more of a role in our business and personal lives over the coming years (it already is), so understanding the technologies that are (and could be in the near future) affecting your business is key to a modern business strategy. Artificial Intelligence (AI), mixed reality (MR), robotics, automation, the industrial internet of things (IIoT) and interactive data visualisation software’s are just of few of the technologies that are evolving at pace and will affect the future of your business and its strategy.

We are within a perfect storm right now that could be hugely beneficial to industry and future generations if we get things right. But the time is now. There is a growing need for a faster pace of technology adoption in UK Manufacturing and industrial businesses, and pool of young talent that want to work with technology. We could capitalise on this and bridge the gap for young people into the manufacturing sector. A lot needs to be done, but it is achievable.

We also have a huge task to become more sustainable and rebalance ourselves with nature. Technology and future innovations could play a major part in eliminating the climate crisis threat if we committed the time and resources to making a difference here. A lot of business leaders are, be we need this to be the majority of business leaders to have the impact it needs.

Q. What is holding you back from being a technologically advanced business?


3. People & Culture

Business leaders have the opportunity to play a pivotal role in changing peoples lives and societies for the better. We could and should focus on creating cultures within our organisations that enable people to reach their full potential and live a healthy and meaningful life. Creating cultures with a community spirit that want to help each other and support local charities and causes. Imagine how amazing places like these would be to work. We could make this the norm.

We had Sir John Timpson speak at our annual conference on 15th May 2024, and he put a case forward that some business leaders feel you have two options in business.

Option A, operate in alignment with kindness and doing good and don’t make any money.

Option B, focus on the numbers and act like dick, and make lots of money.

Sir John and Timpson’s have proven that you can act from a place of kindness and make money. Their philosophy of upside-down management has proven it… much to the surprise of many who just don’t get it.

Workplaces can be a place of safety and community, and act as a foundation to a stable society. A place where people feel looked after, valued and part of a healthy team. Accepting our differences as opportunities to learn about each other, and deepen our understanding of people and culture.

To achieve this, we need leaders who care about people, places and the whole ecosystem they operate within. They need to have the will and the skill to create such a positive change in the world. The desire to want to bring people together and form a healthy community.

How would you describe the culture in your business?



Gary would like to conclude the article with a message to you…

“What I am pitching to you with this article is a calling. A calling to you as a business leader to accept this body of writing as an invitation to step forwards and accept the challenge to do the right thing. To hear this message as a rallying call for change, and although you don’t know the concrete steps to take, you will do what you can to lead your organisation and community towards a more sustainable future.”

Are you the kind of person that would stop and ponder the ad that famous polar explorer Ernest Shackleton placed in the newspaper for his high risk journey across the treacherous Antarctic? A journey that will be full of uncertainty, but at the same time will be full of rewards as we change the world for the better.

Are you the kind of leader that is up for the challenge? Because that’s what the world needs right now.

If this article resonates with you, feel free to get in touch and explore how you can join the Manufacturers’ Alliance movement.