British Coatings Federation publishes roadmap to Net Zero, aiming to reduce coatings sector’s emissions by third by 2030

15 November 2023

The British Coatings Federation (BCF) today launches its Net Zero Roadmap, outlining how the UK coatings sector will reach Net Zero carbon emissions by 2050, with a 38% reduction in scope 1 and 2 emissions projected by 2030. The roadmap also illustrates how the industry, which contributes £4bn a year to the UK economy and employs 14,000 people, will play a major role in enabling the UK to achieve its national legislated Net Zero target.

Online versions of the Net Zero Roadmap and the Quick Start Guide are available at

The roadmap lays out how the BCF and its members aim to reach Net Zero, with projected reductions in scope 1 and 2 emissions of 53% by 2035 and 69% by 2040 as waypoints to measure progress against. It goes on to detail four things that need to happen if the overall target is to be met:

  • Increased energy efficiency, including greater use of renewable energy and the development of low-carbon hydrogen.
  • Improved resource efficiency, such as the development of new products and technologies including greater uptake of bio-based raw materials.
  • The development of carbon capture, utilisation and storage networks.
  • Intensive supply chain collaboration and engagement, seeking to reduce scope 3 emissions.

Some of these will require actions from Government and a list of seven recommendations are included at the end of the report and detailed below. Among them are the need for a secure environment for businesses to invest in sustainable infrastructure, clarity and certainty of energy policy in the longer term, and support for SMEs in their journey to reach Net Zero.

Together, the roadmap represents a significant step for an industry whose products are important in the drive for a more sustainable economy. It sets out practical steps that the BCF’s more than 140 members can start taking now to reduce their carbon emissions and highlights key actions manufacturers can take at every stage of the value chain to reach Net Zero.

Sharon Harte, President of the British Coatings Federation, said: “The UK paints, coatings, printing inks and wallcoverings sector has always adapted to changing conditions. Now the next great challenge is to tackle climate change and reach Net Zero as soon as possible, and by mid-century at the latest. This roadmap is a demonstration of our commitment to that cause and will act as a guide to support our members on their individual Net Zero journeys.”

“As part of our journey, it is important to recognise the key role our sector has in in the transition to a more sustainable future: providing products that prolong the life of goods, vehicles and infrastructure; and protecting and enabling renewable energy sources such as wind turbines and solar panels. Our industry will therefore play a major role in enabling the UK to achieve its Net Zero target. We, of course, have our own emissions and those are the focus of this roadmap.”


View from the UK: Chemicals and careers take centre stage

The roadmap, which builds on the BCF’s 2021 commitment to reach Net Zero by 2050, outlines how the coatings sector intends to tackle its own emissions (scope 1) and those it creates indirectly (scope 2 and scope 3). It also estimates that the largest proportion of carbon emissions, 98%, are linked to members’ supply chains (scope 3) and therefore more difficult to manage.  However, as a sign of how important they recognise dealing with upstream and downstream emissions is, BCF is holding a seminar on scope 3 emissions with suppliers on the day of this roadmap’s official launch.

Importantly, the roadmap makes clear that, while any emissions that cannot be eliminated must be balanced by finding ways to absorb an equivalent amount, the sector’s Net Zero strategy must minimise the use of carbon offsets, reserving the practice for unavoidable emissions only.

The document, which has been shared with all members and is available to the public on the BCF website, recognises that different sub-sectors of the BCF’s memberships may need to move at different paces, as their energy needs and challenges are sometimes different.

Tom Bowtell, Chief Executive of the BCF, said: “This is an important document for us as it is the first time the sector has collectively worked together to quantify the scale of the challenge. However, it is just the start of a long journey, and a lot more work will be required across the sector to make Net Zero a reality. Many of our members are already well on the way to reaching their Net Zero target, while others might be grappling with the complexities of getting started. It is our role as the sector’s trade body to show leadership, support members through this process and help those who need more assistance make the necessary progress. That is why we are launching the roadmap at a one-day seminar designed to provide some of that very support, together with a shorter, easier to navigate ‘quick start guide’ for SMEs.”

“Businesses across all industries have a central role to play in delivering emissions reductions and I am pleased that the coatings sector is leading the way in engaging with this challenge. There is no easy fix but in the long term our hard work will be well worth it to secure a greener, cleaner future for our planet.”

The BCF’s baseline for scope 1 and 2 emissions is approximately 100,000t of CO2(e) and will be used to track the industry’s progress against its Net Zero target. Scope 3 emissions have not been included in the industry’s baseline at this stage due to the complexity of the data and its limitations; however, BCF’s initial estimate is that this number would be in excess of 2.5Mtof CO2(e), representing around 98% of the industry’s carbon footprint. In recognition of the quantity of scope 3 emissions, the roadmap is being launched at a special seminar aimed at helping coatings companies, their suppliers and customers, work together to tackle those scope 3 emissions.

Recommendations for Government 

The inevitable transition to a Net Zero economy may be a significant challenge for the paints, coatings, printing inks and wallcoverings industry. BCF suggests the following recommendations for Government to provide a clearer direction, to build infrastructure and to increase funding for innovation.

  • Create a secure environment for business to invest in more sustainable and Net Zero-related infrastructure. Clarity and certainty of policy is required, over the medium to long-term, if businesses are to be able to plan and invest in required major upgrades of equipment.
  • This should include increased support to industry via the Industrial Energy Transformation Fund107, or newly created funds, to spur businesses on to developing and installing innovative new technology and processes leading to greater and faster decarbonisation.
  • Alternative measures might look at tax relief, or a deduction for capital expenditure, specifically on ‘green’ investments aimed at decarbonising industrial processes.
  • Measures to help SMEs recognise and meet their Net Zero goals would also be helpful. In particular, smaller companies need help in identifying their scope 3 emissions, as well as putting together an action plan to prioritise and tackle them. A scheme along the lines of Help to Grow108, which previously offered small-scale support to help businesses digitise, could instead provide vouchers or funding for SMEs to buy in Net Zero planning consultancy support or software.
  • At the same time, Government needs to continue with policies to scale up, at pace, emerging technologies such as low carbon hydrogen, carbon capture utilisation and storage, and modular nuclear, which are essential for industry to be able to meet future Net Zero commitments. As Make UK notes, ‘the UK needs to leverage its net zero ambitions to achieve greater energy independence, which in turn should keep energy bills stable and affordable. Achieving energy security requires a shift towards abundant, low carbon energy. Failure to implement low-carbon policies and reduce carbon emissions would put the UK’s energy security at risk.’
  • Improve access to green skills across businesses, continuing to fund apprenticeships and incentivising those that focus on climate and sustainability. This will support the training required to develop the knowledge, abilities, values and attitudes in order to implement more sustainable practices within business and throughout society.
  • Finally, chemicals regulations in the UK need to be clarified as soon as possible, ensuring that whatever process of registration and enforcement is put in place does not lead to new, sustainable substances being withheld from the UK market due to cost or bureaucracy. The current interim REACH NRES (New Registration of an Existing Substance) process is beginning to create just this negative situation and it needs resolving as a priority.

Image caption: BCF’s Net Zero roadmap being officially launched at their Road to Net Zero Seminar in Nottingham. Left to right: Patricia Durany-Fernandez, BCF Sustainability Manager; Sharon Harte, BCF President and Managing Director of Darcylate Paints; Tom Bowtell, CEO of BCF, alongside seminar delegates

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