Senior executives from firms in North Buckinghamshire and Bedfordshire joined colleagues at a working lunch chaired by Nick Brayshaw, chair of the Confederation of British Industry’s National Manufacturing Council. The event, organised by Barclays, took place at Flitwick Manor.

A Barclays spokesman said: "The manufacturing industry is at the epicentre of the environmental debate in the UK. Carbon footprints are becoming more and more important and can provide a competitive edge if these are reduced. Consumer sentiment is driving an agenda in which environmental concerns potentially outweigh price to some extent in purchasing decisions. Manufactuers who embrace this issue may have competitive advantage in the future."

Also on the agenda were the current economic climate and the weakness of the US dollar. Rising commodity prices and wage pressures made it a more favourable time for manufacturers to justify price increases, while the dollar’s exchange rate was affecting UK manufacturers.

The spokesman said: "Most businesses have set their plans around a much lower exchange rate than we are currently seeing."

Mr Brayshaw is also an independent member of the Business Group Board at the Department of Trade and Industry. He has been advising the DTI on UK manufacturing strategy and is chairman of the UK manufacturing team for Barclays Bank as well as of environmental technology and manufacturing companies.

Delegates contributed to a lively discussion. Tim Dye, chairman and chief executive of pharmaceutical company William Ransom & Son, said: "Being able to discuss in detail with Nick Brayshaw his senior-level perspective from across UK manufacturing was extremely useful and thought-provoking.

"At least two of the ideas we discussed – the potential environmental benefit of local production and the improving pricing power of UK manufacturers – I expect to help to provide material benefit to our business."

Andy Cook, managing director of FFEI, described the discussion as "stimulating and very relevant", particularly around price inflation and green policies.

Barclays relationship directors John Laud, national head of food, drink and packaging, and Richard Bacon, who works with manufacturing businesses, were at the forum.

Mr Bacon said: "Barclays has a long history of support for the manufacturing sector which is extremely important to us. We are delighted to be able to provide a forum whereby manufacturing companies can debate important issues they are currently facing."

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