Aiming for net zero

30th of March 2022
Aiming for net zero
Aiming for net zero

An increasing number of companies are aiming to go “net zero”. But what does this actually involve, and how achievable is it? Ann Laffeaty asks companies about their net zero strategies and finds out how they intend to reach their targets.

THE TERM ‘NET ZERO’ is quickly replacing ‘Covid-19’ as the new catchphrase of the decade. Pledges to dramatically reduce emissions and attain a carbon neutral position are being made by companies across the globe. But how hard is it for organisations to go net zero? And what does it actually mean?

A company reaches net zero when the amount of greenhouse gases it adds to the environment is no higher than the amount it takes away. Any organisation striving to go net zero must therefore dramatically reduce its emissions while balancing out the remainder by removing an equivalent amount. This could be achieved by planting trees, for example, or by capturing and storing carbon.

Kingdom Cleaning has already gone net zero, says managing director Jan Hein Hemke. “We work closely with a sustainable solutions partner to grow our positive environmental profile, and we operate a carbon neutral cleaning system,” he said.

The company’s C2Zero system calculates the carbon impact of every aspect of Kingdom’s service. “By measuring this we are able to fully offset our environmental impact and return our cleaning process to a carbon neutral position,” said Hemke. “We want our operations to be completely carbon-free so we offer this service as part of our standard package.”

According to Hemke, reducing one’s carbon footprint should begin with a company’s own products and services. “We work closely with suppliers to reduce the amount of harmful materials and chemicals used in our operations,” he said.

Tackling emissions

Staff transport is one of the company’s biggest emissions culprits, he says. “We are currently moving towards hybrid and electric vehicles and establishing our own charging points around the country to support this commitment,” said Hemke. “We’re also encouraging our teams to use public transport or car share schemes where possible to further reduce their carbon footprint.”

Demand for sustainable solutions is largely customer-driven, he claims. “We’ve seen a significant increase in the number of clients asking for sustainable solutions, so we need to be capable of offering eco-friendly services that help our clients to achieve their own sustainability goals.”

All Kärcher’s factories have been carbon-neutral since 2021, says sustainability and energy manager Katrin Schmuck. “This makes us the leading carbon-neutral company in the industry with CO?-free global production,” she claims.

“We’re continuously setting ourselves new targets to make our company more efficient while conserving resources to fulfill our role as a social stakeholder.”

Many of Kärcher’s factories are equipped with LED lighting and photovoltaic systems. “Our largest facility in Quistello, Italy, produces 360,000 kWh of power per year over a floor area of 11,500 square metres,” says Schmuck. “And at our headquarters in Winnenden we use a photovoltaic system and close the material cycle by repurposing single-use pallets for heating the buildings.”

The company works hard to offset emissions – even those over which it has no direct influence, says Schmuck. “For example in Banbury in the UK we have installed nearly 1,000 solar panels which now account for 44 per cent of the plant’s annual power consumption,” she said. “And we compensate for any emissions we can’t avoid by funding climate protection projects and using green energy.”

The business travel side of Kärcher’s operations became carbon-neutral in 2021, says Schmuck. “We are increasingly moving towards digital conferencing and we’re further adding to the number of electric vehicles in our fleet,” she said.

Reducing emissions is central to Kärcher’s sustainability policy, according to Schmuck. “Reducing energy, water and chemicals during the cleaning process is not only relevant for the sustainable footprint of cleaning services, it also has a tangible economic benefit,” she said. “Many of our machines are already designed with an Eco mode which means they use less water, detergent and electricity – all of which help to reduce CO2 emissions in the ‘use’ phase.”

IPC is committed to cutting greenhouse gas emissions while also reducing waste and water consumption, says the company’s delegate for product compliance and regulatory affairs Mario Scarpa.

Renewable source energy

“Our strategy for achieving zero emissions includes the purchase of clean energy produced from renewable sources,” he said. “We are also working on improvements to manufacturing sites, such as the replacement of existing lighting systems with the latest LED products.”

IPC uses recycled plastic in its equipment and machinery and has a Black is Green brand to identify its recycled plastic production. “We also equip our machines with devices that help operators to save water, energy and detergent,” said Scarpa. “And we promote the distribution of machines equipped with electric motors over those equipped with endothermic motors.”

Services provider Atalian Servest aims to go net zero by 2030 says cleaning managing director Johan Venter. “This we intend to do by working with sustainable suppliers, reducing emissions from buildings and recruiting staff who live close to their workplace,” he said. “We have also started to switch our entire fleet to electric or hybrid vehicles and we will ensure each office has a charging station by 2023.”

The company promotes a Cycle to Work scheme and offers safe storage for bicycles on all its sites. It is also investing in carbon offset schemes. “For example we are installing solar panels in schools and supplying wood stoves to coffee farmers,” said Venter.

Atalian Servest is also reducing its use of chemicals and moving towards biological products where possible. “These types of products are more environmentally-friendly and the run-off doesn’t disrupt waterways,” claims Venter.

Going net zero is the ultimate goal for Greenspeed according to product and sustainability manager Lies Marijnissen. “We use renewable energy in our production processes and warehouses, and we have goals to reduce transport emissions on the operational side,” she said. “Global warming can no longer be ignored while the topics of air pollution and the impact of CO2 are also gaining in importance.”

Greenspeed develops its products using life cycle analysis and employs plant-based ingredients and recycled packaging where possible. “We continue to look for improvements to reach the ultimate goal of creating a positive impact,” said Marijnissen.

Water-based solutions

Climate change is the most critical sustainability issue of the day, according to Incentive QAS managing director Jamie Wright. “We intend to be net zero by 2030 and are well on our way to achieving Planet Mark accreditation, which recognises continuous improvement,” he said.

The company has committed to switching to renewable energy by 2022; to operate a carbon neutral vehicle fleet by 2024 and to support staff members to become carbon neutral in their personal lives by 2028. Incentive QAS also works with carbon-neutral supply partners to help offset any remaining carbon emissions.

“We’ve replaced cleaning chemicals with water-based solutions and have adopted various innovative products designed to reduce environmental impact,” said Wright.

Essity intends to go net zero by 2050 according to the company’s communications director Renée Remijnse. It aims to do so by improving energy efficiency, eliminating fossil fuels and by increasing its use of renewable energy, she says.

“We have joined the UN Global Compact’s Business Ambition for 1.5°C to develop targets to reach net zero emissions by 2050 for the entire value chain,” said Remijnse.

The company has also updated its target for responsible sourcing. “By 2025 we want 95 per cent of Essity’s total purchase cost to be from suppliers that comply with Essity’s Global Supplier Standard.”

Robert Scott is seeking to reduce its carbon footprint in various ways, according to sales director Alastair Scott. “For example, we are manufacturing more products in the UK - our home country - and we’re localising our supply chain,” he said.

“We’ve also installed a grid of 330 solar panels with the capacity of producing 100 kWh, resulting in a 50 per cent reduction of electricity consumption from our Oldham site. And in October 2021, all our electricity came from zero-carbon hydro, wind, and solar sources for the first time.”

The company plans to continue with its solar panel installation while also introducing charging points for electric vehicles on all its sites. “We’re looking to grow our range of eco cleaning products as well, including our ecofibre cloths made from recycled plastic bottles,” he said. “And we’re considering how we can further reduce packaging on all items.”

Companies need to do their own due diligence and check the sustainability of their supply chains, according to Scott. “We also need to work collectively with customers and as a society if we’re to achieve real, long-term change,” he says.

Vectair offsets carbon emissions from the life cycle of its V-Air SOLID Evolution product by helping to fund various sustainability projects, says the company’s head of marketing Louise Goldsmith.

Fund projects

“For example we support tree-planting projects in the UK and Brazil, and we contribute to the Breathing Space programme to improve cooking stoves in India,” she said. The company also supports the Native Energy clean water programme in Central America and a wind-based power generation project in India.

So, should ‘net zero’ be the holy grail of any company’s sustainability policy? Or are other targets equally important?

According to Greenspeed’s Lies Marijnissen, all hygiene solutions should have a healing effect on humanity and nature where possible. “By setting out this vision we try to not only lower our impact, but also to create a positive impact on the planet and people,” she said.

Essity’s Renée Remijnse believes there are other crucial sustainability goals to consider besides going net zero. “For example, Essity has an updated target to reduce its total recordable injuries rate by 75 per cent by 2025 compared with 2019,” she said.

Firms must strive to create an inclusive, supportive and safe working environment for all employees, says IPC’s Mario Scarpa, while Atalian Servest’s Johan Venter adds it is important to reduce the use of water, energy and plastics in all products.

And Vectair’s Louise Goldsmith says sustainability should always be balanced against efficacy. “We need to come up with solutions that are more sustainable but that work just as well – if not better – than less sustainable alternatives,” she said. “After all, there’s no point in producing a product that is environmentally-friendly but that doesn’t actually address the customer’s problems.”


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