We have now entered the 2020s and reached a critical crossroad on climate action. While there have been greater awareness and momentum on climate change over the past number of years, it hasn’t resulted in increased action. The recent UN Emissions Gap Report 2019 highlighted that we are now on the brink of missing the opportunity to limit global warming to 1.5°C by the end of this century. Our actions in this decade will have profound implications on planetary and societal wellbeing. Collectively, through commitments, stronger policies and actions we must now deliver a 7.6% emissions reduction every year between 2020 and 2030. Addressing this mammoth challenge requires urgent transformational action across all sectors.
A big part of the challenge is that as a society we have not committed sufficiently to reduce emissions. We must close the ‘commitment gap’ to protect our future. For those of us in the construction sector, we know our industry is one of the biggest contributors to carbon emissions globally. Today, the construction and operation of buildings account for 36% of global energy use and 39% of energy-related CO₂ emissions*. We consume eye-watering amounts of extracted resources and are responsible for ca. 30% of all waste to landfill globally. With global floor area expected to double by 2060 and energy use on the rise, this trend is set to accelerate. Clearly, there is huge untapped opportunity within the built environment to help tackle the climate challenge and we want to play our part in helping to do so.
- To significantly reduce our environmental footprint as we continue to grow our global business
- Further enhance the environmental performance of our products
- Make a meaningful contribution towards the achievement of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
The next step in a journey that began almost 10 years ago
In 2010, inspired by the new requirements of the EU Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD) for all new buildings to be ‘nearly zero energy buildings’ by 2020, we embarked upon our Net Zero Energy** (NZE) program, initiating our Group sustainability journey. We’ve learned a great deal over the past decade and have made significant progress on energy efficiency, deploying multiple large-scale on-site energy projects – generating over 34 GWh from eleven different renewable energy sources and significantly increased our procurement of renewable electricity and renewable energy certificates. We are firmly on track to achieve our goal this year.
As we approached the end of the program, we began to engage multiple stakeholders from factory floor to climate scientists to provide input and feedback. We took a deep dive, assessing the root causes of the most material impacts of our business and industry, to develop a strategy that will enable us to support and thrive in a low carbon economy, accelerate our product innovation and work with industry to realise systemic change.
Planet Passionate 2030
We believe that clear targets drive action. We have set 12 measurable targets to drive change at speed throughout our business. Through Planet Passionate, we will use more renewable energy (purchased & self-generated), achieve net zero carbon manufacturing across our global operations and help our employees to start their zero-emission transport journey. We will send zero waste to landfill and upcycle consumer plastic waste into high performance insulation products. We will increase our use of harvested rainwater and support ocean clean-up projects around the world.
By taking these actions, we will not only reduce our company’s impact on the planet but also further enhance the environmental benefits of our products. In doing this, we aim to help enable lower whole life carbon buildings at scale. We’re currently developing our detailed roadmaps, strategies and timelines to manage and track progress. We plan to publicly report our progress through a new annual Planet Passionate report, CDP, RE100 and the Science-Based Target Initiative.
The challenges we face require enormous change, often at a systemic level. We believe these can only be met through true collaboration and partnership. Kingspan is part of several important initiatives aiming to achieve industry transformation including the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, and the World Green Building Council’s Net Zero Carbon Building Commitment, along with their Advancing Net Zero project. We are also supporting organizations such as the Born Free Foundation that are working to protect the natural world and we will continue to scale up our global action throughout the program.
Empowering our people
We are mobilizing our energetic and talented colleagues to help accelerate our program and impact. We believe that sustainability is a cause that is important to our employees and want to help enable them to be Planet Passionate both at work and home. We’re creating more opportunities to become actively involved including a Champions Network, an ‘ideas feed’ that connects directly into our sustainability teams and a program toolkit to enable everyone to learn about and grow the program throughout our business. We will have regular progress updates and will use existing annual events such as our Supplier Days to help develop solutions. The internal response to date has been extremely positive and we fully expect our people will help us rise to this challenge.
Helping our customers to be Planet Passionate
We believe our most important contribution in supporting climate action will come from helping our customers to reduce the whole life carbon of their buildings around the world. We will continue to innovate – enhancing our existing products and bring new solutions to market that help save energy, carbon and water in buildings for decades to come.
We must work collaboratively to replace the old linear approach to construction and to mainstream new low carbon approaches to the design, build and operation of buildings.
Last year, we opened our new IKON global innovation center of excellence for Research and Development. It is a living research building, focused on finding solutions to global issues through advanced materials and digital technologies. IKON will work in collaboration with universities, research institutions and industry partners across a range of areas to drive new and better solutions for our built environment.
The scale of change required in a very short timeframe is enormous. A major economic challenge will face us all once the COVID-19 crisis passes. All sectors in society will be affected and we will look to policymakers and legislators to rapidly put the best and most effective recovery package in place. The crisis holds profound lessons that can help us address these challenges, if we make greater economic and environmental resiliency core to our planning for the recovery ahead. The journey won’t be easy, but we know we can, and must, make this happen.
Bianca Wong, Global Head of Sustainability, Kingspan Group
*UN Global Status Report 2017
**Net Zero Energy: We aim to achieve net zero energy by the end of 2020. We have defined net zero energy as meaning: the non-renewable energy use associated with our manufacturing sites will be minimized through a combination of energy efficiency measures, on-site renewable energy generation and the purchase of certified renewable energy from the grid. Our remaining non-renewable energy use will be offset by the purchase of renewable energy certificates.