Aiming For Net-Zero

The word ‘sustainability’ creates different associations depending on whether we think about it from an individual point of view, or if we have the bigger picture in mind...

The word ‘sustainability’ creates different associations depending on whether we think about it from an individual point of view, or if we have the bigger picture in mind. For many, it’s very simply about looking after the planet. But there’s growing recognition that if we are to go on enjoying social, economic and technological advancements, there’s a huge job to be done to protect our world for future generations and minimise the inevitable financial impact of rising fuel costs in buildings. With the construction sector high on the list of industries able to have maximum impact on this global agenda, sustainable building is now paramount. There’s never been a more exciting time to be driving sustainabilityfocused innovation for the built environment.

Together we have the opportunity to make our built environments more energy efficient, attractive, adaptable, environmentally sensitive and productive. The way we build can be more effective and reach higher standards than ever before. We can make our buildings really work for us; consuming and generating energy smartly to become real investments in our future.

In 2011 the Kingspan Group made a commitment that the Company’s worldwide operations would be NZE by 2020, with an interim target of achieving 50% by 2016. This commitment was greeted with genuine optimism and a wholehearted belief that the ambitious goal was achievable; seeing it simply as another exciting opportunity for Kingspan to bring its culture and deep-held values, centred around sustainability, to life while generating multiple benefits along the way. With no official outside definition of NZE, Kingspan decided to commit to all of its manufacturing facilities being powered by renewable energy on an aggregated basis across its estate in 2020. In making this pledge, Kingspan decided to include all energy use with no differentiation between electricity, gas and other fuels.

The building sector contributes up to 30% of global annual green house gas emissions and consumes up to 40% of all energy. Given the massive growth in new construction in economies in transition, and the inefficiencies of existing building stock worldwide, if nothing is done, greenhouse gas emissions from buildings will more than double in the next 20 years… Mitigation of greenhouse gas emissions from buildings must be a cornerstone of every national climate change strategy.

Sylvie Lemmet, Director, United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)

Mark said: “Establishing a lead position in providing sustainable products and solutions for the construction industry while operating a sustainable business ourselves continues to be at the heart of Kingspan’s vision. Regulatory change and increasing awareness among property owners and those leading design in the built environment is driving the development of low energy, low carbon buildings that are certified to global environmental standards, such as BREEAM, LEED, Estidama and Green Star. And increasingly we’re seeing countries implement ‘carbon taxes’, which means that there’s now an even greater financial incentive to build and refurbish with low energy, low carbon emissions, and low environmental impact in mind.

“Challenging ourselves to become NZE within a nine-year time frame felt like a huge step into the unknown at the time. However, the pledge has brought a keen focus to absolutely everything that we do and, in spite of our business changing shape rapidly in the interim period – growing in financial strength and in size by acquisition – we’ve managed not only to stay on track but also to get ahead of our target. Having set ourselves an ambitious 50% progress to goal in 2016, we’re confident of reaching 57% by the end of the year, which is very exciting!”

Mark points to the requirement for all new buildings to be nearly NZE by 2020, outlined in the EU’s re-cast Energy Performance Buildings Directive (EPBD) in 2010 as a defining moment for Kingspan. The Company has always strived to be a thoughtleader in its sector but in order to continue leading with innovation to satisfy the ever increasing sustainable building requirements, it became clear that it had to fully understand its own energy footprint and address carbon emissions at its own facilities as part of the process. Kingspan’s NZE initiative became the framework within which all sites now operate to drive progress. Utilising Kingspan’s wide range of energy efficient products as part of the NZE process has proved invaluable. It’s provided opportunities to test and validate product performance; learn about new ways to achieve more from existing products and operations; and, as a result, put the Company in an even better position to share this knowledge and experience for the benefit of customers and potential users going forward.

When I look back to 2011, the incredibly ambitious NZE ambition we had has turned into exciting reality that will continue to deliver benefits for the company and its stakeholders. The transition from fossil fuels to renewables is incredibly exciting – not least because we’re demonstrating that its not only possible to achieve Net-Zero but so far the journey has delivered tangible financial benefits for the company and has proven the business case for investment in energy efficiency, renewable energy generation and renewable energy procurement to our wider stakeholder community.

Mark explained how Kingspan are driving forward to deliver the 2020 target by the Save More – Generate More – Buy More Strategy and anticipate delivering tangible benefits for the company, our customers and the environment.

Commenting on the positive progress Mark said: “Being able to see such substantial improvements enables us to demonstrate the business case for investing in energy efficiency and renewable energy generation to our stakeholders around the world. These are fantastic ways for us to bring the value proposition of our products and solutions to life in such a tangible way. In 2016 we were delighted to have been given A List ranking on the CDP Climate Performance Leadership Index for the second year running – as the only Irish listed company to receive this accolade it sends a powerful message to our stakeholders.

Although well on track to exceed its original goal by the end of 2016, Kingspan is certainly not resting on its laurels; that simply does not fit with the Company’s culture. Mark concluded:

“But we’re not just looking inwards. The NZE initiative has very much challenged us to take a 360-degree view and we’re involving ourselves in other external programs to increase our chances of success. One example is our joining RE100, a group of companies including Bloomberg, Coca-Cola, Google, Philips, Sky, Starbucks, Unilever and Walmart, which all support the use of renewable power. The RE100 community is a valuable network for like-minded organizations to benefit from peer to peer learning and sharing of best practices. By joining initiatives like RE100 we hope to share our knowledge to help accelerate our collective long term goal.”