Achieving Mission Possible: The sustainability success stories of the week

Corporate leadership on food waste and cross-sector electric vehicle (EV) partnerships feature in the second edition of edie's new content series which rounds up some of the world's most inspirational sustainability initiatives that are transforming business, for good.

As part of our newly-launched Mission Possible campaign, edie brings you this weekly round-up of five of the best sustainability success stories of the week from across the globe.

Published every Sunday, the new series charts how businesses and sustainability professionals are working to achieve their ‘Mission Possible’ across the campaign’s five key pillars – energyresourcesinfrastructuremobility and business leadership.

This second edition of ‘Achieving Mission Possible’ highlights some of the great progress we are now seeing right across the globe. From a New Zealand apparel firm sourcing natural fibres through closed-loop solutions, to an Ethiopian airline aiming to “raise the bar” on sustainability by offsetting its carbon footprint – each of these projects and initiatives are empowering businesses to achieve a sustainable future, today.

Achieving Mission Possible: The sustainability success stories of the week (2-6 April 2018)…

ENERGY: Ethiopian Airlines has pledged to plant nine million trees (one for every passenger)

The need to accelerate the transition to sustainable aviation is clear. If left unchecked, between 2016 and 2050, global aviation will generate an estimated 43 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide emissions, according to estimates. That amounts to more than 4% of the world’s entire remaining carbon budget.

Exploring innovative ways in which the airline industry can be combined with a sustainable business outlook, sustainable development authority UN Environment and Ethiopian Airlines have forged a new partnership to green the company’s operations.

The Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) outlines several key action areas to promote sustainability, most notably the development of a project to ‘Plant one tree for every passenger flown’. The objective of the project is to plant nine million trees in different regions of Ethiopia.

UN Environment’s chief Erik Solheim said the move sends a “strong, positive” message across the aviation sector. “We’re delighted to launch one of the first such agreements of its kind, with Ethiopian Airlines really raising the bar on environmental responsibility and green business”, Solheim said.

Other areas of collaboration include the training of Ethiopian Airline staff on issues such as sustainable consumption and production, and the development of green awareness raising materials for use in-flight entertainment.

RESOURCES: Icebreaker plans to disrupt apparel industry with sustainable packaging innovations

A New Zealand-based outdoor apparel company’s attempt to disrupt its industry by reducing plastic synthetics has been highlighted through its first Transparency report. With products sold in more than 47 countries globally, Icebreaker has this week published a 118-page transparency report, detailing every step of its supply chain practices, including edible packaging innovations.

As of February 2018, Icebreaker had been using biodegradable bags that can naturally break down into water, carbon dioxide, methane and biomass in up to two years. The company is working with suppliers to accelerate the breakdown to a matter of weeks, by creating a water-soluble bag that meets Ocean Safe certification currently being developed. The bag will dissolve in water, but – crucially – if an animal consumes it, it will also serve as food source.

“Sustainability isn’t just a feature of Icebreaker’s products, it’s the values and design of our business. I founded Icebreaker to offer a natural choice to adventurers and disrupt the outdoor industry towards sustainable solutions,” Icebreaker’s founder Jeremy Moon said.

“It’s why we exist. We are constantly struck by the irony of the outdoor industry to promote petroleum-based synthetic fibres, such as polyester. Plastic against your skin. Really? We believe there is a better way and nature has the answers.”

THE BUILT ENVIRONMENT: UK-GBC has issued a call for an industry-wide mindset shift to deliver a better built environment

Construction businesses lie at the juncture of some of the world’s most pressing environmental and societal challenges. The UK’s built environment accounts directly for 22% of the UK’s carbon footprint – rising to 42% if one includes emissions from road and rail transport. Construction is also one of the largest consumers of materials in the UK and produces more waste than any other sector.

These issues were explored in edie’s latest sector insight report, launched this week, which investigated what must happen next to accelerate the transition to low-carbon, resource-efficient business models within the construction sector.

The report includes an expert viewpoint from the UK Green Building Council’s (UK-GBC) chief executive Julie Hirigoyen, who charted the progress being made across the industry in the key areas of climate change, resource use, nature and biodiversity, health & wellbeing and socio-economic impact.

“Overarchingly, it is clear that the future for this industry cannot be a repeat of the past,” Hirigoyen said. “Whether it’s through physical conditions, resource constraints, skills shortages, or demand pressures, a shift in mindset is required to turn such challenges into opportunities and avoid major disruption.

“At UKGBC, we believe that leadership, innovation and collaboration on sustainability can help bring the industry together for a better built environment. Our aim is for sustainable development to become truly second nature for all built environment professionals by 2027.”

Read the construction sector sustainability report here.

MOBILITY: A new cross-sector electric vehicle project has been established to develop energy-neutral office buildings

Companies from the energy, transport and technology sectors have joined forces to explore how electric vehicles (EVs) can facilitate energy storage solutions that link up to onsite renewable installations and building energy management systems (BEMS) on office buildings.

Energy company ENGIE, motor firm Mitsubishi and technology and battery developer Hitachi Europe are working together to create the “vehicle-to-everything” (V2X) charger, and connect it to ENGIE’s office building in Zaandam in the Netherlands.

The V2X charger, developed by Hitachi, can be used to recharge EVs and also discharge energy back into buildings or to grids at different flexibilities and frequencies. For the next stage of the project, the companies will explore how EVs and BEMS can work together to develop energy-neutral buildings, with each office building acting as a self-sufficient microgrid.

According to the companies involved, the developed infrastructure will help lower emissions and save on energy costs.

BUSINESS LEADERSHIP: Hotels are seeing a 7:1 return on investment through reducing food waste

New research published this week on behalf of Champions 12.3 has found that the hotel sector can reduce food waste while saving money. The first-of-its-kind analysis of 42 hotels in 15 countries found that nearly every company achieved a positive return, with the average site saving $7 for every $1 invested in curbing the amount of food they wasted.

On average, hotels achieved a 21% reduction of kitchen food waste in just one year by weight. Within that first year, more than 70% had recouped their investment, a figure that rose to 95% within two years.

In one instance, Thailand-based five-star hotel Sofitel Bangkok Sukhumvit was able to half its food waste in just 15 weeks, saving an estimated $60,000 a year. That return on investment came from engaging staff and suppliers, measuring food waste and buying less food and thereby reducing purchasing costs.

“With these figures, I hope more in the industry will see food waste reduction as an opportunity and an important part of the hotel business,” said Lionel Formento, director of food and beverage for Sofitel Bangkok Sukhumvit.

“Our customers increasingly care about the environment, and that shift shows no signs of slowing down. Sofitel Bangkok Sukhumvit has prioritised reducing food waste as an important part of our sustainability efforts. From engaging management to our chefs and suppliers, implementing a food waste reduction program has helped us stay innovative and a leader.”

Achieve YOUR Mission Possible at edie Live 2018

Whether you are an energy manager, a sustainability, CSR, or environmental professional, or business leader, edie Live 2018 will help you achieve your Mission Possible.

On 22-23 May 2018 at the NEC Birmingham, you will be inspired by thought-leaders, coached by industry experts, encouraged to collaborate with your peers, and shown the way by hundreds of innovative suppliers and solutions providers.

Find out more about the show and register for your free pass here.

George Ogleby

Action inspires action. Stay ahead of the curve with sustainability and energy newsletters from edie