Germany’s green energy goal and factories on stilts: The sustainability success stories of the week

Published every week, this series charts how businesses and sustainability professionals are working to achieve their ‘Mission Possible’ across the campaign’s five key pillars – energy, resources, infrastructure, mobility and business leadership.

News of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has weighed heavy on hearts and minds this week, including in the environmental space, where it is appreciated that peace is necessary for sustainable development. Nonetheless, good progress is being made, with businesses, cities, states and regions turning environmental ambitions into action. Here, we round up five positive sustainability stories from this week.

ENERGY: Germany sets 100% clean energy target for 2035

Following the publication of a draft paper on Monday (28 February), the German Government has confirmed an ambition to fulfil all of its electricity needs with renewable generation by 2035 – accelerating its previous “well before 2040” deadline. This commitment will be enshrined in law by an amendment to the German Renewable Energy Sources Act.

An interim target has also been set for wind and solar to account for 80% of electricity generation by 2030.

Reaching the 2035 target may, Chancellor Olaf Sholz has stated, require Germany to extend the lifespan of its nuclear plants. At present, it is planning to close all three existing facilities by the end of 2022 and not to replace them.

The reconsideration of Germany’s nuclear approach ties in not only with the EU’s 2050 net-zero target and Germany’s new clean energy commitment, but with the growth in the sentiment that Germany should reduce its reliance on imported gas from Russia. German Finance Minister Christian Lindner has referred to renewable electricity sources as “the energy of freedom”.

RESOURCES: £3m boost for innovative refillable system for beauty products

Plastics has been front-of-mind for many of us this week, with UN member states agreeing on the broad terms of a new treaty to end global plastic pollution. The treaty covers production and well as waste management – which was welcome news to green groups who have pointed out that only 9% of all plastics produced to date have been recycled.

One way that businesses can reduce plastic production is to scale reuse. But, according to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, progress in this arena has proven slow.

It is welcome news, then, that the ‘Re’ programme – short for Return, Refill, Repeat), has secured £3m of funding from UKRI. The programme was first developed by B Corp certified Beauty Kitchen and has garnered the support of brands including Asda, Unilever and Elemis.

To date, Re has mitigated the use of more than four million single-use bottles. Trials across 19 UK supermarkets resulted in an 80% return and refill rate, with 95% of customers rating the model as ‘good’ or ‘very good’.

Beauty Kitchen co-founder Jo-Anne Chidley said: “This funding is exactly what ‘Re’ needs to help refine and share the model with more brands, retailers and consumers.

“All three of the key elements of the circular economy are buying into ‘Re’. The consumers love it, the brands who use the reusable containers are very pleased, and the big retailers are all for it. This is how you make a change and reduce waste. This is the future; a collaborative, circular economy that works for all parties.”

UKRI confirmed a total of £30m of funding for projects aiming to create a more circular economy for plastic packaging this week. Innovative recycling technologies took the lion’s share of the funding.

MOBILITY: Ford launches separate EV business

Building on a commitment to invest at least $30bn in electric vehicles (EVs) by the end of 2025, automotive giant Ford has confirmed a restructuring of its business that will result in the creation of a separate EV arm and legacy business for petrol and diesel vehicles. 

Ford said in a statement that the launch of the two divisions – called Ford Model e and Ford Blue – will help the brand to “win against both new EV competitors and established automakers”. The statement stipulates that while the units will “operate as distinct businesses”, they will “share relevant technology and best practices”.

Ford’s overarching EV goal is for one-third of all global sales to be accounted for by EVs by 2026, increasing to one-half of global sales by 2030. The firm will cease producing petrol and diesel cars in Europe by this point, given that the UK is banning new petrol and diesel car sales and the EU is mulling a similar move.

THE BUILT ENVIRONMENT: Brompton Bikes unveils plans for green factory at restored wetland site

Technically, this announcement was made last week – but it was too eye-catching to pass up for inclusion in this week’s success stories roundup.

Britain’s largest bicycle manufacturer Brompton has outlined a vision to deliver a wetland restoration project in Ashford, Kent, that will also be used as the site for a new factory. The business has stated its intention to invest up to £100m in restoring 24 hectares of the 40-acre floodplain and in the factory itself.

Designed by architect Guy Holloway, the structure makes use of low-carbon building materials, ultra-efficient insulation, ground-source heat pumps and rooftop solar. Floor-to-ceiling windows will minimize the need for lighting. There will be no car parking on the site. Instead, workers and visitors will need to cycle in, use public transport, or park elsewhere and walk part of the way. Brompton will invest in 4km of new cycling paths.

Brompton is hoping to begin operations at the factory in 2027. Its existing Greenford factory will continue to operate until at least 2030.

BUSINESS LEADERSHIP: EY offers free Masters degree in sustainability to all staff

Professional services firm EY made headlines last month with a commitment to hiring up to 1,300 more staff in the UK, as it sets up a new sustainability service business called ‘EY Carbon’. For its own operations, EY announced that it achieved carbon neutrality in 2020 and carbon negativity in October 2021. It is targeting net-zero globally by 2025.

Building on this progress, the business has partnered with Hult International Business School to offer a Masters in Sustainability to all of its staff for free. The course will be delivered online.

EY surveyed a sample of its 312,000 global staff, finding that three-quarters want to participate in activities that positively impact people and planet through their job.

“EY people are passionate about tackling global challenges and this qualification will help both the EY organisation and EY clients become true leaders in building a more sustainable world,” said the firm’s global chairman and chief executive Carmine Di Sibio.

Sarah George

Comments (1)

  1. Keiron Shatwell says:

    Re Germany’s Renewables Plan and the comment – "Reaching the 2035 target may, Chancellor Olaf Sholz has stated, require Germany to extend the lifespan of its nuclear plants. At present, it is planning to close all three existing facilities by the end of 2022 and not to replace them."

    Think Germany needs to reconsider all its nuclear plants for several more years given the amount of Russian gas they rely on and the vast tonnage of dirty brown coal German is burning to replace that which came from their nuclear plants. Talk about a knee jerk reaction when they shut them down.

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