Ikea’s solar homes and Manchester’s ‘net-zero’ pledge: The sustainability success stories of the week

This weekly round-up explores how businesses across the world are ramping up efforts across all areas of sustainable development

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

From a partnership aimed at bringing hydrogen-electric trains to the UK by 2022, to Manchester’s commitment to ensuring all new buildings are carbon-neutral by 2028, each of these projects and initiatives is empowering businesses, local authorities and governments to achieve a sustainable future, today.

ENERGY: Ikea begins selling domestic solar arrays in Germany


The past few months have seen several big-name businesses making moves to further their foray into the small-scale solar market, from Google launching its Project Sunroof in the UK, to UK Power Networks unveiling plans to create a ‘virtual’ solar power station with rooftop arrays.

Continuing this trend, the world’s largest furniture and home improvement retailer, Ikea, began offering its solar home services and products in its German stores for the first time this week. Customers are asked register for the service either online or in-store, before receiving a callback to assess which solar array is best for their property, based on factors such as roof size, energy saving needs and upfront costs.

Called SOLSTRÅLE, the product range has been developed in partnership with Solarcentury and starts at €4,730 (£4,255). More expensive versions have been designed to include energy storage in the form of a lithium-ion battery unit.

“We want to encourage people to do something positive for the environment and their wallets,” Ikea Germany’s sustainability manager Christiane Scharnagl said. “This will enable them to produce renewable energy themselves, save money and live more sustainably at home”.

RESOURCES: Hospitality food supply giant unveils new sustainable packaging commitments


Whether it’s hard-to-recycle black plastic or flexible film, unnecessary packaging for on-the-go products or consumers opting for plastic bags at the checkout, Britain’s food and drink companies are arguably at the epicentre of the plastics problem.

Contract hospitality greengrocer Oliver Kay Produce this week followed suit from the dozens of supermarkets, fast food chains and manufacturers moving at a pace to reduce their plastic footprint, with a pledge to make 80% of its packaging compostable or recyclable by 2021.

The Bolton-based company, which supplies fresh fruit and vegetables to more than 3,500 business kitchens across the UK, will replace its polystyrene packaging with a compostable sugarcane alternative and its plastic netting with a beechwood-based substitute. A recyclable plastic wrap will also be rolled out across the firm’s meat and fish lines, following successful trials on selected produce.

“A business of this type and size obviously generates packaging and food waste,” Oliver Kay Produce’s commercial and sustainability director Paul Leyland said. “The big task is to ensure all our outward-bound packaging also causes no environmental damage.”

MOBILITY: UK’s first hydrogen trains set to come online in 2022


As more and more businesses move to decarbonise their fleets, numerous big-name companies have invested in hydrogen-electric road transport in recent times, including brewer AB InBevTransport For London and Marks & Spencer (M&S).

But the hydrogen revolution has been slower to take hold in the rail sector, with Europe’s first hydrogen-electric trains having only been confirmed late last year. That could all be about to change, however, after engineering company Alstom and train firm Eversholt Rail announced this week that they have partnered up to develop the UK’s first network of hydrogen-powered trains.

The companies claim that their hydrogen train concept ‘Breeze’, which involves retrofitting existing Class 321 passenger trains with hydrogen fuel cells, could be rolled out across the UK’s railway networks by the end of 2022. A report in The Times this week suggested that the first 100 Breeze trains could be operational in the UK within the next two years, after an anonymous source claimed Alstrom and Eversholt had already secured a contract with an unnamed rail operator.

“Hydrogen train technology is an exciting innovation which has the potential to transform our railway, making journeys cleaner and greener by cutting CO2 emissions even further,” Rail Minister Andrew Jones said. “We are working with industry to establish how hydrogen trains can play an important part in the future, delivering better services on rural and inter-urban routes.”

THE BUILT ENVIRONMENT: Manchester pledges to make all new buildings ‘net-zero’ by 2028


The World Green Building Council (WGBC) began lobbying for the global construction sector to achieve net-zero status by 2030 for the first time last year – but the Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA) went one step further this week, setting a 2028 target for achieving carbon-neutral buildings. 

Under the local authority’s draft Greater Manchester Plan for Homes, Jobs and the Environment, all new buildings and other infrastructure built within the region to be ‘net-zero’ carbon by 2028 – a move the local authority has said is “key” to achieving its overarching pledge to become a carbon-neutral city region by 2038.

Any proposed fracking projects will be rejected under the plan, as these will not be classed as ‘net-zero’ developments. The publication of the new commitment on Monday (7 January) was welcomed by the UK Green Building Council’s director of policy and places John Alker, who said it could make Manchester a global leader of the construction sector’s low-carbon transition.

“The announcement is a typically forthright challenge to central Government, which has dragged its heels on zero-carbon buildings for most of the last decade,” Alker said.  “This is a challenge that the industry can and should embrace, leading to better buildings for both people and planet.”

BUSINESS LEADERSHIP: BT’s secures water self-supply licence to help reduce consumption and waste


More than 36,000 businesses have reportedly switched water retailer since the market opened to competition in 2017, with several big-name firms such as Greene King and Whitbread having already reported huge water and cost savings since securing self-supply licences.

The latest success story in the field comes from telecoms giant BT, which was this week granted a licence to deliver its own water and wastewater services for all of its UK operations by regulator Ofwat. Under the licence, Waterscan will provide BT with operational and technical support.

“Clarity of data is key to monitoring BT’s performance and it foresees this as a huge benefit from moving to self-supply,” a BT spokesperson said.

“This self-supply licence presents an opportunity for BT to build on the works already undertaken [in terms of water efficiency] and develop its partnership with Waterscan, whilst driving cost and consumption control, particularly through a single electronic bill”.

Sarah George

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