New sleeper trains for Stockholm and France’s boost for renewables: The sustainability success stories of the week August second week

This week's stories could help increase renewable electricity generation, decarbonise transport, and empower cocoa farmers

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.

Across the UK and the world, leading businesses, cities, states and regions are turning environmental ambitions into action. Here, we round up five positive sustainability stories from this week.

ENERGY: France could tweak CfD rules as energy crisis bites

The EU’s plans to reduce gas consumption across the bloc by 15% in the face of the price crisis came into effect this week, with member states mapping out plans to improve energy efficiency and boost clean energy production in the coming months.

Among the plans implemented in France are changes to the Contracts for Difference (CfD) auction scheme for renewables. Developers successful at auction will now be able to increase the capacity of their projects by up to 40% before completion. France is also hoping to help developers deal with rising upfront costs for raw materials.

Moreover, projects looking at a CfD bid will be able to sell electricity directly for 18 months before locking in their CfD approval.

France held its last CfD round in February and just 73% of the auction capacity was awarded. It is hoped that the changes could increase uptake. CfD auctions are currently held every two years in France.

RESOURCES: Original Source launches refillable shower gels

Research published by City to Sea back in June revealed that 40% of shoppers believe that refillable options are always more expensive. This will need to be overcome if we are to reduce plastic production without burdening lower-income people.

Hoping to prove that low-plastic items are not always more expensive is Original Source, the shower gel brand owned by PZ Cussons. The brand has launched refillable aluminium bottles which can be topped up from lightweight plastic pouches. While some competitors have opted for smaller plastic pouches, equivalent to one regular bottle’s worth of product, Original Source has gone for a larger one-litre option to further reduce the plastic intensity of the refill offering. It states that using the system creates 85% less plastic waste than purchasing comparable, single plastic bottles of products.

Refill pouches can be recycled in supermarkets operating flexible plastic take-back schemes – which most large UK stores now host. The aluminium bottles are designed for extensive reuse and can be recycled if needed. An aluminium bottle will cost  £4.50. A one-litre refill pouch will cost £3.29. In comparison, Boots is currently selling individual 250ml bottles of Original Source for £1 each.

MOBILITY: New sleeper train to link Stockholm and Hamburg

With travellers facing long queues at airports across Europe, news about companies offering staff extra days off to travel to holidays using trains as part of their climate strategies has been widely re-circulated on LinkedIn this week.

It is timely, then, that Swedish railway company SJ has confirmed that it will be ready to start running a new sleeper train between Stockholm and Hamburg next month. The service route covers 10,80km and journeys will take just under 12 hours. Stops include Copenhagen and Odense.

Electric trains will be used on the route and SJ will use renewable energy to power them.

Hamburg notably has trains to locations including Brussels, Berlin and Cologne, with SJ marketing the service as a good way to complete just one leg of a wider journey in Europe.

THE BUILT ENVIRONMENT: Senior assisted living development aiming for Living Building certification

In our last edition of this roundup for July 2022, we spotlighted plans for a new education hub in Scotland seeking ‘Living Building Challenge’ petal certification. The certification is for buildings which have a net-positive impact on people and the planet across their life-cycle.

Now, a senior living community development in Seattle has applied for the 3.1 Petal Certification for Energy, Place and Beauty certification from the International Living Future Institute. Operated by Aegis Living, the Lake Union development comprises a five-story building with 96 apartments and amenities like a cinema, pub, hairdresser and rooftop terrace.

The building is not connected to gas – electricity is used for heating, cooling and cooking. It features an onsite solar farm and has a contract with an offsite solar farm, with other electricity provided renewably using certificates. Aegis Living has also invested in energy efficiency features such as heat recovery, insulation and triple glazing, resulting in the development using 25% less energy than comparative developments.

Additionally, the development has a rainwater harvesting system and systems for the reuse of treated greywater in non-drinking applications such as toilet flushing. The grand opening of the community took place this week.

“This is a remarkable accomplishment that took a team effort and great collaboration across our development team, architecture design and construction partner, as well as the International Living Future Institute, city of Seattle, among others,” said Aegis Living’s SVP of development Brian Palmore.

BUSINESS LEADERSHIP: Magnum marks farmer graduations from cocoa impact scheme


Ice cream brand Magnum has announced that 198 cocoa farmers in the Ivory Coast have graduated from its impact programme, designed to improve the sustainability of production methods while improving farmer livelihoods.

Magnum has been working for the past two years with NGOs CARE International and 100Weeks to deliver the programme. Under the scheme, farmers are set up with direct and unconditional cash transfers and are upskilled to help them improve financial management and unlock new streams of income. They are also educated about improving the environmental sustainability of practices on their farms.

This year, a further 600 farmers will join the scheme. Magnum is aiming to reach 5,000 people in farming communities through the scheme by 2025. There has been a focus on female farmers for the past two years, as this level of engagement has been key to help families who previously couldn’t afford to send their children to school and instead had them work on farms.

Magnum director Ben Curtis said: “The programme of holistic impact programs was brought to life through the support of partners such as CARE International and 100WEEKS. Due to the seasonality of cocoa farming, the schemes have supported farmers in setting up additional income streams to supplement their cocoa farming.  This paves the way for the future of our impact programs and showcases the long-standing support from Magnum towards the women in cocoa farming communities in Côte d’Ivoire.”

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