Achieving Mission Possible: The sustainability success stories of the week

As part of our 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.

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

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

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 edition of the 'Achieving Mission Possible' round-up highlights some of the tremendous progress we are now seeing right across the globe. From a rugby stadium powered by renewables to a new pop-up charging area for electric vehicles, each of these projects and initiatives are empowering businesses and governments to achieve a sustainable future, today.

ENERGY: Leeds Rhinos to power stadium with 100% green energy

The sporting world has taken a host of measures to become more sustainable in recent times. This month, Wimbledon announced a ban on plastic straws for its 2018 tournament as part of a wider sustainability plan for the two-week event, while the Premier League has partnered with Sky in a similar bid to eliminate single-use plastics from the organisation by 2020.

Turning to rugby, this week saw Rugby League team Leeds Rhinos post its own sustainability success story, with news that it will power its grounds at the Emerald Headingley Stadium with 100% green electricity until at least 2021. The 21,000-seat venue, which is currently undergoing refurbishment, will purchase all of its power from renewable electricity provider Planet-U under a three-year sponsorship deal.

Leeds Rhinos chief executive, Gary Hetherington, said he was “delighted” to announce the news, adding that a move to sustainable power will contribute to the club’s “bright future”.

RESOURCES: Circular Edinburgh scheme launched to help SME’s ditch cradle to grave models

Pressure for big businesses to adopt drive a circular economy in their respective sectors is undoubtedly mounting, with a string of big-name clothing brands including Nike and H&M having this week pledged to create business models which will keep garments in use, utilise materials which are renewable and find ways of recycling old clothes into new products. But where does this leave small and medium enterprises (SMEs), which accounted for 99% of all EU businesses as of 2015? One potential solution to this gap has begun in Scotland.

Following the success of similar schemes in Glasgow, Tayside and the North-east, Zero Waste Scotland and the Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce (ECC) have this week launched the Circular Edinburgh scheme in a bid to help SMEs in the Scottish capital to repurpose waste streams and adopt cradle to cradle models. The initiative, which the partnership hopes will spread beyond the ECC’s reach of 30,000 local businesses, will see SMEs offered free activities to help identify ways to become more circular and directions to financial support which can help them implement these measures.

“Across Scotland, a circular economy could generate £3bn of annual benefits,” said Zero Waste Scotland’s chief executive, Iain Gulland. “Circular Edinburgh is a terrific opportunity to help local businesses in making the transition to a circular economy, that has the potential to create jobs, support sustainable business models and help the environment and the economy.”

The initiative, which will run until March 2019, is backed by the Scottish Government and European Regional Development Fund.

BUILT ENVIRONMENT: University of Exeter unveils renewable research centre

The ongoing expansion of green building certification opportunities on both a national and global scale is helping places of education to become sustainability leaders in the built environment. For example, the University of Cambridge this year installed almost 1,500 solar panels on its new district and City, University of London this week announced plans to incorporate a rainwater harvesting system and car-free zone into its new law school campus.

The latest higher education provider to unveil a major ‘green’ certified building project is the University of Exeter, which on Thursday (May 17) opened its new Renewable Energy Engineering Facility (REEF) at its Penryn Campus in Cornwall. The £1.77m REEF, which has been certified by BREEAM as ‘Excellent’, is heated with a ground source heat pump and has a weather station complete with solar panels on its roof.

However, the university’s director of education for renewable energy, Richard Coltrane, said there are plans to make the facility even more sustainable by launching solar thermal, anaerobic digestion and energy efficiency studies on or around the building, which houses workshops and laboratories.

“As well as providing a well-equipped modern workshop to enable students to design, make and test their engineering knowledge, the building itself is an exciting teaching aid providing data on real operational renewable energy technologies that the students can study and run experiments on,” Coltrane added.

MOBILITY: Oxford to be world’s first city to install pop-up on-street EV chargers

The automotive industry is on the cusp of a electric-vehicle (EV) revolution, with top car makers including VWBMWFord and Jaguar Land Rover all moving to ramp up investment into EV production and battery research and innovation.

As this EV revolution continues to gather pace, Oxford City Council has this week signed a contract which will make it the first city in the world to trial pop-up electric EV charging points as a potential solution to EV infrastructure rollouts. The local authority is set to roll out 20 charging points by the end of the year in a bid to convince motorists without off-street parking - which it estimates accounts for 43% of residents - to switch to an EV.

The chargers will be installed along one residential street and their use will be monitored until next June, when the local authority may opt for a wider rollout as part of its plans to phase out petrol and diesel vehicles from the city centre with an ultimate aim to deliver a zero-emission zone in 2035. The £600,000 trial is part of the council’s collaboration with Urban Electric, which manufactures the charging points and claims they charge at up to 5.8kW - similar to a domestic charging port.

"The most convenient, affordable and climate-friendly way to charge an EV from the grid is at home at night, yet up to 85% of households in some urban residential areas cannot do so because they park on-street, acting as a barrier to EV adoption,” Urban Electric co-founder cofounder Olivier Freeling-Wilkinson said. “By installing an over-supply of pop-up charge points in a street from day one we will give certainty of access to a home-based charge point in residential parking zones, so that local authorities can enable the 11.6m UK households currently excluded from driving zero emission to make the switch."

LEADERSHIP: Unilever’s ‘Sustainable Living’ brands lead firm’s turnover growth

While sustainability professionals continue to struggle with pitching the financial benefits of sustainability measures in the boardroom, Unilever has continued to prove the business case for sustainability, with the firm's 'Sustainable Living' brands accounting for a record 70% of its turnover growth last year.

The consumer goods giant’s Sustainable Living division, which aims to integrate sustainability into the group's products and values, also grew 46% faster than the rest of the business, the firm’s latest Sustainable Living Plan (USLP) progress report reveals.

Unilever's chief executive Paul Polman said the company was making “great strides” but added there is “still much to do” for Unilever to meet its ambitious USLP commitments, which aim to decouple its growth from its environmental impact while increasing the company’s positive social impact. 

“Ever since we launched the USLP in 2010, we have made great strides in meeting many of the ambitious targets we set ourselves and the fact that our sustainable living brands are continuing to deliver growth shows that this is a business model that works,” Polman said.

“We also want to be transparent about how much more there is still to do. This is critical because transparency is what gives our business its most important asset – trust. At a time when there is a crisis of trust in many institutions across the world, there has never been a more important time for business to play a leading role in restoring it.

Sarah George


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