H&M's transparency hackathon and FedEx's e-vans: 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 weekly round-up explores how businesses and nations across the world are ramping up efforts across all areas of sustainable development

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

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, mobility, built environment and business leadership. 

From the completion of the world’s largest solar farm in Australia, to a hackathon aimed at boosting corporate transparency action in the US, each of these projects and initiatives is empowering businesses and governments to achieve a sustainable future, today.

ENERGY: World’s largest solar farm comes online in Australia

With a report from the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU) and consultancy New Resource Partners this week proving that renewables could satisfy up to 50% of the nation’s energy demands – even during periods of high demand and low output – the business case for investment in renewable projects has once again been proven.

Across the globe, Australia is celebrating a renewables success story of its own, with the opening of the world’s largest solar farm in the Riverina region. Designed and constructed by French firm Neoen, the 550-hectare Coleambally facility contains 567,800 solar PV panels and is expected to produce more than 390,000 MWh of clean energy each year. French renewables firm Neoen claims that this is enough energy to power 65,000 homes across New South Wales all year long.

The solar farm is being supported by a 12-year power purchase agreement (PPA) with energy retailer EnergyAustralia, which will account for 70% of the facility’s energy output. The remaining 30% will be sold directly to the market.

“Coleambally Solar Farm is an example of the projects that will underpin a modern energy system in Australia,” Neoen Australia’s managing director Franck Woitiez said. “We will continue to work with our partners, and particularly the local communities, councils and state government, to ensure that the people of New South Wales enjoy clean, efficient and affordable electricity for decades to come.”

RESOURCES: AMT Coffee replaces coffee cups and lids with compostable alternatives

In the current market, takeaway paper coffee cups can only be recycled in select infrastructure, with just five paper cup recycling facilities in the UK. As a result, just one in 400 cups is recycled – less than 0.25% - with half a million littered each day.

In a bid to address the issue, on-the-go food and drink chain AMT Coffee has this week introduced compostable coffee cups and lids across 50 UK outlets as part of a plan to reduce its plastic waste footprint.

The company claims it is the first British firm to launch the products, which are made from fibres derived from waste sugar cane. According to AMT, the cups and lids will fully decompose within 90 days outside of industrial composting facilities.

"It has taken years of research and development to source a fully bio-compostable coffee cup and lid,” AMT Coffee’s co-founder and managing director Alastair McCallum said.

“Although [the cup] has the usual festive message, this year we wanted to make a serious statement about the importance of making the change for our blue planet and all that depend on it. We only hope the others will follow."

MOBILITY: FedEx orders 1,000 electric vans for its US fleet

As more and more businesses move to decarbonise their fleets, numerous big-name companies have invested in fully-electric or hydrogen-electric mobility in recent times, including brewer AB InBev, logistics giant UPS and Heathrow Airport.

Following this trend, US-based courier firm FedEx has this week ordered 1,000 fully-electric delivery trucks for its fleets across its California routes. 100 of these trucks are being manufactured by Los-Angeles-based startup Chanje, while the remaining 900 will be leased to FedEx by truck rental firm Ryder System.

Although specification details on the Ryder System trucks are yet to be published, Chanje has confirmed that its vehicles have a range of more than 150 miles per full charge and a maximum cargo capacity of around 6,000 lbs. FedEx estimates that each van will reduce its annual fuel consumption by 2,000 gallons (9,000 litres) and its greenhouse gas (GHG) footprint by 20 tonnes of CO2e each year.

“FedEx continually seeks new ways to maximize operational efficiency, minimize impacts and find innovative solutions through the company’s Reduce, Replace, Revolutionize approach to sustainability,” FedEx’s chief sustainability officer Mitch Jackson said.

“Our investment in these vehicles is part of our commitment to that approach of serving our customers and connecting the world responsibly and resourcefully.”

THE BUILT ENVIRONMENT: Demand for sustainable buildings could double in near future, report reveals

In this part of our weekly roundup, the edie editorial team tend to showcase a particularly innovative green building of some kind – from Starbucks’ drive-thru store with a ‘living’ roof, to City, University of London’s new law school building with a rainwater harvesting system.

This week, however, we are turning to a new study from analytics solution firm Dodge Data and Analytics, which concludes that demand for sustainable buildings could double across some markets by 2025. Published late last Friday (16 November) and funded by Carrier, the report reveals the results of a survey undertaken by 2,000 built environment sector professionals from across 86 countries earlier this year.

Almost half (47%) of survey respondents said they expect the majority of their projects to be classed as “green” by 2021, with 67% saying this would be the case within the next 15 years. Moreover, two-thirds of respondents said that using sustainable certification schemes such as LEED and BREEAM had helped them to develop buildings which perform better in terms of energy efficiency, financial gain and tenant satisfaction.

“The trends uncovered in this report reflect what we’re seeing in our business – building green is good for the public health, the environment and the bottom line,” Carrier’s president of commercial operations Chris Nelson said.

BUSINESS LEADERSHIP: H&M crowdsources ideas to boost corporate transparency efforts

After being accused of failing to fulfil a commitment to pay all garment workers enough to keep them above the poverty line, fashion giant H&M has this week unveiled the results of a hackathon held this summer to crowdsource ideas on how it – and other corporates – can be more transparent about their supply chain practices.

The Transparency Hack, which took place in Los Angeles in August, saw representatives from companies such as Microsoft, IBM, Nike and Patagonia meet to research and develop innovative ways to trace products and raw materials at every stage of the supply chain. Participants, who also included representatives from non-commercial organisations including the Sustainable Apparel Coalition, concluded that industry-wide adoption of technologies such as blockchain or artificial intelligence (AI) could help companies track and disclose their full supply chain impact.

“To become transparent, fashion companies need to think like technologies that disrupt them,” H&M’s brand strategist Ana Andjelic said. “By telling the backstory of a product, you make that item much more valuable.”

Sarah George


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