Oxford’s zero-carbon homes and L’Oreal’s eco-fund: The sustainability success stories of the week

Each of these success stories exemplifies how businesses are ramping up ambitions and actions in all areas of sustainable development 

Published every week, the new 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.

Despite the economic shockwaves being felt globally as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, projects and initiatives which empower businesses to play their part in achieving a sustainable future, today, are continuing to launch and scale-up. 

RENEWABLES: Carbon Trust unveils landmark flexible energy system project

In 2016, the Carbon Trust reported that energy systems costs across Great Britain could be reduced by up to £40bn by focusing on improved flexibility of energy assets and the implementation of storage to assist with the integration of renewable.

Now, the Carbon Trust has launched the “Flexibility in Great Britain project” to explore how a flexible energy system can be set up to integrate renewable and low-carbon sources across the heat, transport and power sectors can reduce overall system costs to consumers. It will explore the role that these types of systems could play in assisting the UK’s net-zero target for 2050.

Andrew Lever, director at the Carbon Trust commented: “Significant action and investment are required to transition our energy system to help achieve net-zero emissions for the UK economy by 2050. As the focus moves towards the decarbonisation of heat and transport sectors, it is essential that new sources of flexibility are explored to ensure the shift to net zero is achieved at the lowest cost.”

RESOURCES: General public still focused on ocean plastics during pandemic

With UK residents now able to visit natural locations to exercise, a new survey of 3,000+ people from Surfers Against Sewage (SAS) has found that 84% are planning a trip to the beach to soak up the fresh air. However, with beaches being a common location to finding washed-up plastic waste, many of the public are willing to change their habits in response.

According to the survey, 93% claimed that the pandemic provides nations with a chance to rebuild efforts and the economy around protecting the ocean and the climate. Lockdown has also given people the time to reflect on their own actions, with 90% believing their daily behaviour and attitude will be modified in some way, and 30% planning on how to cut waste in the future.

Surfers Against Sewage’s chief executive Hugo Tagholm said: “The Ocean and our beautiful beaches clearly make the nation’s heart beat faster. People want to roam and restore Britain’s beaches, and their love for our coastal spaces seems to have increased during lockdown. People protect what they love, and the survey shows 90% of people want to see more action to protect the ocean as the nation recovers from the current crisis.”

MOBILITY: EV sales on the rise across Europe

Following on from last week’s news that the Tesla Model 3 was April 2020s best-selling vehicle in the UK, with 658 sold, it has been confirmed that electric vehicle (EV) registrations in Europe have increased by more than 57% for the first quarter of 2020.

While still only accounted for 4.3% of total registration, the sales of passenger cars in the European Union, UK and countries of the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) has actually fallen by 52.9% over the first quarter, largely due to showroom closures because of lockdown.

Of the 3,054,703 new cars registered in the first three months of the year, 52% were petrol-powered and 28% were diesel, the ACEA data showed and as reported by edie’s content partner Euractiv. Euractiv notes that carmakers will need to sell more EVs to comply with EU carbon goals.

BUILT ENVIRONMENT: Zero-carbon council homes set for Oxford

Oxford is aiming to become a net-zero city-region by 2030 – 20 years ahead of the national target. In order to reach this target, the 42 members of the Citizens’ Assembly are recommending the introduction of new energy efficiency requirements for community buildings and new-build housing; measures to boost local renewable energy installations; measures to cut transport emissions and investment to expand biodiversity across the region.

On the housing front, work has this week started to build eight zero-carbon council homes across three sites in the city. The new homes will be considered zero-carbon for regulated energy use of lighting, hot water, heating and ventilation, but fittings added by tenants won’t be regulated. Each home will be built from pre-fabricated panels featuring timber frames, insulation and electrics built in that will then be assembled on site. Air source heat pumps, solar panels and triple glazing will all be features of the homes.

Councillor Mike Rowley, Cabinet Member for Affordable Housing, said: “The City Council has declared a climate emergency and we’re committed to building a zero-carbon Oxford as quickly as possible. We can’t solve our city’s carbon problem without solving the emissions from buildings – 81% of emissions in Oxford come from buildings. Oxford Citizens Assembly on Climate Change was clear that a balance is possible between zero carbon and genuinely affordable homes – and this project shows that this is doable.”

BUSINESS LEADERSHIP: L’Oreal launches €150m social and environmental fund

Global cosmetic firm L’Oréal has noted the need to focus on regenerating the environment while also supporting those impacted by the economic crisis caused by the coronavirus, and has responded by launching a €50m social fund to support vulnerable women and a €100m environment fund.

The fund is split between social and environmental platforms. L’Oréal has committed €50m to supporting women that are being disproportionately affected by the Covid-19 crisis, notably in regards to job and income loss and the risk of domestic and sexual violence. The UN Population Fund (UNFPA) warns that domestic violence will increase by 20% as a result of the lockdown.

A €100m fund for the regeneration of the natural environment has also been set up. A €50m Fund for Nature Regeneration will be used to finance marine and forest ecosystem restoration projects that also create new social and economic development opportunities for the populations that depend on these ecosystems. The remaining €50m will be used to promote the circular economy, with L’Oréal aiming to develop solutions and new business models that boost recycling and management of plastic waste.

Matt Mace

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