Volvo quits diesel as Germany axes coal power plants: The sustainability success stories of the week

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 sustainability leadership.

Across the UK and across 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: Germany confirms 15 coal plant closures


Coal is the world’s most abundant, and most polluting, fossil fuel. The International Energy Agency (IEA) has stated that all nations must end coal-fired electricity production by 2040 if the global energy system is to reach net-zero by 2050, and recommended that OECD nations strive to go faster.

Germany’s Economy Minister Robert Habeck confirmed as this week began that eight coal-fired power plants across the Rhenish and Brandenburg regions had come offline on Easter Sunday (31 March). These plants had been kept online as a precautionary measure amid the energy price crisis, but are now deemed “neither necessary nor economical”.

A further seven plants will be shut in the coming weeks for the same reason. Collectively, the 15 power plants have a total capacity of around 4.4GW.

Germany intends to end coal-fired electricity generation by 2030.

RESOURCES: P&G and Dow begin immediate work for new plastic recycling tech


Only 9% of the plastics ever produced have been recycled. Moreover, plastic is not infinitely recyclable, with material quality degrading through each processing cycle using mechanical recycling processes.

Consumer goods giant Procter & Gamble (P&G) and chemicals firm Dow recently confirmed that they are working together to develop and commercialise a new chemical recycling technology that will enable the recycling of multi-layer, hard-to-recycle packaging.

The partnership has been set into motion immediately and is set to continue until the technology is commercially available. Little has been said about the technology other than that it will involve dissolution – submerging plastics in solvents and heating them until different materials are separated.

Dow is striving for the process to have a low emissions footprint and produce plastics of “near-virgin” quality. P&G is notably aiming for all of its consumer-facing packaging to be either reusable or made of 100% recycled materials by 2030.

MOBILITY: Volvo ceases production of diesel cars


As 2023 begun, Volvo pledged to cease the production of diesel cars in early 2024. It had first stated its intention to do so in 2017. The automaker made good on that pledge last week as its last ever car with a diesel engine rolled off the production line at its Torslanda plant in Sweden.

The blue XC90 sport utility vehicle (SUV) will be placed in the World of Volvo Museum in Gothenburg for posterity.

The move makes Volvo the last large ‘legacy’ manufacturer to entirely ditch diesel. Volvo is striving to become an electric-only brand by 2030.

A statement from Volvo reads: “Only five years ago, the diesel engine was our bread and butter in Europe, just like it was for most other car makers. The majority of the cars we sold in Europe in 2019 ran on diesel, while electric models were just starting to gain traction.

“The all-electric direction we’re now heading towards is the right one to take, and we do so with our flag held high.”

THE BUILT ENVIRONMENT: Retrofit toolkit launched to help decarbonise London’s historic buildings


The UK Government has stated that “the vast majority” of buildings that will be in use in 2050 already exist. Globally, the proportion is estimated to stand at 80%. This presents all manner of challenges and opportunities relating to retrofitting – which are perhaps most pronounced for historic buildings.

Architecture firm Purcell and the City of London Corporation, which manages the Square Mile district, have teamed up to provide an open-access toolkit on retrofitting heritage buildings to reduce emissions, improve energy efficiency and enhance climate resilience.

The toolkit provides a step-by-step retrofit planning process for those that own, maintain and occupy such buildings, with advice for building types ranging from municipal buildings to places of worship.

London hosts more than 600 listed buildings, so it’s hoped that the toolkit will be used across the capital. The authors also claim its advice will be relevant in other locations.

Shravan Joshi, who chairs the City of London Corporation’s planning and transportation committee, said: “Our ability to adapt our heritage buildings depends on developing a common understanding and promoting good practice of what can be achieved.  This toolkit provides a structured approach to such collaboration.”

SUSTAINABILITY LEADERSHIP: Speedy Hire and Sisk back local peatland restoration


Peatlands cover around 10% of the total land area in the UK and are important carbon sinks. But the Government estimates that only 13% are in a near-natural state.

edie recently featured Beam Suntory’s support for three large-scale peatland restoration projects in Scotland in this weekly roundup. It seems that business appetite for supporting these kinds of projects is growing, with Speedy Hire and Sisk unveiling a joint £10,000 investment in peatland restoration in the North Pennines.

The finance is supporting the North Pennines National Landscape initiative to replant England’s largest bog with cotton grass. These plants should support vegetation growth and, in turn, carbon sequestration and biodiversity.

As well as finance, Speedy Hire and Sisk are providing volunteer hours to support the project.

“The World Economic Forum has considered world ecosystem collapse as a very real risk over the next 10 years, and it is important for businesses to include nature and biodiversity in their ESG plans,” said Sam Westran, who chairs Speedy Hire’s communities committee.

“We are proud to be supporting this important issue and making a direct contribution to peatland restoration.”

The news comes shortly after Speedy’s ESG director Amelia Woodley was crowned edie’s Business Leader of the Year at the 2024 edie Awards.

Action inspires action. Stay ahead of the curve with sustainability and energy newsletters from edie