SPONSORED CONTENT: Jens Birgersson, CEO of ROCKWOOL Group, explains how the manufacturer is reducing its carbon footprint and aligning its targets with the SDGs
To meet the Paris Agreement targets and avoid the irreversible effects of climate change, industrial nations need to decarbonise at an unprecedented scale. According to the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), we need to accelerate the speed by which we reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least a fivefold to limit global temperature rise to 1.5°C and be on track to achieve net-zero by 2050.
Failing to do so will edge our planet closer to a climate catastrophe in which rising sea levels, extreme weather events, and loss of biodiversity will become our new reality. This challenge is now set against the context of a global pandemic, which risks deprioritising the global effort to tackle climate change.
The industrial sector has a vital role to play both in terms of creating the products and technologies that will tackle climate change, and as a path to post Covid-19 economic recovery. Indeed, national governments and supra-national bodies are already harnessing the potential of energy efficiency and clean energy for job creation and other far-reaching socio-economic benefits.
One need look no further than the EU Green New Deal or the EU’s Renovation Wave for a practical demonstration of how this will work. As well as being a vital part of the solution, however, industry is also part of the problem. Industrial processes account for 19 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, and it is undeniable that decarbonising manufacturing is an essential element in reaching global climate targets.
ROCKWOOL is the world leader in manufacturing sustainable, non-combustible stone wool products and is already a net carbon negative business. Over the lifetime of its use, the building insulation we sold in 2019 will save 100 times the carbon emitted in its production.
However, we know that we need to go further to reduce our own footprint, and we’re proud to be among the few energy-intensive manufacturing companies whose science-based emission reduction targets have been verified and approved by the Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi), a global, UN-backed partnership tasked with increasing corporate ambition on climate action and providing an independent verification system to ensure targets are science-based and will contribute to achieving Paris Agreement goals.
Through this partnership, we have committed to reducing our factories’ absolute greenhouse gas emissions (scopes 1 and 2) by 38 percent by the year 2034. We will also reduce our non-factory emissions (scope 3) by 20 percent by the same year. These absolute emission reduction targets, which supplement and expand on our existing SDG-related sustainability goals, equate to an ambitious one-third reduction of ROCKWOOL’s lifecycle (scopes 1, 2, and 3 as defined by the Greenhouse Gas Protocol) greenhouse gas emissions by 2034, while at the same time ensuring continued reduction in the carbon intensity (carbon emitted per tonne produced) of our production.
Building on our decades-long efforts to improve the energy efficiency of our own operations, reducing the direct emissions from our production is a key focus of our technology innovation. For example, we are developing large-scale electric melting technology, which is environmentally well-suited in countries where the electricity grid is already low carbon. That’s why we chose our factory in Moss, Norway to pilot what will become the industry’s largest electric melter. With the new melter’s start-up, the Moss factory’s carbon emissions will fall by approximately 80 percent.
As we continue decarbonising, we are already reaping the benefits of substantial investments in industry-leading fuel-flexible melting technology that allows us to shift from coal to less carbon-intensive fuels such as natural gas or biogas in the facilities where this technology is being used. In addition to converting our two Danish factories to natural gas in 2020 and certified climate-neutral biogas in 2021, we will also in 2021 convert one of our factories in Poland to natural gas and start up operations at our newest facility under construction in the United States with natural gas rather than coal. We plan to convert other factories using this fuel-flexible melting technology from coal to gas over the next few years.
The ability to infinitely recycle stone wool without any loss of performance also sets it apart from non-recyclable construction materials that might otherwise be incinerated, resulting in end-of-life emissions. Recycling stone wool at our factories contributes to reducing production-related carbon emissions.
According to a recent International Monetary Fund (IMF) report, the window for attaining net-zero emissions by 2050 is rapidly closing and the time for tangible action is now. We are proud of the significant contribution we are making to the solution as a net-carbon negative company and are committed to further reducing the environmental impact of our operations and doing our part to ensure a sustainable future.
Jens Birgersson is CEO of ROCKWOOL Group.
UNEP Covid-19 pandemic EU Green New Deal Science Based Targets SDGs net-zero decarbonisation GHG emissions