We have set ourselves a long-term goal to achieve zero carbon by minimising the environmental impact of our products and manufacturing processes.
Knauf Insulation has always been in the business of saving energy and reducing carbon emissions. Today one unit of energy used to manufacture a Glass Mineral Wool product saves 570 units over its 50-year-use phase.
And this has massive long-term positive environmental advantages. In the European Union, for example, buildings are responsible for generating 36% of carbon emissions.
Around 85% of this carbon comes from ‘operating’ the building – such as heating or cooling – so it is vital that buildings are as energy efficient as possible through the insulation of the building envelope.
The remaining 15% from buildings is made up from the embodied carbon generated and released during the life cycle of the materials used to create buildings (in a near-zero energy building this figure is between 30% to 45%).
At Knauf Insulation we continue to campaign for annual rates of efficient building renovation to be dramatically increased, but we have also committed to a long-term goal of achieving zero carbon for our products and organisation.
It is a goal that is in line with the European Union’s commitment to make Europe the first continent in the world to be carbon neutral by 2050. We want to help. The majority of our sites are in Europe and we relish the challenge of taking climate action and meeting the EU’s goals.
CUTTING EMBODIED CARBON
We have set ourselves a target to reduce the embodied carbon of our products by 15% by 2025 – against a 2019 baseline – as a landmark step towards our long-term company goal of being zero carbon.
Tackling embodied carbon will mean examining every stage of our processes including our raw material (such as binder, recycled content and supply chains); our manufacturing processes (melting and fiberising); our packaging and distribution (plastic use, plant allocation and delivery) and our circular economy (production off-cuts and recycling construction scrap and demolition waste).
We have been measuring our embodied carbon for more than 15 years using Life Cycle Assessments and over the past 10 years we have reduced company carbon emissions by more than 20% through improved performance and optimisation.
Vincent Briard, our Director of Sustainability, says it is now time to be more ambitious. “To achieve a reduction of 15% we will have to be really innovative. There are no more easy wins.
“We are talking about step changes about the way we manufacture our product, not just at the margins, but fundamental change. It’s never happened before and we are very excited by the idea.”
David Ducarme, Group Chief Operating Officer
OUR ENERGY TRANSITION
David Ducarme, our Group Chief Operating Officer, says: “At Knauf Insulation we want to approach carbon neutrality with the proven right technologies available to implement at the right time. It’s an energy transition and it’s important to understand that converting everything today to electricity would be a disaster in terms of cost and environmental impact. The electricity in most places where we operate today is still loaded with carbon emissions so the parameters that will dictate how we transition are the cost and availability of green electricity as well as the cost of the right to emit CO2.
“The accent is on technology readiness, we are investigating different fuels such as bio-gas or hydrogen and we are preparing technology roadmaps to investigate when they can be ready. Already we are using coke-free technology in two locations and over the next decade we will upgrade our footprint with these technologies.”
SHRINKING OUR FOOTPRINT
An important commitment of our zero-carbon vision is to shrink the carbon footprint of our business activities outside of manufacturing by 25% by 2025. We will assess all aspects of our daily working life — including activities such as commuting or business travel — to allow the implementation of improvement programmes.
SIX PLANTS WIN FUNDING FOR SUSTAINABLE PROJECTS
In addition to the continuous improvement of our manufacturing faclities, we have allocated 10% of general capital expenditure to fund more energy saving and recycling ideas. The annual competition assesses plant projects that can demonstrate sustainability improvements with pay-back taking into account current and future parameters such as cost of carbon and landfill. Twenty-two projects were submitted and six winners chosen.