The Landscape Institute Board recently declared a climate and biodiversity emergency. Romy Rawlings CMLI, Honorary Secretary of the Landscape Institute and declaration co-signee, shares how her firm is working towards net zero carbon emissions

    Aker Brygge, Oslo, Norway. © Tomasz Majewski / Vestre

    Following recommendations made by the Committee on Climate Change, the UK Government has committed to reducing net carbon emissions to zero by 2050.

    If the landscape sector is to comply with this target, we’re all going to need to act quickly – professionally and personally. According to leading climate scientists on the Intergovernmental Panel of Climate Change (IPCC), we have less than 12 years to bring about the drastic change needed to keep global warming to a maximum of 1.5C and mitigate against the very worst potential crisis.

    Current estimates suggest the construction industry is responsible for 40-50% of global carbon emissions, whether at construction stage or in use. Up to 90% of that relates to embodied carbon from the construction phase. That’s a huge issue for all of us working in this sector.

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    In line with our Royal Charter, LI members work to benefit the built and natural environment. But sometimes, whether individually or corporately, we don’t do as well we could – and there are so many areas of focus that it can be hard to find a starting point. So I’m going to share my employer’s approach.

    ‘While no-one can do everything, everyone can do something’

    Jan Christian Vestre
    CEO, Vestre

    As a small supplier, we recognise that, were we to consider every pressing global issue, we’d make a very small dent in the problems we face. But rather than feel overwhelmed, we tackle every aspect of our operations in the same way, working consistently on aspects within our control.

    The United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) provide an excellent format around which to focus our efforts. We’ve integrated improvements across 9 of the 17 Goals into our production activities.

    Examples include:

    UN SDG 7: Affordable and clean energy

    We utilise 100% renewable energy sources and plan to become self-sufficient by 2025 through harnessing all our energy from the sun and wind.

    UN SDG 9: Industry, innovation and infrastructure

    By 2020 we plan to produce zero transport emissions within our manufacturing network. We already use the latest generation of biofuel and will shortly take delivery of a Tesla Semi, the world’s first all-electric semi-trailer truck.

    UN SDG 11: Smart Green Cities

    More than 70% of the world’s population will live in urban areas by 2050. In partnership with Young Sustainable Impact, we’re exploring what we can do to make cities more energy efficient and pleasant to live in.

    UN SDG 12: Responsible consumption and production

    Through Vestre’s Vision Zero commitment, we do not manufacture a single product that isn’t intended to last forever (assuming correct use and maintenance). Our lengthy warranties are evidence of our approach to minimising resource use.

    UN SDG 13: Climate action

    Our factory has been carbon neutral since 2010 and we aim to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions by a further 10% each year. What remains is offset through climate mitigation measures certified by the United Nations’ Clean Development Mechanism.

    UN SDG 15: Life on land

    We use no tropical timber in our production. Instead, we almost exclusively use certified Scandinavian timber from some of the world’s most sustainable forests.

    This is a good start, but it’s going to take much more to halt the damage of climate change. We also donate 10% of our annual profits to sustainable projects worldwide.

    So what could you do?

    The journey to net zero need not be a daunting one. By following Vestre’s approach, you can focus your efforts and work consistently and efficiently towards making positive change.

    1. Identify the Sustainable Development Goals that are most material and relevant to your organisation. Start small, and focus on aspects that you can make a meaningful contribution towards.
    2. Commit to these Goals, both internally and through your external networks. Discuss your approach with your clients and other stakeholders, stressing the positive impact that can be made. Seek out and engage with organisations who take a similar approach.
    3. Benchmark your current carbon impact and encourage a targeted approach that can be reviewed to see where you’re making a tangible difference. Involve all your staff so that your approach is evident throughout your business – and consider electing a ‘champion’ to take ultimate responsibility.

    For more insight and resources for businesses, visit the SDG Business Hub.

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