Economy & Business
What European companies are doing to meet SDGs
ECCT member companies across multiple industry sectors are working to reduce the impact of their operations on the environment
By Duncan Levine
While the UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which includes 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and 169 specific, global and universally-applicable targets, the drive towards sustainable development has been going on for decades. Europe has been a leader in the drive as both EU authorities and national governments have been constantly revising policies to improve the sustainability of development. For their part, companies are also constantly changing both their business priorities and the way they operate.
As reported in the ECCT’s 2020 Sustainable Development Goals Forum, many ECCT companies are making great contributions towards meeting the SDG goals.
Ikea, for example, is working to reduce the environmental impact of its supply chain and products. Based on an internal evaluation of the company’s climate footprint (of the entire value chain), the largest portion of carbon emissions is attributed to materials (40%) while the next largest contributor is product use (20%), followed by customer travel and home deliveries (11%). It is therefore on these activities that Ikea will concentrate the most on finding innovative solutions. This includes finding more sustainable materials, improving energy efficiency, repurposing goods and helping to save or even generate energy in homes.
Ikea has already been able to decouple growth from environmental impact by reducing its overall emissions while continuing to grow. However, there is still work to be done to become climate neutral and eventually climate positive, which is the company’s ultimate goal.
Progress has already been made by using renewable energy in production but also by reducing the energy consumption of the products it sells (such as lights).
The company is also developing innovative materials. For example, the company’s reusable plastic bags are made of sugar cane in Taiwan. In addition to being of high quality and able to be reused, they also sell for a low price.
Another example is one of the curtains in its range, which are made of recycled PET bottles in Taiwan. It takes six bottles to make one curtain.
In another ingenious innovation, the company is using recycled bubble tea cups to make reusable shopping bags.
Besides materials and products, Ikea is also looking to develop circular services. For example, it is working with Taipei 101 on a furniture-as-a-service leasing collaboration, whereby Ikea provides furniture, which it refurbishes when it is worn out so that it is not discarded but put back in the value chain.
Ikea is also developing products that enable people to live more sustainably, often working with social enterprises. Since one tenth of water is consumed in homes, an important initiative is to reduce water consumption. Ikea’s water saving mist nozzle can reduce water use by more than 90%.
To help address the problem of air pollution in homes, Ikea has developed a curtain that uses energy from natural light to transform polluted air to clean air. The curtain has been treated with a mineral-based coating that purifies indoor air. Besides offering a new and simple way to clean air in the home, it is also attractive and affordable.
Ikea is also a large food provider. Given the large impact of the meat industry, the company is introducing more delicious plant-based food. For example, it has launched plant-based alternatives to traditional meat balls (veggie balls) and hot dogs (veggie dogs).
The company is also teaming up with social entrepreneurs to tackle a variety of problems. For example, it is working with NGOs in creating a centre to prolong product life (refurbish articles) so that they can be used for longer.
Signify (formerly named Philips Lighting) is working towards sustainability in line with a number of SDGs, which the company has already integrated into its plans, including climate action, the circular economy, ensuring food availability, improving health and well-being and safety and security.
Since lighting is responsible for a large portion of energy consumption, reducing the energy consumption of lighting is Signify’s main focus. The company has sold more LED products than any other company and it is continuing to improve LED energy efficiency, popularize smart connected lighting systems and innovative solar lighting solutions.
To reduce the use of plastic, the company is using recycled materials for its products and has launched plastic free packaging.
Given the need to feed a growing global population, more innovative agricultural solutions, such as vertical agriculture, will be needed. Signify has developed a light formula to improve crop yield and quality by 90% and reduce water consumption in vertical agriculture.
Atlas Copco’s processes are designed to minimise the impact on the environment and use resources responsibly. All products and services must create lasting value and have a positive impact, which is why the company takes a life-cycle approach to innovation.
Every level of the organisation has responsibility for setting targets that help Atlas Copco reach its goals, and every level is accountable for results. All goals have measurable targets including profits, return on capital employed, the reduction of waste and impact on the environment. Products and services goals are all about designing products and services that aim to reduce environmental impact for users as well as the company.
In terms of working towards meeting SDG 2 (zero hunger), Carrefour has an ongoing programme to donate tonnes of food to food banks. As of 2019, the company had donated 380 tonnes of food to food banks. In spite of the substantial donations, the number of customers and sales at Carrefour continued to grow.
As part of efforts to meet SDGs 3 (good health and well-being) and 12 (responsible consumption and production), Carrefour was the first retailer in Taiwan to commit to cage-free eggs. When others followed suit, Carrefour did not see them as competitors but welcomed them as joining their efforts towards creating a more sustainable planet. At the same time, Carrefour is working to reduce plastic packaging in its products.
Carrefour has a strong bond with local farmers growing organic crops. Their efforts are helping to protect the environment and habitats of endangered indigenous species like frogs and s leopard cats.
These are just some of the ECCT companies that are integrating SDGs into their plans. A whole host of companies have committed to getting 100% of their energy from renewable sources and becoming completely carbon neutral. Many are engaged in the development of renewable energy and sustainable industry development, including banks offering financing and other services. ECCT members have also acknowledged the need to work together with governments, NGOs and other companies to meet SDGs and create a sustainable future for their companies and the planet.