A Finnish concrete company Pielisen Betoni Ltd produces precast slabs and wall elements, columns and beams, ready-mix concrete, and complete installation. The company has compensated all its carbon dioxide emissions caused by production chain. When Sweco piloted the service to calculate carbon footprint of a precast factory in 2018, Pielisen Betoni was interested in knowing their status and did its first footprint calculation.
“We wanted to know the level of the carbon footprint of our production. We had already worked together with Sweco with our EPD, environmental product declaration project, so the company was familiar to us already,” says Tuija Kilpinen, CEO of Pielisen Betoni. Since the first carbon footprint calculation in 2018, sustainability and carbon neutrality have become even more topical for construction and cement industries and the themes are integrated into companies’ targets.
“People are interested in CO2 emissions. The future is to make a difference, make sustainable choices; to realize that we actually can adjust and amend how we do things,” Kilpinen notes.
In early 2022, Pielisen Betoni has its third carbon emission calculation in process.
“Let’s see how we have evolved. So far, we’ve managed to cut down our own emissions more than 20%,” Kilpinen explains. “For example, you can cut down in heating and think about where to invest. The benefit with the calculation is that you can think for your own company how you can best reduce emissions and how you can make a difference.”
She continues that, in construction industry, cutting down the emissions can be challenging. The reality might be that 10% of emissions comes from production and the rest comes from raw materials, such as cement. “Persistent research and development work is being done in the industry to find more sustainable options for example for aggregates for cement,” Kilpinen says.
“There are development steps in the industry, such as the classifications for ready-mixed concrete that are on the way.”
A long list of questions helps to find the right answers
The carbon footprint is calculated based on a wide list of information of the factory or company operations.
“First, you need to compile all information you need by each factory, and you will need data from many sources and possibly many people as well,” Kilpinen knows. In Pielisen Betoni, Tuija Kilpinen had the access to most of the required information herself, but the calculation project has also involved colleagues from finance and production. “You need electricity consumption, watts, oil consumption, how much has been used in which factory, quantities of gravel, number of transports… But it helps when you have the list of required data to start with. It is a profound list of questions, and it helps to dig the answers to the right questions.” Collecting the data takes not a year but some months, says Kilpinen.
Cutting down the emissions by 20% in three years is a significant improvement. What kind of actions Kilpinen and her team in Pielisen Betoni have taken since the first calculation in 2018?
“The electricity was a simple choice for us. All our current electricity comes from wind power. And there are still actions for us to take. Compensating the carbon dioxide emissions by having our own carbon sink is an intermediate stage, but that is currently the only way to cut down emissions caused by cement.”
“The change requires innovations”
Pielisen Betoni has 5 factories in Finland. The carbon emission level was calculated for the whole company. “I had the data by factory, the whole company level was calculated, and I collected results by factory. It is valuable to have a partner who knows how to calculate your carbon footprint and how to collect reliable and correct data.”
Kilpinen thinks the biggest benefit of having the carbon footprint level calculated is the understanding of where the company is going. In building projects, Kilpinen says the interest towards carbon neutrality or low-carbon operations is higher now than it was 3 years ago.
“Financially, I am not sure if there have been any concrete direct benefits yet. I know that we can’t reach zero level, but if you can compensate and cut down emissions by 20% or by 50%, that’s good.”
At present, Pielisen Betoni is doing well. There is a lot of work in the industry and production, and the company is developing to operate as productively as possible.
Has counting affected the team’s thinking and action?
“It certainly has, of how we think about the future and what we can do. For example, if you think about trucks: It is not possible to pull these loads with electricity. Bio and hydrogen options are under development and something new is happening all the time. The change requires inventions. Everyone can think for their own part about what they can do.”
So far, we’ve managed to cut down our own emissions more than 20%. Bio and hydrogen options are under development and something new is happening all the time. The change requires inventions. Everyone can think for their own part about what they can do.