17 Feb 2015, 16:44
We live in a world where consumers are increasingly concerned about the impact of the products that they use, resources are growing scarcer and where regulators are increasing the requirements for products to be more environmentally friendly.
That means that businesses that wish to generate sustainable profits in the future need to make sustainable products. If you don't, someone else will - look at the success of Tesla in making inroads into the electric car market, for example, or the way that solar technology is disrupting the business model of the traditional utilities.
Many people see sustainability as a drag on companies' ability to create value, and something to be resisted, but it is increasingly clear that it is an enormous opportunity for everyone in the supply chain.
At AkzoNobel, for example, we have a target of earning at least 20 per cent of our revenue from products with a sustainability advantage for our customers - what we call Eco-Premium products - by 2020. These range from paints such as Dulux Weathershield KeepCool, which can reflect infrared radiation to help keep buildings cool in warm climates, to Intersleek, our biocide-free antifouling coating that, by stopping organisms growing on ship hulls, reduces the ships' drag, the amount of fuel used and CO2 emissions.
Sometimes we take our inspiration from nature, as with our additive for road salt, Ecosel Asphalt Protection, which is inspired by the ability of certain animals to withstand extremely low temperatures and stop themselves from freezing.
To produce sustainable products requires a process of sustainable innovation. But what is sustainable innovation and how does it differ from what we did before?
Innovation is about anticipating people's needs and figuring out how to meet them.
Ultimately customers buy products that benefit them - but alongside the more conventional benefits of making life easier or more productive, consumers are also starting to consider wider issues such as how resource-efficient materials are and whether products can help them be more sustainable in their daily lives.
Sustainability is like a lens that allows us to look at the world differently and help us to meet our goal of delivering more value with fewer resources.
"It's tempting to adhere to the lowest environmental standards for as long as possible," says a Harvard Business Review article entitled 'Why Sustainability is Now the Key Driver of Innovation'. "However," the article adds, "it's smarter to comply with the most stringent rules, and to do so before they are enforced. This yields substantial first-mover advantages in terms of fostering innovation."
But it's not just about compliance. Nor is it just about Research, Development and Innovation - the culture of sustainability needs to permeate the whole business, from procurement to sales and marketing. And it's not just about working within the organization. You need to work throughout the value chain, with your suppliers and your customers - but also with their suppliers and customers as well as other stakeholders such as NGOs and academics. That is where you gain access to new ideas about what is possible and what is useful. No one company or individual has all of the best ideas.
That's why we encourage open innovation through our Open Space initiative. Companies need to do things smarter and they need to do them faster. And we are convinced that we can do that best by joining forces with other innovators out there. When everyone pulls together, they can overcome formidable obstacles and reach their goals sooner rather than later.
One way that sustainable innovation works is by helping to make your operations leaner and more efficient. So, for example, in our specialty chemicals unit, we are looking at ways to make our electrolysis processes - the traditional bedrock of the industry - less energy intensive.
Another innovative process is to turn problems into solutions - our industrial chemicals arm has, over the last four years, created a number of projects to make new products and processes that use CO2 as a source material, in collaboration with SINTEF, a Norwegian research institute.
Making changes to innovation processes can be challenging, not least because of the need to manage different time frames. Whether we like it or not, businesses are judged on their performance from quarter to quarter while sustainable innovation requires thinking five to 10 years ahead. It's a challenge that requires strong leadership and big decisions internally that demand significant resources over the long term.
At the same time, this is an area that stimulates an enormous amount of engagement and motivation among our workforce and unleashes a huge amount of innovation as well as helping to attract the right people to our company. We know that sustainability is good for business and that good business is all about being sustainable.
Andrew Whittaker is RD&I Director at AkzoNobel
03 Feb 2015, 13:09
The printing industry is generally acknowledged to be the 4th largest industry in the UK. There are over 6,000 printing companies in the UK, but very few have taken voluntary steps to reduce their environmental impact.
The demand for climate neutral products is rising steadily. Printing has a huge impact on the environment and we as consumers, designers, marketers, charity pioneers are in a position to do something about it, simply by choosing the climate responsible printers.
SAXOPRINT is an international provider for offset printing, operating since 2006 as an online shop, who doesn't believe that being climate neutral means quality compromise. They also believe in carbon offsetting, recycling and vegetable based inks, all from renewable sources and with the finishing touch of CarbonZero delivery. Effective management is key to climate neutral printing. It is also important not only to retain the human touch to the business but also genuinely show the humanity to the environment. Nobody loses from this kind of printing.
Climate neutrality with SAXOPRINT is not just achieved by using recycled paper; there are many factors involved. There is the collective printing process, which makes paper consumption more efficient and reduces the company's greenhouse gas emissions in comparison to conventional printing methods.
Because of the batch printing methods it enables to spread the set up and production emissions over every job that is produced within that batch, therefore all the printing jobs produced are not entirely responsible for all of the CO2 created, unlike with most of the conventional printing methods, where each job is produced on an ad-hoc basis and is solely responsible for the emissions it creates. They collect and distribute all of the print orders in a resource-saving manner so that almost no paper is left unused. This optimization is absolutely essential when you consider that paper accounts for the majority of the entire CO2 emissions, which arises in media production.
A key element in SAXOPRINT'S printing process alongside the paper is of course the printing ink they use. They completely dispense it by use of the alcohol Isopropanol. This protects the environment and at the same time the health of the staff who works on the printing machines. Furthermore, SAXOPRINT does not use mineral oils that have poor biodegradability and are also harmful to health. They are replaced by vegetable oils or their derivatives. The use of primary color supply lines on the printing machines also enables to considerably reduce the amount of waste caused by ink containers. The shipment of print products also causes CO2 emissions, therefore, they use "DPD Total Zero" and "UPS carbon neutral" to reduce and compensate for these unavoidable emissions, which means the climate-neutral delivery of all parcels is guaranteed.
In addition SAXOPRINT uses FSC certified papers both silk and gloss finish, and also undertakes to implement and develop all the demands and goals set by the FSC®. SAXOPRINT also partner a number of environmentally friendly initiatives, such as Climate Partnership For Forest Protection Kasigau Wildlife Corridor Kenya.
SAXOPRINT is also involved in several projects in Europe, such as the WWF and Act -responsible charities. In 2015 they are also planning to extend their CSR in the UK too.
02 Feb 2015, 09:40
Biotech now presents some truly exciting opportunities as a source of raw materials and intermediates that may be cheaper, more sustainable, and offer advantages in terms of performance that were never imaginable with materials produced by more conventional ‘straight chemical' technologies.
The exciting developments that offer such great promise in what most of us understand as biotechnology are the consequences of breakthroughs over the past half century that have allowed scientists to manipulate the most fundamental processes in living cells and organisms. And in white biotech, those breakthroughs mean, among other things, that microorganisms can serve as infinitesimally small factories that produce specific compounds of industrial value.
So how exactly can companies take advantage of industrial biotechnology? At AkzoNobel our focus in white biotech is on working with partners who can produce raw and intermediate materials for us using biotechnology that feed into our chemical plants.
The specificity and efficiency of production using white biotech are perhaps the most obvious advantages, but there are a number of other factors that make biotech an attractive alternative to traditional sources of raw materials. Relative to traditional production methods, biotech is often far more energy efficient, which means both lower costs and a reduction in the carbon footprint.
The technology is quite flexible, allowing production facilities to be located closer to the customer (or even on-site), so shipping costs can be cut and logistics simplified. That flexibility also allows for a variety of raw materials to be produced using the same equipment.
But how real is all of this? Actually, it's quite real, and at AkzoNobel we have already entered into a number of agreements with firms that have real products and processes they can offer to us. A far-reaching study has been carried out which has looked at the raw materials that AkzoNobel uses, assessing such considerations as volume and environmental footprint, and the potential to replace petrochemical based materials with bio-based ones.
Essentially we've cross-checked what is important against what is possible. We've looked at players who have developed processes in this area, done technical and economic assessments of what they are proposing, and we've subjected their proposals to a reality check. When we find ones that seem realistic, we start to build a relationship, and work out what a pathway to commercialization will be.
Potential partners may be startups with a new idea and backing from venture capitalists, or they may be larger companies with established track records. One of the most promising partnerships involves a joint development agreement with Solazyme, a California-based firm that has developed technologies to produce oils and other materials from algae.
Last July, AkzoNobel and Solazyme announced a multi-year agreement under which Solazyme would provide up to 10,000 tons of algal oil for surfactant production. The company has also announced a partnership with a Canadian firm, Enerkem, to work together on the development of waste-to-chemicals facilities in Europe, and an agreement between Industrial Chemicals with Amsterdam-based Photanol will produce "green" alternatives to building blocks traditionally derived from the oil barrel by using engineered cyanobacteria to convert CO2 into predetermined products such as such as acetic acid and butanol when exposed to light.
At AkzoNobel we are constantly looking for non-traditional solutions as we strive to do more with less and these kinds of partnerships - which help us significantly reduce our carbon footprint - are a perfect example of our Planet Possible approach to sustainability.
However, establishing these partnerships is not easy and they not only require imagination to get them started but also commitment to see them through. There needs to be genuine mutual benefits to make the partnership work for all the parties involved and a tailored approach taken for each partnership.
In summary, businesses that are able to utilize white biotech and manage the transition to bio-based materials successfully will ultimately stand to benefit. To achieve this, companies need to have the necessary vision to understand the long term advantages of expanding the use of renewable alternatives but also the ruthless efficiency to deliver this vision. This is not an easy road to take but a vital one to travel down in the long term.
11 Dec 2014, 09:50
Since the late 1930s, transporting temperature sensitive goods by road and rail depended almost entirely on fossil fuels and high global warming potential (GWP) refrigerants to maintain cargo at the optimum temperature. Today, internal combustion engines have become quieter, more fuel efficient and cleaner. Nevertheless the dependence on fossil fuel and hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) refrigerants remains.
Regulations and social pressure have dramatically changed the way transporters operate in the European Union (EU). Environmental sustainability is a top objective of legislators determined to phase out high GWP refrigerants, control exhaust emissions and limit noise in densely populated areas.
For the past 15 years, the manufacturer of transport temperature control systems, Thermo King, has focused on developing a solution that would meet the future need for an alternative to the fossil fuel or HFC technologies on which the transport industry has depended for so long. In the 1930s, Thermo King pioneered transport temperature control and they have remained the leading innovator in this industry ever since.
HOW THE SYSTEM OPERATES
The company's alternative approach, which remains unique in transport refrigeration today, involves the use of recovered and commercially available liquid carbon dioxide (R744) in an indirect open-cycle system. Unlike other ‘cryogenic' approaches which spray the refrigerant directly into the load space, the Thermo King CryoTech range uses fin-and-tube evaporators as heat exchangers through which the R744 flows, absorbing heat from the load before it is vented to the outside of the vehicle.
The recovered R744 is stored under pressure in a vacuum insulated tank under the chassis of the truck or articulated trailer. It flows to the remote evaporators, one of which is installed in each compartment allowing up to three temperatures on one vehicle. An electronic expansion valve managed by the electric control module regulates the flow of liquid through each evaporator thereby varying their cooling capacity to match the demands of the load and maintain a steady temperature.
Just like conventional HFC refrigerants, the liquid R744 changes state (into a gas) as its pressure drops on leaving the expansion valve and rapidly absorbs heat energy in the process. A regulator keeps gas pressures above the critical 5.5 bar point to avoid the formation of dry ice in the evaporator. After the liquid R744 vaporizes causing the temperature to lower in the insulated box, the vapor is vented outside the box through an exhaust muffler to minimize noise. This is important with regard to the health and safety of operators and goods.
A SYSTEM DEFINED BY WHAT IT LACKS
The system is more notable for what it lacks rather than what it possesses. The truck or trailer unit is cooled with virtually no operating noise without the use of diesel engine, compressor, or HFC refrigerant.
The recovered R744 in the Thermo King CryoTech systems is obtained as a by-product from industrial processes that would otherwise have been released into the atmosphere. As such there are no new carbon dioxide emissions during operation of the CryoTech system.
OPERATING COSTS SIMILAR TO DIESEL
The cost of operating a CryoTech unit over its lifecycle is broadly comparable to that of an equivalent conventional diesel powered unit, although specific applications may favor one or the other. The initial cost of the unit is likely to be slightly higher, due to current low manufacturing volumes. This is offset by its longer service life due to its long life components and fewer "wear" items.
COOLING PERFORMANCE AND NOISE
It has been proven that CryoTech evaporators deliver significantly more cooling capacity than their diesel equivalent at both fresh and frozen box temperatures. Pull down of an empty box can be up to four times faster with R744, making it an excellent choice for distribution operations with a high number of door openings.
With more countries considering the introduction of noise limits on evening and night deliveries - following the example of the PIEK standard in the Netherlands - urban distribution operations wanting to take advantage of low traffic volumes need a vehicle that can perform at 60 dBA or less. All the CryoTech units are PIEK tested and compliant offering sound levels up to 90% lower than a standard diesel unit.
THE ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT OF THE SYSTEM
But is the CryoTech solution actually more environmentally sustainable?
Engineers at Thermo King performed a detailed carbon footprint calculation on three equivalent systems. The CryoTech (R744) system was first compared to the latest in "conventional" technology (fossil fuel/HFC refrigerant) and to a different "alternative" approach using liquid nitrogen as a refrigerant. The study measures the environmental impact, or "carbon footprint" of each solution.
The comparison took into account significant sources of carbon dioxide emission from cradle to grave, including emissions arising from the energy required to produce the fuels and average annual operating hours. Also taken into consideration were the fuel consumption and exhaust emissions based on independent ATP test data only applicable to diesel units.
As expected, the diesel unit's carbon emissions were largely due to burning of this fossil fuel. Although the nitrogen unit consumes a similar level of fuel to the R744 unit, nitrogen itself requires about three times more energy to produce than the equivalent amount of recovered R744. The total footprint in tons of carbon dioxide over a ten year life was found to be as follows:
• Diesel unit 166 tons
• Nitrogen unit 143 tons
• CryoTech unit 46 tons
The results, while strongly in favor of the R744 solution, were not entirely surprising. CIT Ekologik AB (Engberg et al.) conducted a similar detailed Lifecycle Analysis in 2002 comparing diesel-powered units with CryoTech units. The study showed that the carbon dioxide refrigerator contributes considerably less to the environmental effects than the diesel refrigerator during refrigeration as well as heating.
THE ROAD AHEAD
The study demonstrates that the recovered R744 solution used in the CryoTech range has a carbon footprint approximately 75 percent less than a conventional diesel system and 68 percent less than a nitrogen cryogenic system. But carbon footprint alone will not make a solution commercially viable. The CryoTech range has been shown to also have a similar cost of ownership to an equivalent diesel system while substantially outperforming diesel on both noise and temperature pull down/recovery. These additional features make it ideally suited for urban distribution.
One current limitation is the availability of R744 filling stations. In the early years, there was little to no infrastructure to support the filling of CryoTech units. Since then great strides have already been made in this area.
Existing diesel fuel stations were willing to have R744 storage and dispensing stations installed so the vehicles can be refueled at the same time as the units. By November 2014, more than 47 R744 filling stations were in operation in eight European countries and the number is expected to grow in the coming years.
Thermo King has demonstrated its commitment to this technology, investing heavily in future product research and development, as well as the expansion of the filling station network.
Over the past decades, the science of transport refrigeration has advanced dramatically and the next years will no doubt bring about further innovations. The future promises to be an interesting time, as it is clear that the industry cannot continue to solely depend on traditional fuels and HFC refrigerants. Industry leaders like Thermo King are applying current and emerging technologies to help their customers achieve sustainable and quiet transport refrigeration.
Anthony Bour is product manager oc cryogenics at Thermo King
26 Nov 2014, 10:46
The Rolex Awards of Enterprise have been a byword for human innovation and the exploration of the unknown for nearly 40 years. Attracting over 30,000 applicants since 1976, the awards recognise and support those who carry out innovative projects that improve lives, protect the planet or expand knowledge.
Announced earlier this year, 2014's Young Laureates are as follows:
• Neeti Kailas (India)
• Olivier Nsengimana (Rwanda)
• Francesco Sauro (Italy)
• Arthur Zang (Cameroon)
• Hosam Zowawi (Saudi Arabia)
With the Young Laureates spearheading projects on a global scale within the sectors of science and health, conservation and exploration to name but a few, the Rolex Awards of Enterprise continue to be a testament to the ongoing endeavour of the human spirit.
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