Last year will be one we will never forget and will be remembered most for the COVID-19 pandemic and the dramatic impacts it has had on all our lives. The resulting global health and economic crises on top of a global climate crisis has created significant challenges for governments and society that will take time to address.
While climate measures initially took a back seat to the immediate tasks of providing healthcare and boosting economies, the pandemic ultimately triggered government action to tackle all three challenges at once. It quickly became apparent that leveraging climate initiatives to spur economic growth and create healthier and safer communities were mutually reinforcing opportunities.
This greening of the economic recovery is a generational opportunity that we cannot afford to miss. The European Commission is demonstrating genuine leadership on this front, highlighting that buildings are crucial for both climate action and economic recovery.
Combined with the Commission raising the EU’s 2030 greenhouse gas emissions reduction target to at least 55 percent, its “Renovation Wave” strategy calls for doubling the EU’s current building renovation rate to two percent. They are working on important new policy initiatives to achieve that goal. This matters greatly as buildings are the EU’s biggest carbon emitter, responsible for 36 percent of greenhouse gas emissions.
The same can be said for buildings in the United States, which alone are responsible for more greenhouse gas emissions than any other country except for China. Pursuing the Biden administration’s ambitious climate agenda and targeted building renovation goals will contribute to reducing energy consumption and related emissions as well as creating healthier
and more resilient buildings. We look forward to our newest manufacturing facility starting up operations in the United States around midyear, which will increase our ability to supply the growing demand for our products there.
ROCKWOOL’s thermally efficient, fire-resistant, and recyclable insulation, ceiling tiles, and exterior cladding products are a perfect fit for this wave of renovation and the growing awareness of the important role buildings play in achieving climate goals. The ability to infinitely recycle stone wool into new insulation with no loss of performance when a building is renovated or taken down means that there is less waste going to landfill and less end-of-life emissions than with non-recyclable materials that might otherwise be incinerated.
One could say we are renovating our own house too. We have a strong foundation as a net carbonnegative company due to the performance of our products – yet, as a manufacturer we also know we need to do more to reduce the impact of our own production processes.
That is why in December 2020, we announced commitments to accelerate the decarbonisation of our business, with specific long-term targets verified and approved by the Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi). These are ambitious commitments, and we are proud to be among the few energy-intensive manufacturing companies to have our science-based targets verified and approved by SBTi. Having developed and deployed innovative new melting technologies at ROCKWOOL factories in Denmark and Norway, we have already reduced our carbon emissions in the Nordic region by more than 70 percent relative to the 1990 baseline year. You can read more about the targets and how we will reach them on pages 15 - 17.
These science-based targets will reduce our lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions by one third by 2034. In addition, these targets also encompass reducing the emissions that result from further business growth. These targets come on top of the six sustainability goals we set in 2016 among other things to continue reducing the carbon intensity (carbon emitted per tonne produced) of our production.
During 2020, we further strengthened the circularity of our business by meeting or exceeding two of the six interim goals two years ahead of schedule – specifically, on reducing production waste going to landfill and improving the water efficiency in our factories. We made good progress on meeting two of the other four goals. Although we had fewer lost time incidents in 2020 than in 2019, we did not meet our goal to reduce the Lost Time Incident rate. The safety of our colleagues and those working at all our sites will always be our highest priority. You can read more details on our progress toward the six goals on pages 29 - 33.
We are also proud of the fact that for the second time, Trucost, part of Standard & Poor’s Global, has classified all our products as being SDG positive, meaning they have a positive impact on reaching the UN Sustainable Development Goals. It is also worth noting that in the EU context, we estimate that 95 percent of the revenue from our insulation business is taxonomy eligible in the climate mitigation category.
Despite the challenges still facing the global community, we are optimistic about the future. The solutions to many of the world’s challenges already exist, especially in the built environment.
At ROCKWOOL, we look forward to continuing to do our part to create more resilient, healthier and safer communities and a more circular economy.
CEO of the ROCKWOOL Group