Vestas: Improving efficiency in a high tech business

 

Vestas develops, manufactures and installs wind turbines to generate predictable, renewable clean energy, employing more than 23,000 people across 34 countries. It has 44,000 installed turbines in 65 countries, across five continents, and saves the world from over 40 million tons of CO2 every year.

Challenge: Improving efficiency in a high tech business
Vestas as a renewable, clean energy equipment provider is a major contributor to reducing global carbon emissions but it recognises the importance of measuring its own emissions and addressing emissions in all phases of a wind power plant’s lifecycle; construction, supply chain, and decommissioning.

Vestas has carried out extensive Life Cycle Assessments allowing the company to clearly identify CO2 emissions from a product perspective. When considering a Vestas V112-3.0MW turbine, then Vestas as a company emits only 7% of its total CO2 emission. Of the remaining amount, 92% is emitted by material and component suppliers and 1% is for transport of materials and components for construction, decommissioning and recycling. Recycling at end of life reduces the environmental impact by about -23% of the total CO2 emission.

Jakob Larsen, Senior Vice President of Sustainability concludes: “We do our utmost to be sustainable at Vestas, but we are a high tech business, manufacturing wind turbines with more than 9,000 sophisticated components. At the same time, we belong to an industry characterised by heavy machinery, steel, concrete and global logistics – challenging elements in terms of sustainability. We recognise that becoming truly sustainable is a journey; not only for Vestas, but for everyone involved, including business partners and society at large.”

Solution: Setting targets to maximise reductions
Vestas has reported to CDP for the last three years, a process it considers vital in benchmarking performance and driving improvements in carbon management and reduction. Lilian Harbak, Sustainability Reporting Specialist, admits: “It does take time to understand what is required in the reporting process and to collect answers from across the organisation but it helps to set targets and maximise reductions.”

Vestas is committed to the process. Carbon emission targets are embedded in business strategy on the Executive Management agenda. The company aims to lead by example and is committed to reducing its overall use of energy, increasing its use of renewable energy, and using less carbon-intensive energy forms. In 2010 it set a target for 55% of the total energy it used to come from renewable sources by 2015. Working to meet this target Vestas also plans to invest in its own wind power plants.

By 2015, Vestas’ target is to reduce the carbon footprint of its product, a V112-3.0 MW turbine, by 15% through the entire life cycle. This would imply the V112-3.0MW turbines would only emit 6 grams of CO2 per KWh in a life cycle perspective. Meeting this target means not only reducing the company’s own CO2 emissions, but also looking at product development and the supply chain.

Benefit: Environmental impact and an effect on the bottom line
Lilian Harbak explains: “The CDP reporting process has provided a clearer overview of where we actually are and where we need to improve.” She emphasises: “There is an effect on the bottom line. Our clients are active in wanting to improve the environment, which means they want to buy from companies who have a good track record. This is also good for investors.”

While monitoring is an essential and valuable tool, it cannot on its own achieve all the changes required in the supply chain. That is why Vestas’ long-term strategy is to work with suppliers in partnerships to improve their sustainability performance together.

Vestas’ most recent initiative is WindMade™ – the world’s first sustainable consumer label for renewable energy to be endorsed by the United Nations and other organisations and companies. The interest already shown in WindMade™ suggests it has the potential to increase corporate investments in wind power and will also create greater worldwide transparency and awareness of energy. Vestas’ commitment to WindMade™ expands its stakeholder engagement; reaching out to consumers, while continuing to engage politicians.

Commitment to environmental impact is Vestas’ business and its commitment to environmental impact transparency is the reason it supports CDP. Vestas has been included for the second year in the Europe 300 and Nordic 200 Leadership Index and has actively supported CDP in its latest Carbon Action Programme. “Taking emission disclosure and emission performance disclosure to the next step of emissions commitment is a natural evolution that Vestas wants to strongly support. Being part of a working group that develops a programme giving incentives for companies to set ambitious and clear targets is furthermore interesting for us, not only as a green tech company but also as a carbon emitter,” says Jakob Larsen, Senior Vice President of Sustainability at Vestas.

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