The path to climate-neutral production

The path to climate-neutral production
© / User: Markus Spiske

Striving to achieve climate-neutral operations is not a new endeavor. Many companies from an extremely wide range of different sectors started taking action toward this goal a long time ago. In fact, some businesses in the food and dairy industry, and the supply sector can already claim to be climate neutral. These are not just Western companies, as this is also a hotly debated topic in Asia, South America and Africa.

In those parts, newly designed businesses do not have to modernize by carefully piecing together a new approach from decades-old, chaotic mixtures of different technology and energy concepts. Instead, these businesses are launched, essentially from the get-go, with gold-standard operations in terms of energy efficiency.

Climate-neutral production: Hochland goes Zero

This standard is, of course, interpreted very differently in industrialized countries. New Zealand-based dairy giant Fonterra, for example, is just now converting its older dairies to eliminate coal usage in favor of modern fuels. Other companies, such as the German flagship cheese producer Hochland, have stated that some of their production sites are already climate neutral. Hochland’s climate-neutral sites are located in Schongau, Heimenkirch, and Dieue-sur-Meuse (France).

Hochland offsets all of its 35,000 tons of CO2 emissions [as at 2018] through the “ZNU goes Zero” program. It involves implementing different measures at the plants such as photovoltaic installations and obtaining 100% green electricity from hydropower. The remainder is offset through tree plantations on the Yucatán Peninsula (Mexico) and the promotion of renewable sources of energy through corresponding certifications.

A climate-neutral successful story: Palsgaard is Zero

Danish producer of emulsifiers and stabilizers, Palsgaard, has also proven to be a highly ambitious company. It set the goal of becoming carbon neutral back in 2010 after its owner at the time, Herbert Schou, witnessed, with his own eyes, the effects of climate change while on a trip to Greenland. Palsgaard was on target to be climate neutral by 2020, but the company managed to achieve this goal of becoming climate neutral ahead of schedule at its Juelsminde (Denmark) and Zierikzee (Netherlands) sites.

It started in 2005 when the company switched from heavy fuel oil combustion in favor of renewable resources. Palsgaard cultivates 800 hectares of land in Denmark and realized that burning straw from its own fields would be a clever, environmentally-friendly way to produce hot water.

Der dänische Hersteller von Emulgatoren und Stabilisatoren Palsgaard – im Bild das Hauptwerk in Juelsminde – arbeitet seit diesem Jahr CO2-neutral
© Palsgaard / Danish producer of emulsifiers and stabilizers, Palsgaard, achieved carbon-neutral operations earlier this year (the image features its main plant in Juelsminde)

Biogas was later added as an energy source, along with green electricity from Scandinavian hydropower. These days, Palsgaard covers two thirds of its energy requirements using climate-neutral means and the remainder is offset through various measures, including the operation of wind turbines in Southeast Asia, as well as bio-energy certifications.

The benefits of being climate neutral are evident

What do companies gain from implementing climate-neutral operations? Quite a lot, or else they wouldn’t do it. First and foremost, is that it helps them to adopt a more conscious approach to their consumption of resources and to be more economical (particularly in terms of financial expenditure). Additionally, their reputation benefits on account of their pioneering climate-neutral role. When confronted with a choice of different products, conscious consumers will probably opt for those they know to have been manufactured responsibly. This also applies to the B2B sector. According to Palsgaard, given the fact that the climate is fast becoming the number one topic on everyone’s minds, clients are now increasingly keen on sourcing sustainable ingredients.

The path to climate-neutral production is long and not without its hurdles. In-plant conversions and modernization projects can be complex and expensive. Climate-neutral operations are the sum of numerous individual measures, such as switching to LED lighting, installing cleverly devised heat exchangers or even reducing energy consumption by simply insulating heat-conducting pipes.

Trade journals, industry events, and, of course, specialist trade fairs are the perfect place for companies involved in the food industry to find out everything they need to know about how to strive for and successfully achieve climate-neutral production.

At the end of 2018, the European Commission approved a strategic, long-term vision for a prosperous, modern, competitive and climate-neutral economy – A Clean Planet for All. The strategy shows how Europe can lead the way to climate neutrality. The goal is for the EU to be climate neutral by 2050.

The next edition of the world’s leading trade fair for the beverage and liquid food industry, drinktec,(September 13–17, 2021) will host a wide range of different exhibitors all keen to contribute and showcase their proven expertise in the conservation of resources. Are you also keen to attend and impress an international audience with your approach to achieving climate-neutral operations? Then register now.

Roland Sossna

The trained dairy expert, agricultural engineer and freelance journalist Roland Sossna is part of the editorial staff of the trade magazine molkerei-industrie (dairy industry) and IDM International Dairy Magazine. He regularly presents outstanding innovations from the dairy industry on the blog.