As Vanheede, we strive for responsible value creation. Sometimes, increasing value is about removing that which is in excess. In a very pragmatic sense, applying this to the topic of the global climate emergency means taking an honest and critical look at our own excesses as an organization. How do our operations, and by default the solutions we offer to our customers, help or hinder the global climate? How can we mitigate our negative impact? How can we boost our positive impact? How can we as Vanheede contribute towards a carbon intelligent economy?
The ambition of Vanheede is to maximize the positive climate impact of the waste sector. The launch of the Carbon Smart Economy program in 2019 was the first step in making that commitment a tangible reality. The program serves the purpose of gaining insight into our climate footprint and working towards climate-neutral business practices. The Carbon Smart Economy program is made of four sub-programs: Carbon modelling, Energy transition in processes, Energy transition in transport, and Renewable energy. The aim is to empower us to take meaningful steps to reduce our environmental footprint, in our processes as well as in transport and to help our customers reduce their own environmental footprint.
In 2022, we started looking for a long-term partner with strong expertise in climate and other sustainability areas to support the realization of the Carbon Smart Economy objectives. We wanted a partner who would help us take an honest look at the figurative elephant in the room – our own emissions. We chose Greenfish part of Accenture for their deep expertise on all sustainability and climate topics. Through their carbon accounting and reporting work, Greenfish has pinpointed our current emissions hotspots. The result is both insightful and a call to action. The emissions allocated to the electricity purchased by Vanheede account for a few percent of our total emissions. A third of our emissions are caused by fossil fuels used for trucks and other vehicles. Crucially, over half of our emissions come from our up- and downstream value chain partners, primarily from the procurement of use goods and capital goods.
A lot of work remains to be done. The need for collaboration along our value chain is clear. We are striving to apply a carbon-smart vision in a realistic and feasible manner, using a climate-centric approach to create climate-neutral energy systems. Our ambition with the Carbon Smart Economy program is not only to drive internal change but also to nudge fellow waste management companies towards taking increasing climate change responsibility.
The value of working with an expert partner is being confronted with the science-based reality of our environmental impact. Our focus going forward is set on developing ambitious, yet realistic, targets and concrete action plans to improve. Through our ongoing collaboration with Greenfish, we hope to engage meaningfully in the transition to a circular carbon economy, notably by developing measurement strategies to further assess the climate-friendliness of our activities and products.
We now invite you to read about this journey in more detail.
Vanheede’s Carbon Modelling journey with Greenfish part of Accenture
Why is Vanheede doing this?
The underlying drive for Vanheede to address its climate impact can be summarized in three touchpoints along its value chain:
What does this mean for us? Vandeede aims to understand its climate impact through calculating the greenhouse gasses it emits as the result of its own operations, making up its corporate inventory. A corporate emissions inventory includes all greenhouse gas emissions for which a company is directly and indirectly responsible. Without the company, these GHGs would not have been emitted. This emissions inventory will be updated annually to reflect the evolution of emissions, helping Vanheede effectively reduce its emissions.
What does this mean for the sector? Vanheede dreams to move the needle at large in the waste sector, by setting out reporting standards and developing best practices. The waste sector has an urgent need for clear and uniform reporting and accounting standards in terms of GHG emissions.
What does this mean in our value chain? Vanheede hopes to leverage its unique position within the waste sector to engage upand downstream value chain partners and provide them with metrics that in turn, will help them to reduce their environmental impact too.
How did we approach this specific exercise for Vanheede?
The first building block of Vanheede’s accounting and reporting journey was the completion of Vanheede’s base year corporate inventory of greenhouse gas emissions, creating a reference to compare all future measurement with. This exercise was repeated for 2022, while simultaneously streamlining the data intake and further finetuning the calculation methodologies.
But let’s first take a step back to understand the challenges of this exercise, before diving into the detailed results. We tackled these by following a clear step-by-step approach, and by staying closely aligned with the organization through multiple conversations and workshops along the way.
“Within the waste sector, there is no uniformity in the accounting and reporting of GHG emissions. This is largely due to the complexity of the waste sector value chain and the ambiguity of which emissions the waste treatment companies are responsible for. To ensure our approach was robust and can be adopted by other sector partners, the GHG inventory of Vanheede closely adheres to the GHG Protocol. To apply this general framework to Vanheede’s specific case, a significant amount of investigative effort was spent on understanding Vanheede’s value chain and scoping its material emissions sources.” – Kim Delvoye, Marketing & Communication Manager
Assessment boundaries ensure a realistic view of the greenhouse gasses emitted by a company and serve the decision-making needs of users – both internal and external. Setting clear boundaries helped us define what we needed to measure and report, based on certain parameters.
Belgium & France
13 sites, 12 legal entities & 9 Business units
Anthropogenic & biogenic
The boundaries of Vanheede’s inventory evolved around four parameters. Geographically, the corporate inventory focuses on Vanheede’s activities in Belgium and France. Operationally, 13 Vanheede sites were considered, as well as 12 legal entities and 9 Business Units. Reporting on these 3 levels proved to be complex, but crucial to generate actionable insight on site-, legal entity-, business unit-level, and thus take informed decisions on the lowest organizational level. For future reference, 2021 was chosen as baseline, based on data availability and representativeness (Vanheede’s experienced little impact from the COVID-19 pandemic).
Vanheede’s unique operations, inherently linked to its multifaceted nature, posed several challenges. The distinction between anthropogenic and biogenic is a good example of this. Not only the anthropogenic emissions caused by human activity are in scope, also the natural biogenic emissions were calculated, albeit reported separately. The latter is especially relevant for Vanheede because of its landfilling and bio-methanization activities, as well as of its use of biofuel.
The case of Rumbeke
Rumbeke is Vanheede’s site where landfilling activities are carried out. Disposal of waste in landfills generates landfill gas, due to waste decay. This landfill gas mainly consists of CO2 and CH4. Under natural conditions, the aerobic decomposition (i.e., in a natural environment where oxygen is present) of organic material emits biogenic CO2 emissions. However, as direct consequence of human activity, an anaerobic environment (without free oxygen) is created through landfilling. Consequently, the organic waste is partly anaerobically decomposed into anthropogenic CH4 emissions. At Rumbeke, suction pipes ensure that most of the landfill gas is captured (at a rate of around 95%), after which the gas is upscaled to natural gas or used to generate electricity. During the aerobic combustion in a cogeneration system, the carbon sequestered in the organic matter binds with oxygen and is released in the form of biogenic CO2 emissions.
Mapping & data collection
Calculating Vanheede’s GHG emissions required modelling the organizations activities and collecting data from various sources. It is the outcome of a collaborative process involving stakeholders from a wide range of disciplines. The entire process followed the five principles of relevance, completeness, consistency, transparency, and accuracy as set out by the GHG Protocol.
In our work, this entailed five steps:
Based on initial discussions with the project team, all relevant sources of emissions were identified. This meant not only looking at sources of emissions present on all locations, but also diving into the emission sources specific to each site.
To this end, site visits were organized to understand better the operations of Vanheede and to clearly map all site-specific emissions sources, thereby guaranteeing completeness.
Throughout the organization, 19 persons of contact of various departments were identified, each responsible for the data collection of 19 emissions categories. Involving employees from throughout the company makes people from all different departments aware of the exercise and of the data necessary, thus ensuring consistency in data collection for the years to come.
Interviews were organized with every point of contact to discuss the emission sources, thereby guaranteeing that the most accurate numbers and most granular data available was used for the calculations.
Follow-up meetings were organized to discuss data gaps and find solutions to overcome these. Based on this close contact, all assumptions, proxies, extrapolations can be disclosed in a transparent way.
What about the waste handled by Vanheede?
Theoretically, by the letter of the GHG Protocol, all sold products are considered as the responsibility of the reporting company. However, in reality, there exists a significant difference in the control Vanheede has over these emissions. In this, a clear cut was made between end-of-life emissions of products that without Vanheede would not exist and products that – regardless of Vanheede’s existence – would exist.
In the first category, we consider all products that are vital for Vanheede’s daily operations, such as containers, bags, etc. The end-of-life treatment emissions for these goods are includied in Vanheede’s inventory. All other sold products – in essence the waste collected by Vanheede – are considered outside the boundaries of Vanheede’s corporate inventory. Alternative products, such as AlterCoal, which are processed by Vanheede from waste generated by upstream client companies are considered outside the strict corporate inventory. Other collected waste which is sorted by Vanheede and transported to treatment partners is also considered out of scope.
Corporate Inventory: Defining what falls under Scope 1, 2 and 3
All 19 emissions categories that were identified as relevant were grouped together under the adequate scope, based on the emission source characteristics. Furthermore, the scopes also indicate the control Vanheede has over these emissions, the highest control over Scope 1 going down to Scope 3.
Scope 1 holds the combustion emissions of gas and fuel that is burned in assets owned by Vanheede (including both facilities and vehicles). Vanheede is responsible for these and can directly act on these emissions through strategic decisions, such as by switching to electric vehicles.
The same holds true for Scope 2 emissions, however to a lesser extent. Vanheede is indirectly responsible for these emissions from the electricity consumption of its facilities and vehicles, but still has significant leverage through its electricity procurement.
Further down the ladder of control, there is Scope 3, the greenhouse gasses emitted by Vanheede’s tier-1 suppliers and clients. Given the contractual agreements that Vanheede has with their supplier and clients, they still have significant leverage over their partners for them to work on reducing their emissions. Due to Vanheede’s unique position in the waste management value chain, one of the main scoping challenges was which sold products – and their end-of-life emissions – to attribute to Vanheede. Within Scope 3, investments in fixed assets were grouped separately under a distinct sub-category, called Scope 3b. Given Vanheede’s intentions of investing greatly in the upcoming years, the company has less leverage on reducing these emissions in absolute terms. The emissions from new buildings and installations are no less part of Scope 3, but the creation of a dedicated category allows to justify any big yearon- year fluctuation in annual corporate greenhouse gas inventory.
Results and what they (can) mean for us, others, and all
Vanheede’s 2021 and 2022 corporate inventory*
The data shows that Vanheede’s 2021 corporate inventory emissions amount to a total of 56.494 tons of CO2e. To make this tangible: this is proportional to the annual footprint of 6.000 Belgian citizens or to 30.000 cars on the Belgian roads.
A third of those emissions are caused by the transportation of waste by with Vanheede’s vehicles (Scope 1). The emissions allocated to the electricity purchased by Vanheede only account for 4% of the inventory (Scope 2). The remaining 57% of emissions come from Vanheede’s up- and downstream value chain partners (Scope 3), primarily from the procurement of use goods and capital goods.
For 2022, Vanheede’s corporate inventory emissions amounts to 60.660 tons of CO2e compared to the 2021 baseline, Vanheede’s emissions rose by 10% over the course of 2022. There are two main drivers for this:
The 2022 Scope 1 results are 3.000 tCO2 higher. This difference can be traced back to the emissions of the bio-methanization installation, more precisely the upscaling of the generated biogas to natural gas. This process was started in August 2021, leaving the process emissions and fugitive emissions underestimated for 2021. The numbers for 2022 are complete and represent 12 months in total.
The 2022 Scope 3 results are 1.000 tCO2 higher, driven by an increase in the procurement and end-of-life treatment of consumable goods. Notably, single-use bags and small containers are more frequently used by Vanheede’s customers, which is reflected in Scope 3 twice, in the form of cradle-to-gate emissions of the production and the treatment of the used products at the end of their life.
* ESRS Disclosure Requirement E1-6: Gross Scopes 1, 2, 3 and Total GHG emissions
OWN – Hotspots and reduction potential
The biggest emissions sources, also called hotspots, will be the focus of Vanheede’s reduction efforts. It is here that the decarbonization efforts can bring about the biggest impact. For Vanheede, the three most relevant emissions sources are the combustion of fuel in its trucks, the procurement of goods, and the outsourced logistics. Levers being explored by Vanheede to reduce these hotspots include, for trucks for instance, increasing the biofuel blend, looking into alternative fuels or improving route planning in logistics to reduce the number of kilometers driven. For company cars, a decarbonization already being implemented is the transition to electric vehicles, notably by installing charging stations on its sites. Vanheede aims to have 146 charging points installed by the end of 2025. Lastly, regarding emissions linked to the procurement of goods, measures being studied include increasing the lifetime of use products, thereby decreasing the demand for new products, or sourcing goods that are produced in a more sustainable way, for instance with higher recycled content.
OTHER – Uniform reporting to analyze sector performance Even though there is a big variation in the waste sector, the process described above (standardized in line with the GHG Protocol) acts as a blueprint for sector peers to help them with the assessment of their own corporate inventory emissions. In turn, the intensity metrics enable the comparison between actors in the waste sector. Uniform accounting and reporting standards will facilitate taking informed decisions, thus accelerating the transformation to a carbon smart economy.
ALL – Going beyond Vanheede’s corporate inventory Vanheede’s corporate inventory includes all greenhouse gas emissions for which Vanheede is directly and indirectly responsible. Without Vanheede, these greenhouse gasses would not have been emitted. This is purely the negative climate impact. However, Vanheede does not operate in a vacuum, but rather as a pivotal actor within a complex value chain. Vanheede’s operations also bring about positive climate impact in its downstream value chain. Vanheede invests energy in collecting, sorting and treating the waste, which in turn, enables value chain actors to save emissions. Without Vanheede, these greenhouse gasses would still be emitted. However, Vanheede acts as an enabler to avoid emissions. Therefore, in order to have a holistic view of Vanheede’s climate impact, the avoided emissions – the other side of the medallion – need to be calculated as well. Essentially, 2 streams of avoided emissions can be distinguished. Firstly, waste that Vanheede treats itself, turning it into final (e.g., AlterCoal) or intermediate products (e.g., AlterPlast). These products are a substitute for virgin products, and thus, reduce the client’s emissions. Secondly, waste that Vanheede sorts, but not treats itself. Through enabling a more efficient treatment process, the total GHG emitted from disposal is cut down, thus reducing the climate impact of the entire value chain.
In a next step, Vanheede will assess the total GHG emitted of all waste that passes through. By comparing this with the status quo (as if Vanheede did not exist), the avoided emissions of all waste streams will be calculated. Not only give these numbers valuable insights for Vanheede’s up- and downstream clients, they also will allow to calculate Vanheede’s true “net” climate impact.
What does the future hold?
Though the three focus points, the ambition of Vanheede is to maximize the positive climate impact of the waste sector and its clients.
Vanheede’s 2021 and 2022 corporate inventory already give an overview of where the big reduction potential lies for their own operations. This enables us to strategically assess the potential of all reductions opportunities and to prioritize them accordingly. Doing so, a reduction roadmap will be devised, which will act as a blueprint of Vanheede’s contribution to net-zero. Vanheede already started gradually implementing some of the measures above. This will be reflected in the GHG corporate inventory in the upcoming years.
Going forward, efforts are currently being devoted to improving the data monitoring. This, together with enhanced calculation methodologies, will increase the accuracy of the GHG corporate inventory year over year. Through transparent communication, Vanheede hopes to contribute to clear and uniform reporting standards for the entire waste sector. Furthermore, Vanheede aims to tackle the challenge of calculating emissions avoided thanks to its operations. Not only will this holistic net overview make it easier for Vanheede to assess the potential impact of reduction measures, but it will also allow customers to assess their emissions related to the waste they generated and help them make informed decisions to reduce these waste emissions.
“This project was not without its complexity or challenges. We have highlighted most of them. This is expected, as embarking on the carbon journey is a marathon rather than a sprint. As Greenfish, we find it critical to understand the key drivers of any organization we accompany in a transformation. Through our many conversations with Vanheede, we are convinced that this is a company that wishes to go beyond mitigating their own negative impact. Vanheede looks at the climate impact agenda through a larger lens. They realize that they are in a unique position to also drive transformation in the market. We find this both admirable and inspiring and wish them the very best of scientifically-underpinned luck in their carbon smart future!” - Johanna Delmelle, Project Manager at Greenfish, Part of Accenture