Putting reputations on the line in the drive to Net Zero
Wastewater
Sludge
Americas
Wednesday, 03 March 2021

Putting reputations on the line in the drive to Net Zero

Giant engineering design firm Stantec has pledged to become carbon neutral by next year as a first step in achieving net-zero operations by 2030. We speak to Dr Art Umble, global sector leader for wastewater treatment, on why he believes companies need to put their reputations are on the line.

Pandemic accelerates sustainability focus

As part of its commitment to net zero, Stantec has set ambitious internal targets on carbon. Simple measures, inspired by limitations imposed by the global pandemic, are just the start.

This has seen thousands of people begin to work from home while simultaneously largely removing the possibility of travel.

“As we move towards the net zero arena, we’re going to start with reducing all our physical impacts. We are drastically reducing our office space and we’ve made a commitment to dramatically reduce travel,” explains Dr Art Umble, global sector leader for wastewater treatment at Stantec.

“Our company as a whole - and our clients - have all been moving towards a more active focus on sustainability – the pandemic accelerated that focus.”

In addition, alongside plans to reduce its direct emissions, Stantec anticipates purchasing renewable energy certificates and certified carbon offsets.

Speaking to Aquatech Online, Umble says: “We’ve been purchasing residual credits since 2010. Our focus has generally been in the renewable energy arena and applying those to the highest value credit.

“Stantec anticipates purchasing renewable energy certificates and certified carbon offsets.”

“Those have been generally in western countries and developed countries where there’s high fossil fuels use. We want to transition to actually doing projects that are associated with removing carbon from the atmosphere. We don’t want to have to rely on third parties,”

Traditional and innovative pathways

Starting with reporting 2022 emissions, Stantec subsequently plans to move away from offset carbon certificate purchases to options that directly produce renewable energy or reduce carbon.

This transition is anticipated to rely on a combination of traditional and innovative pathways that connect directly to its client work, as well as helping to define new solutions for the market.

Stantec’s move to net-zero operations comes as it was named the fifth most sustainable company in the world and first in North America by Corporate Knights in its 2021 Global 100 Most Sustainable Corporations rankings.

This followed on from its third consecutive A- ranking from CDP (the Carbon Disclosure Project) in its classification of global corporate entities.

Along with net zero across its global footprint, which includes more than 350 locations and some 22,000 employees, Stantec believes technology will have a major role in developing a sustainable world.

“We want to design into our projects, eventually, with a circular feature or mode.”

For example, the company is the lead designer of the $235 million Piscataway Water Resource Recovery Facility in Maryland. This converts solids traditionally landfilled to create heat and generate up to 4.5 MW of power, gas for municipal use, and a nutrient-rich fertilizer.

Designing in circularity from the start

Humble says the organisation wants to design a circular feature or mode into projects, through resource recovery.

“We’re recovering nutrients, carbon, water and the energy and we extract all these things as actual products with value and recycle them back into local and regional economies, which closes the loop on the waste streams.

“By doing that we can then take credit on the amount of carbon reductions that those scope 1, 2 and 3 projects allow for us to do and put those out into the global markets as well,” says Umble.

“That only works if we build into the design from the very beginning, the closed loop features. It will not work if we try to retrofit them. If it’s designing a treatment plant for the removal and recovery of phosphorus, I’m going to put that design right into the initial planning of that project.

“We can begin to start determining what the actual co-benefit will be to both the consumer of the services that are being rendered, as well as our local and regional and hopefully global environment on a much bigger scale,” he adds.

Standing out on sustainability

In December design engineering firm Arup signed up to the Race to Zero, confirming its commitment to become net zero by 2030.

Earlier in 2020 it had committed to achieving net zero emissions across its entire operations by reducing its scope 1, 2 and 3 greenhouse gas emissions by 30 per cent within the next five years.

Now Stantec and others have also signed up for net zero the expectation is that the path to reach that goal will be rapidly accelerated as the bid to become more sustainable gathers pace.

“Companies are willing to put their reputations on the line to make a net zero commitment.”

As Umble concludes: “There are enough large companies around the globe that have made these commitments. Companies like ours are willing to put their reputations on the line. We say to our customers and clients that we are going to make a net zero commitment. It’s not a hollow or hopeful statement, we have the expertise in this company to make a net zero pledge and completely fulfil it.”

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