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Cooperation boosts efficiency in business area climate work

12.01.2022 | Text: Anna Tommola / Noon Kollektiivi, translated by Lingsoft Language Services Oy, edited by Iris Kriikkula

As part of the 6Aika – Six Cities Strategy, ILPO project supports cities in reaching their ambitious climate goals.

The principles of the 6Aika: ILPO project were compiled to serve as a model for a climate-positive business area, bringing more efficiency to the circular economy while reducing emissions. The model, which was piloted at the Topinpuisto circular economy hub in Turku, can now also be applied elsewhere. The model supports the idea of how to move forward in the climate work of the business area.

Large concentrations of business activity consume electricity and fuel. People and goods move, leading to carbon dioxide emissions and different kinds of waste. What are the best ways to bring more efficiency to the use of energy, make logistics run more smoothly, and boost recycling of materials?

Cooperation is one key. At the Topinpuisto circular economy hub in Turku, a new kind of model for the joint activities of the business area was developed as part of the 6Aika: ILPO project.

Emission sources in the area and possible carbon sinks were identified, and a survey was conducted to map out the situation of the companies. Ways to reduce emissions were then considered. The goals and solutions were compiled in cooperation with the advisory company AFRY Finland to form a climate path which now serves as a concrete operating plan for companies in the area.

Meanwhile, a general model for a climate-positive business zone emerged from the work, which other business areas will also be able to utilise on their way toward operating with lower emissions.

In addition to Turku, solutions will be tested in business networks in the Vantaa and Tampere areas. The goal of the project was to help companies find low-emission operating methods, and in so doing, to promote the climate goals of cities.

“Here in Turku, we hope that the model might now move to new types of areas and into networks, so that it might give extensive support to the achievement of the goal of a carbon neutral Turku in 2029”, says ILPO Project Manager Outi Laikko, Special Advisor for the City of Turku.

From plans to action

In the model the climate path toward carbon neutrality will move forward step by step. The first task is to visualise the present situation: to identify sources of emissions and to calculate the emissions.

Next, ideas will be considered, plans made, and regional goals will be set together, in workshops, for example. How much emissions should, and can be reduced, and how much carbon should be storage? Who will be responsible for the activities?

In the third phase, companies will take the action that has been agreed upon together, or each one separately and independently. The work can be implemented, for example, through experiments and pilot projects.

Finally, the emissions that occur will be monitored, measures will be updated, if necessary, while compensating for remaining emissions to achieve the goals.

Although the model, with its different phases might sound abstract, Laikko feels that it can be chopped into simple pieces. Ultimately, the matter will involve practical climate actions that can be taken together.

Markers are ready

A business area is a good place to start climate work, considering that it is a whole that is more extensive than a single company. It is more efficient to have many players involved in the challenge.

So why did Topinpuisto end up as the pilot location?

The circular economy centre has many companies in the fields of waste management and recycling. The fundamentals of the activity mean that it is natural to invest in protecting the environment and reducing the harm caused by operations. Furthermore, Laikko says that the Topinpuisto area has good traditions for strategic cooperation and there is much interest in developing the community and the brand of the area.

Now Topinpuisto is set to become a backup for climate work in the whole area. How this path moves forward will depend on what the companies continue to do on their own.

Iris Kriikkula, Project Specialist at the City of Turku, notes that the area has companies of different sizes with different kinds of resources. Not all of them necessarily have the immediate possibilities of taking great action on behalf of the climate, to comprehensively calculate emissions, or to commit to specific numbers.

“But now they have the markers on how to move forward”, Kriikkula says.

What is important is to start acting in accordance with the model, to communicate it to others, and to challenge others to act.

“The process itself, discussions, and working to continuously improve activities is what is most important. Things can be resolved by thinking together”, Outi Laikko emphasises.

Efficiency and competitive advantage

Each business undoubtedly has its own networks and climate goals. Especially larger enterprises usually have operating models for their units in different parts of the country or around the world.

Nevertheless, Laikko and Kriikkula believe that work that is being done within a certain business area can bring added value.

The same area usually has a concentration of businesses with many similar activities. Physical proximity alone makes it natural to cooperate.

“For example, it enables effective utilisation of side streams. From the circular economy point of view, it is logically sensible for the flow of materials to circulate within an area”, Kriikkula says.

Shared solutions can lead to savings also in the use of energy, for example.

There is also brand value when an entire area can establish a profile in matters of responsibility. Climate work is also a competitive advantage. Companies are increasingly being required to calculate their carbon footprints, for example.

Open cooperation benefits everyone

Cooperation and dialogue are essential parts of a successful model: meetings are held at regular intervals to help remember what the goals are, where things are going now, and what still needs to be done.

According to Kriikkula, seeking shared solutions requires confidential relationships and openness, even if there are business secrets that also need to be kept.

“Circular economy and climate measures are specific areas in which cooperation is absolutely necessary. Every business can also benefit from it economically”, Kriikkula says.

Feedback in Topinpuisto on the development of the model has been overwhelmingly positive. Today everything connected with carbon footprints and calculating emissions raises interest.

“Corporations see that this is the direction that the surrounding society and the world are expecting”, Laikko says.

Three tips toward climate positivity.

1. A climate questionnaire helps in setting the starting point. It gives valuable information on the local actors’ use of energy and materials, logistics, and transportation and on skills and knowledge as well as resources.

2. Prioritising and scheduling help in the structuring of practical work: which actions can and should be done right away, which ones should be done in the medium period, and which ones over a long period?

3. Identifying carbon sinks makes it easier to achieve goals of carbon neutrality. Is it possible in an area to remove carbon from the air by increasing vegetation or by using construction materials that bind carbon?

6Aika – the Six City Strategy. The Six City Strategy is part of Finland’s structural funds programme for sustainable growth and jobs 2014–2020. It also contributes to the EU agenda for sustainable urban development. The Six City Strategy is implemented via projects. The current pilot project portfolio ranges from smart mobility, circular economy, health and well-being and the gaming industry to the education sector as well as to several employment projects. The strategy is funded by European Regional Development Fund, European Social Fund, the Finnish Government and the participating cities. The six cities participating are Helsinki, Espoo, Vantaa, Turku, Tampere and Oulu.

ILPO is short for ‘Ilmastopositiiviset yritysalueet ja arvoketjut’ (climate-positive industrial areas and value chains). The main objective of the 6Aika: ILPO project is to support cities in reaching their ambitious climate goals. This is done by helping companies find new, low-emissions and carbon-binding solutions and cooperation models, as well as by creating carbon roadmaps for circular economy hubs and generating internationally interesting reference sites for climate-positive industrial areas. The ILPO project incorporates companies’ value chains and circular economy hubs into climate work, which needs input from all operators in society. The project is coordinated by the City of Turku, other partners include Business Tampere, Lounais-Suomen Jätehuolto, Tampere University and the City of Vantaa. The project is funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), the Six Cities and the State of Finland along with other project implementers. The project period is 1 April 2020–31 March 2022.