Environment, energy and climate – 2020 sustainability report

Environment, energy and climate stories

We have been manufacturing our Swiss-made appliances using carbon-neutral production processes since 2020. To achieve this carbon neutrality, we constantly reduce our greenhouse gas emissions by using electricity generated mostly from renewable sources, investing in energy-efficient systems and optimising our transport flows. As of 2020, we have been offsetting any emissions that we continue to produce through the reforestation project V-Forest in partnership with the Ripa Gar Foundation. We have also signed a target agreement on reducing CO2 emissions with the Swiss government. We voluntarily pay an internal levy of CHF 120 per tonne of CO2 emissions that we generate. This levy is added to a fund that we use to finance projects supporting sustainability. 

Eco-friendly infrastructure for a successful future
We invest in socially, economically and environmentally sustainable sites and make a conscious effort to apply our own principles to the eco-friendly construction of new buildings. Good examples of these principles in practice are our new production building Zephyr, which has a wooden supporting structure, and the new building for V-ZUG Cooling Technology Ltd in Sulgen. The building has a solar installation on its roof and an integrated heat pump that is carbon neutral and covers up to 80 per cent of the building’s annual heating demand. The Multi Energy Hub planned as part of the Tech Cluster Zug (TCZ) is key to our sustainable infrastructure. The hub will provide the site and surrounding area with renewable energy generated from photovoltaics, groundwater and lake water.

Low-emission transport
V-ZUG also aims to reduce emissions generated by its transport flows. Here we prioritise using short routes by procuring mainly from Switzerland and the surrounding European countries. We are refining our logistics processes and optimising route planning for our trucks by using the milk-run approach, for instance. We are also working toward our goal of gradually electrifying our vehicle fleet. 

Our waste is up to 80 per cent recyclable
Our general policy is to minimise waste and recycle the rest as much as possible. Unmixed chads from manufacturing processes are automatically sent for recycling. Any materials that we cannot return to the cycle are disposed of properly. Including returned appliances, we recycle around 80 per cent of waste material, and we are constantly optimising our waste management processes. 

“It’s not ‘business as usual’ at V-ZUG. High standards in eco-friendly construction shape how we are developing the site of the future Tech Cluster. Thinking outside the box and trying new ideas are paramount. The fact that we’re seeking out and experimenting with innovative, sustainable solutions is uniquely motivating and a real plus.”

Julia Häcki, Project Manager at Tech Cluster Zug AG

Environment, energy and climate stories

Carbon neutral with V-Forest
We are always striving to do better, but we are yet to eliminate our CO2 emissions completely. That said, since 2020, we have been working in partnership with the Ripa Gar Foundation to achieve climate neutrality now by fully offsetting our direct emissions and partly offsetting our indirect emissions (see above) thanks to our very own forest – the V-Forest. V-ZUG chose this project because reforestation is currently one of the most effective methods of removing CO2 from the atmosphere and sequestering it for long-term storage, regardless of where the emissions come from. Our V-Forest is growing in Glen Lochay in Perthshire, Scotland, and demonstrates what climate protection can look like in practice. But why did V-ZUG choose a project almost 1,800 km away from Zug? “It goes without saying that we would have gladly planted the trees in Switzerland, but when you have projects on this scale, geographic proximity isn’t the only thing that counts,” explains Marcel Niederberger, Head of Sustainability at V-ZUG. Scotland has the amount of land required, good institutions and expertise in the area. The country also has a considerable need for a project like this: 80 per cent of it was once completely covered in forest below 600 metres, but industrialisation and intensive farming have since reduced this coverage to just 5 per cent. Another key advantage is that the Highland region has a cool and damp climate. This means the planning horizon for the project is 80 to 100 years, even taking into consideration climate change. What we particularly like about the Ripa Gar Foundation’s project is that it aims to return the glen to its original wild state. Native Scottish flora and fauna will be able to flourish in the mixed woodland, and nature will find its balance.

Sustainable construction
When building the Zephyr Hangar, which is the size of a football pitch, we went for an old industrial classic: the saw-tooth roof. Other than that, there is little else that makes the building look like a traditional production hall. The slanted roof sections not only allow natural light in, they also provide space for our largest photovoltaic system to date. But what is holding up the roof? “It’s mainly regionally sourced spruce and fir timber,” explains Julia Häcki, Project Manager at Tech Cluster Zug AG. As timber is used as the main building material for the second floor, there are two thirds fewer greenhouse gas emissions compared to a steel structure. This makes production less carbon intensive on the one hand, and on the other, carbon is stored in the timber construction for the long term. Another benefit of constructing buildings using timber is that they are lighter, meaning they do not require the concrete foundation to be as strong. Although concrete has a bigger carbon footprint, we haven’t completely dispensed with it. Instead we use it where it benefits us. “It’s important to us that we find sustainable and innovative solutions. That’s why we aren’t just following the current standards, we’re also exploring what we can actually do on site and choose flagship projects,” explains Julia Häcki. Our partnership with the ETH Zurich spin-off Neustark is one example of the approach we are taking. Instead of using gravel and sand to make concrete, we are using aggregate recycled from demolished buildings. This aggregate is treated with CO2, making it less porous and reducing the need for cement to bind it. Since the aggregate permanently stores CO2, it prevents the harmful gas from escaping into the atmosphere. 

Warmth when you need it
Manufacturing our appliances not only consumes energy, it also generates waste heat. In the future we will be using locally available renewable energy sources thanks to our Multi Energy Hub (MEH) (see above) so that our production is as energy efficient and emission free as possible. “We deliberately chose a sustainable solution for this big investment,” explains Carina Heuberger, Coordinator in Lean & Operations Development. We aim to incorporate waste heat from our production processes into the energy supply system in the future. We will store process heat in the groundwater during summer and recover it for heating in winter, for instance. “We’re prohibited from heating up the ground water at will so as to avoid disrupting the ecosystem,” adds Carina Heuberger, referring to the Swiss Waters Protection Ordinance (Gewässerschutzverordnung). Two groundwater wells of 140 metres in depth have been created. In addition, district heating and cooling are supplied through the Circulago lake water connection. However, we are not planning on integrating all production processes into the MEH waste heat network, as laying pipes for machines that are only used occasionally is not worth our while. Sometimes the solution is much closer, too, as heat is a form of energy that dissipates quickly, so the faster and closer to the source it is used, the better. The new surface technology system will be put into operation in 2021. We can then recycle the waste heat from the enamelling process, putting it straight back into the systems upstream without transferring the energy to the MEH in the meantime. 

Environment, energy and climate key figures

Absolute energy consumption remained stable
The absolute energy consumption at V-ZUG was 113.2 TJ in 2020. This included electricity (43.1%), natural gas (28.8%) and fuel oil (6.3%), as well as diesel (21.7%) and petrol (0.03%) in our vehicle fleet. Energy consumption remained relatively stable compared to 2019 (-0.3%). Fuel consumption fell thanks to fewer service trips, improved vehicle technology and optimised route planning. In contrast, we used more natural gas in 2019 and 2020 as we needed to increase the temperature of our enamelling oven by 20°C to maximise quality in the surface technology system.

Graphic: Energy consumption at V-ZUG by energy source (in TJ)

Reduced CO2 emissions
The direct and indirect CO2 emissions recorded by V-ZUG totalled around 4,500 tonnes CO2 in 2020. There was a decline of 4% compared to 2019 as we consumed less diesel and V-ZUG employees rarely travelled by plane due to Covid-19. This meant that CO2 emissions remained at the same level as in 2018 despite the fact that we had to increase the temperature of our enamelling oven by 20°C to maximise quality in the surface technology system, consuming more natural gas as a result.

Graphic: CO2 emissions (in t CO2)
Direct emissions generated on site (scope 1) through the consumption of diesel, natural gas, fuel oil and petrol (marginal share), plus indirect emissions from electricity (scope 2) and air travel (scope 3).

Impact on SDGs 7, 9, 12 and 13

Climate change, environmental impact and biodiversity loss are global problems that affect us all. For the Tech Cluster Zug, V-ZUG is turning production on its head and reducing its footprint. Implementing eco-friendly building solutions creates innovative, sustainable workplaces. With groundbreaking projects such as the Multi Energy Hub, we are aiming to set a powerful example and inspire the development of similar initiatives. We are increasingly using more renewable energy both in Zug and in Sulgen. At the same time, we are optimising our processes and machinery to ensure that V-ZUG’s appliance production is efficient in terms of energy and resources. An internal CO2 levy is a targeted incentive for this. We offset any remaining CO2 emissions, and our offsetting contributions support reforestation in our own V-Forest project. As the forest grows, it will remove CO2 from the atmosphere and sequester it for long-term storage, all the while helping to restore and permanently support biodiversity in an area heavily impacted by deforestation.