Companies are not isolated entities. They are part of a wider ecosystem, interacting with suppliers, clients, owners, employees and other stakeholders. They take from and affect the environment in which they operate. Sustainable businesses consider all these factors and try to do business in a way that brings a positive outcome to all three sides of the triangle: profit, people and planet. They are always on the lookout for ways to improve the sustainability of their business. And when they look even further, beyond their core business activities, they can find even more opportunities. That’s what we did at Aquafil — we created partnerships with neighbor companies to lower our combined environmental impact.
A nylon producer working with a water park? At first glance, grounds for collaboration may well not seem obvious! But grounds there were. Below we introduce our story, which we hope you might find an inspiration to start looking for opportunities to improve the sustainability of your business in areas that may not have occurred to you before.
A company producing sustainable nylon yarn
Not far from the center of Ljubljana, there is a district with many companies representing a wide range of industries operating in close proximity. This is the home of Julon, our Slovenian company, producing a sustainable nylon yarn called ECONYL®. Thanks to an innovative process — the ECONYL® Regeneration System –, nylon can be 100% regenerated from waste. This process was one of the first outcomes of Aquafil’s Eco Pledge® initiative, prioritizing investments that have a positive impact on the environment, dating from 2007. Ever since, we have been fully committed to sustainable development.
Being committed means that we never stop looking for new opportunities to improve our environmental and social impact. And this not just of our production processes: through initiatives developed in collaboration with clients and other stakeholders, we can widen the scope of our sustainability endeavors.
Don’t think waste, think resources!
We make every effort to use resources to their full potential and to waste as little as possible, which applies not only to the main ingredient of ECONYL® but also to other resources, such as energy.
To produce ECONYL®, Julon uses thermal energy in the form of steam, which through the production process transforms into hot water. This hot water still carries enough thermal energy to be useful. Part of it, Julon can re-use itself, but the rest represents a surplus.
“Sustainable development also means being able to exploit the available resources to the best of our ability, with as few demands on the environment as possible. In so doing, we do not act as isolated units, but rather in co-dependence with other actors in the field, with whom we work together to seek synergy.” Edi Kraus, CEO of Julon.
Thus Julon decided to look for opportunities to use this surplus energy among other companies in the vicinity, close enough that the investment costs and energy loss through transfer would not be too great.
A neighbor company sharing a commitment to sustainable development
Atlantis Waterpark , the biggest such park in central Slovenia, lies near the Julon plant (it is less than 1 km away). Like Aquafil, BTC Company, the owner of Atlantis, is also committed to sustainability. With their Mission: Green project, it pays attention to four key areas: environmental protection, green energy, energy efficiency, and social responsibility.
Water parks face many challenges in trying to be sustainable. One of these is heating the water and interior spaces, which demands quite a lot of energy. Atlantis, for example, consumes approximately 7 GWh in heating energy per year for that purpose. Until recently, that energy came from a power plant, where it was generated from carbon-based fuels.
Joint efforts to better use the energy
When Atlantis and Julon looked at their two businesses together, they saw that by joining forces they could better use their thermal energy and consequently lower the environmental impact of both businesses. The surplus energy from Julon meets 100% of Atlantis’ heating requirements and can be efficiently transported from Julon to Atlantis through a system of pipes.
The partners agreed to seize this opportunity and to share the investment into building the system of pipes.
2,000 tons less CO2 emissions per year
Since Atlantis now uses energy, which is already there, there is no need for that amount of energy to be generated from carbon-based fuels. Consequently, total carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions can be reduced by more than 2,000,000 kg per year. That’s the same amount of CO2 as produced by 1,100 cars being driven 12,700 km per year, or 35 km per day.
Contributing to the green image of the city
The reduction of CO2 emissions fits well with Ljubljana’s goal to reduce CO2 emissions by 30 % by 2020. Working in a city that understands the importance of sustainable development and that everyone, people and companies alike, can contribute to this encourages us to try to find synergies with our neighbors. We are proud to have been able to contribute to the green image of this city, which was named 2016 European Green Capital and is also the first EU capital city to have announced a zero-waste plan.
The project is also a great example of international cooperation in sustainability. Aquafil, the owner of Julon, is an Italian company and supports investments that add to sustainability in all its facilities, regardless of in which country they are located. When foreign investments are sustainable, it is easier to allay the concerns of local communities.
Sharing energy with a neighbor in Arco
But the Atlantis and Julon partnership was not in fact the first of its kind in the Aquafil Group. In February 2012, Aquafil partnered with Dana, its neighbor in the Linfano industrial area of Arco in Trentino. Together, we agreed to build a network of pipelines linking the cogeneration plant at Aquafil with Dana’s premises. Pipes between the two take excess heating capacity from Aquafil, some 40 m3 of hot water (at 80°) per hour, to Dana. On average, more than 1,400 MWh have been transferred per year. This energy covers 80% of Dana’s total heat needs and brings environmental savings equivalent to 500 tons of CO2 emissions per year.
Explore the opportunities of your business
We are, of course, aware that there is still a lot of work ahead of us, but we are exploring all possible avenues and believe that these projects represent important steps in the right direction. We invite you to do the same: look beyond the horizon, think outside the box, and we are sure you’ll find new opportunities to raise the sustainability of your business.
“We would be delighted to see this project encourage other companies towards similar thought and practice.” Edi Kraus, Julon CEO.
If you discover similar synergies, the environmental impacts could be considerable.