29 June 2022

Becoming Future-Fit: Our four priority goals

As we look back on another busy six months of scaling and accelerating deployment of green energy, we want to highlight something of equal importance: Our quest to become a Future-Fit company. This also means taking up the challenging issues.

So… what does it mean to be “Future-Fit”? The Future-Fit Business Benchmark is a management tool grounded in the best available science. It is a unique framework that gives us a clear destination for becoming truly sustainable (no negative impact on people and planet), a way to assess and guide true progress and a credible and comparable way to report on this progress.

For a business to be considered Future-Fit, all 23 Break-Even Goals of the Future-Fit Benchmark must be reached. These 23 goals are what every company must reach to ensure sustainable progress. But the potential impacts of every business are different depending on where and how it operates. A lack of progress on certain goals may pose a higher risk to society and nature than others.

In 2021, we used the Future-Fit Risk Profiler tool to help us identify the potential impact risks to people and planet associated with our business activities on a systems level.

This risk profiler is a sector-specific, self-assessment tool that assigns an impact risk level – High, Medium, Low or Unlikely – for all 23 Break-Even goals.

Our results indicate that we have a lower risk of potential negative impact than the sector in general due to our business model and how we operate. The process validated our four priority goals already in focus - areas where we have a high risk of impact when we pursue our purpose of accelerating and driving the green energy transition:

  • Procurement,
  • Operational waste,
  • Operational encroachment,
  • Community engagement.

Break-Even Goal 04: Procurement safeguards the pursuit of Future-Fitness

Our business relies on complex, multi-tiered supply chains, and due to this complexity, this will always be an area of high focus for us. We believe that through active engagement with suppliers we can mitigate many of the associated potential risks.

Some key supply chains in the solar industry have been linked to forced labour and the suppression of Uighurs in the Xinjiang Province. This topic is well known to us, and we have competent people working very hard to do everything we can to make sure that no polysilicon from Xinjiang ends up in the products we buy.

Ensuring transparency all the way back to mineral extraction and the earliest processing of raw materials, however, requires ongoing focus and effort. Traceability is a task that we and others in the industry take seriously. This task is also extremely difficult when looking 6 or 7 links back from a company’s primary suppliers - in our case from manufacturers of photovoltaic modules back to mining.

The issue of trade in China is not unique to solar cells. Far from it. Polysilicon is used to produce semiconductors, which are part of microchips, making polysilicon an essential component in everything from mobile phones, computers, flat screens and electric cars to almost all electronics. The refining step prior to solar grade polysilicon is called metallurgical grade silicon (68% produced in China, 34% in Xinjiang) which is also used in virtually all industries that use Chinese steel and aluminium - e.g., cars, wind turbines, ships, trains, containers and mobile phones.

Finally, it is important to state that we are confident that there is no polysilicon from Xinjiang in the solar panels we purchase. At present, the main issue we face is obtaining verifiable documentation because of the Chinese anti-sanction-law of 2021 that prevents our suppliers from providing written information on their sub-suppliers.

For additional information related to the collaboration with our suppliers, please see this (English) or this (Danish).  

Break-Even Goal 07: Operational waste is eliminated

We generate waste, primarily packaging, during the construction of solar parks. If PV panels break during transport or construction, we send them to a vendor for recycling. During operation, there is only minor waste related to ongoing maintenance. Our solar parks will operate for 30+ years. When it is time for their decommissioning, there will be a significant amount of waste in the form of modules, inverters, transformers, steel, cables etc. Most of the waste materials can be recycled and all PV materials will be handled by accredited companies to ensure proper processing.

We design our products for end of life and maximum durability. What happens to a system at the end of life depends on the engineering choices we make at the beginning. Durability is key, because durable systems are safe and reliable, requiring fewer repairs, parts, and resources. We engineer our own systems to increase their lifetime, durability, and resilience – which maximises their post-use recovery value.

If we need to decommission a system, we can disassemble it relatively easily at the end of life to recover materials for recycling. Global growth in solar PV is expected to generate a strong, secondary market for panel components and materials. Older, less efficient panels can be repaired and resold in this second-hand market at reduced prices.

Break-Even Goal 08: Operations do not encroach on ecosystems or communities

We own and manage large areas of land. When seeking to develop solar parks in particular areas, we are subject to intensive environmental screenings and zoning decisions, which reduce the risk of encroaching on sensitive areas.

Enabling positive impacts for nature is a strong driver for scaling and progressing our production capacity pipeline and nature initiatives are growing in importance. The intensifying global challenges to nature and ecosystems necessitate a greater need for positive action within biodiversity, restoration of wetlands and protection of groundwater. Too much damage has been done to nature and we must do what we can to undo this damage – this applies to all organisations. Sustainability is no longer enough – restorative and regenerative business practice must become the norm.

This global urgency strengthens the case for creating an even greater degree of positive environmental impact and brings the benefits of multifunctional land use even more into focus.

The focus and scale of what we can offer regarding the protection of groundwater or restoration of wetlands is increasingly needed to address existing challenges in the countries, regions and municipalities where we are active. We can help solve these problems with large-scale projects.

We expect our work with regeneration of nature to intensify in the future. Importantly, lasting synergy effects often arise from close dialogue with the local communities and organisations.

Break-Even Goal 09: Community health is safeguarded

Community engagement practices are a major focus area at Better Energy. Securing land and local acceptance is fundamental to project development and to accelerating the green energy transition.

From the earliest screening of projects to our wide-ranging local involvement, our approach is to do everything in our power to ensure that our solar parks have been developed in the right way with early, earnest, and comprehensive community engagement, and with a focus on adding value locally in interaction and dialogue with the community.

In 2021, that ambition was translated into over 60 local areas involved, over 40 citizen meetings held, and over 500 individual meetings held with potential neighbours to upcoming solar parks.

We involve local communities very early in the development process, both in the form of general citizen meetings and in the form of individual meetings with neighbours. The aim is to ensure local support and address concerns, but to a great extent, this involvement is also about listening to local ideas and thus creating the best solutions – e.g., establishing recreational areas, hiking trails, nature playgrounds and similar green spaces for the community.

The development and construction of large-scale solar parks, like the development of many large infrastructure projects, can create benefits for communities but can also be met with various responses. We will encounter differing attitudes, emotional responses and people who feel we are not doing it the right way.

Next steps towards becoming Future-Fit

Regarding several of the goals, we are above sector level in terms of performance and impacts; as a result, we have a lower risk profile in terms of potential negative impacts. The results of our impact assessment will guide our priorities – starting where our lack of progress may pose a higher risk.

We have initiated a process of assessing our business against all of the criteria of the 23 Future-Fit Break-Even Goals and the results will guide our actions in 2022 and beyond to ensure a focused and efficient transition to becoming Future-Fit. This insight will inform strategies, policies, procedures and data collection.

We know it will be challenging to meet all the requirements, but we remain committed to becoming Future-Fit. Through partnerships with key stakeholders, we will bring others with us in this process, accelerating change and pushing forward to achieve the necessary transformation.