Wienerberger is committed to sustainably improving people’s quality of life around the world. What answers do you have to modern-day challenges like the climate crisis and the increasing scarcity of resources, such as water?
Heimo Scheuch: We are currently experiencing profound ecological and societal changes. How we respond to the climate emergency – in other words how we live, do business, and consume resources – affects our ecological footprint and also has consequences for society. This presents new challenges both for our customers and for Wienerberger: Along with the necessary decarbonization in our industry, we are focusing strongly on issues such as the circular economy and biodiversity.
As a global leader in our industry, we bear a great deal of responsibility. We are responding to these changes with innovative and sustainable solutions. Our customers need affordable products that are easy and efficient to use, while simultaneously meeting all sustainability criteria. One example is Wienerberger’s tried-and-tested e4 brick house. We developed this concept together with experts to offer families energy-efficient, healthy, climate-friendly, affordable housing. Home builders will be able to realize their projects, while at the same time contributing to climate protection. Other examples include green facades, wall cooling in cities and conserving water resources using targeted rainwater management.
We are responding to these changes with innovative and sustainable approaches. Our customers need affordable products that are easy and efficient to use, while simultaneously meeting all sustainability criteria.
You support the European Green Deal and have set demanding climate protection targets. One key area of Wienerberger’s Sustainability Strategy 2023 is decarbonization – alongside the circular economy and biodiversity. How do you approach this?
Scheuch: In 2020 we presented our strategy for the next three years. In line with the Green Deal, our overarching goal is to become completely carbon neutral by 2050. We are working hard to cut energy consumption in our plants and boost the use of green electricity. In the field of brick production, for example, we are rolling out new technologies such as the first industrial heat pump for high-temperature operations, which will enable us to use the waste heat generated by dryers as energy for the kiln in future. Measures like this will help us achieve our ambition of reducing our CO2 emissions by another 15% compared to 2020 by 2023.
Then there is the decarbonization of our product portfolio: In the future, all of our products and solutions must contribute to climate protection. Innovative products such as the climate-neutral brick help us push ahead with decarbonization. In mathematical terms, more greenhouse gases are saved over the product’s service life than are generated in its production.
We are working hard to cut energy consumption in our plants and boost the use of green electricity. Then there is the decarbonization of our product portfolio: In the future, all of our products and solutions must contribute to climate protection.
In Europe, and increasingly in other parts of the world, the trend is away from a linear economy to a circular economy. What measures are you taking to promote this concept?
Scheuch: The largest part of our business is the manufacture of products from clay. We take clay from the earth, fire it, form products and at the end of their lifecycle we return the raw material to the production process – this is essentially a circular economy. We have also made a commitment in all other areas of the business that from 2023 onwards new products will be completely recyclable or reusable. In the case of plastic pipe production at our Pipelife subsidiary, we have already had very good success in increasing our use of secondary raw materials.
Biodiversity is another important issue. How does Wienerberger contribute to preserving or restoring biodiversity at its production sites?
Scheuch: A company like Wienerberger with almost 200 sites in 29 countries must take on responsibility for the environment. We minimize the impacts of our raw materials extraction and production and make every effort to preserve and improve biodiversity. Depleted clay pits have the potential to become ideal habitats for rare flora and fauna. Here, we work together with local partners such as agriculture and people living in the vicinity. We also take additional measures to foster biodiversity. In the Netherlands, we are already one of the biggest partners of the WWF: Together we are implementing a project to rehabilitate and restore the lower reaches of the Rhine. By 2023 we will implement biodiversity programs at all our locations.
If you had to sum up what drives Wienerberger in a single sentence, what would it be?
Scheuch: Ultimately, we always have one thing in mind: developing and offering superior, sustainable solutions. Because we want people to continue benefiting from the values created by Wienerberger in 200 years’ time.