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Proof of carbon footprint gains importance for infrastructure companies

Infrastructure companies are increasingly facing sustainability requirements imposed by clients. Demonstrating their carbon footprint is one of them: that is the experience of the Belgian Willemen Groep. Sustainability Manager Franky Van den Berghe explains why the company uses the services of ABAX to monitor the consumption and emissions of its equipment.

ABAX has set itself several sustainability goals, including reducing its carbon footprint. As a sustainability expert, Taryn Lynne Sumpton helps the company do this in a variety of ways. Sumpton explains that some of it concerns minor, day-to-day changes, but it is mainly about bigger changes in direction.

For example, we have changed our energy supplier and are electrifying our vehicle fleet. We've made changes to the packaging we use, and we're looking at whether we should do the same for the raw materials for our hardware.

Taryn Lynne Sumpton

"We no longer sell that hardware, but the users lease it. When it comes back to us, we refurbish it and put it back into circulation. The materials remain in use, whereas they would otherwise disappear from the supply chain."

Carbon emissions: mainly equipment and fuel 

The fact that ABAX values sustainability and its employees feel the same way makes this an important company value. That means that we look at whether something can be done more sustainably before deciding it's right for the company. Since many of ABAX's customers are also doing this, Sumpton stresses that this is where the company's products and services come in. 

"Demonstrating your project emissions is becoming increasingly important for construction and infra companies. Clients are really asking for that," Sumpton explains. "Our solutions help them do it. There are many aspects to infrastructure projects regarding carbon emissions, but a large proportion of them relate to fuel-powered equipment. It's a great help if we have an insight into the fuel consumption and emissions of those machines and vehicles." 

ABAX recently launched Smart Connect, where infrastructure companies can see at a glance on a central platform where the vehicles and machines are located. They can also view what they both consume and emit. ABAX products help companies optimise equipment deployment and maintenance, ensuring that all vehicles in a fleet are used at approximately the same rate. "All of that makes them last longer, and that, too, is good for sustainable operations."

Innovating to increase sustainability 

One company that knows all about this is the Willemen Groep, a construction company with some 2,300 employees in Mechelen. The Infra division employs about a thousand people. Franky Van den Berghe coordinates the sustainability policy at the Willemen Groep and ensures that it is given shape within the various companies. 

We are working on sustainability in a very broad sense, both in our own company and in the projects we do. We see it as our mission to literally and figuratively build a better world, and we have been working on this for years.

Franky Van den Berghe

"We are taking action to reduce our carbon footprint, and are constantly innovating. For us, working sustainably is also about working with subcontractors and putting the right people in the right place to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals."

One of the actions is aimed at gaining insight into the fuel consumption of the fleet, for which the Willemen Groep cooperates with ABAX. "A good system is critical with a fleet like ours", says Van den Berghe. "We use the driving style analysis, for example. We aim to use that to inform our people about what they can do to improve their driving. That translates into less fuel consumption and maintenance, as well as more sustainable driving and lower carbon emissions." 

'Helps us tremendously' 

It also helps companies like the Willemen Groep find out which vehicles and machines are located and where, and what they emit and consume. "More and more clients are asking us to demonstrate our carbon footprint in a project. The ABAX system shows us where vehicles and equipment are located and what they consume and emit. That system offers many possibilities and we're still looking at what works best for us, but it's already clear that it's a great help in demonstrating that carbon footprint." 

The construction company's sustainability policy is still being developed. "But we can only achieve our goals if they are widely supported within the organisation," explains Franky van den Berghe. "So, we don't push our employees, and the willingness to become more sustainable is certainly there. They see that this is an important issue and share our wish as an employer to get involved." 

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