Procurement and sustainability lead for cleanroom firm KeyPlants talks balancing these concepts

By Sophie Bullimore | Published: 26-Apr-2024

Christian Krona, the Head of Procurement and Sustainability at the Sweden-based design and construction firm discusses implementing sustainability into procurement, the availability of fossil-free steel and concrete, and the future of the construction industry

Procurement and sustainability are intrinsically linked, that is obvious. Building sustainability into a cleanroom build’s supply chain includes the raw materials used for construction.

So, sustainably procuring a sustainable product will improve the construction firm’s carbon footprint and the customers.

KeyPlants is a modular-focused facility design and construction firm based in Sweden. At the helm of this cleanroom expert’s procurement and sustainability is Christian Krona.

In his role, Krona oversees and manages all aspects of procurement and sustainability strategy for the company.

This involves an entire spectrum of procurement from sourcing and supplier relationship management to contract negotiation and completing delivery.

Fossil-free steel adoption hinges on the availability increasing

This is balanced with his sustainability responsibilities involving the implementation of strategic initiatives and contribution to the company's overall corporate social responsibility (CSR) goals.

Krona takes his responsibility seriously and is looking at all aspects of procurement and beyond for sustainability opportunities.

Sustainability in purchasing decisions

Krona has been in his role for almost three years, following procurement lead roles at varying companies, so he is well-versed in the regulations and landscape.

Through this experience, he explains that the implementation of sustainability and corporate social responsibility (CSR) aspects should always be a part of purchasing decisions.

Recently, KeyPlants explained that 70% of its total CO2 emissions come from “the purchase and manufacturing of materials”.

Larger customers are often driving sustainability measures upstream through their own supply chains

Krona elaborates that this concerns building materials for construction such as steel, concrete, pipes, walls, ventilation, and electrical components.

“Steel and concrete are often referred to as ‘hard to abate’, meaning it is cost prohibitive or very difficult to reduce emissions from manufacturing of those materials, at least with current technology,” Krona explains.

Krona goes on to explain that traditional steel and concrete manufacturing both include carbon as an integral part of the manufacturing process, and both also require large amounts of energy (with associated emissions if the energy is supplied by fossil fuels). 

In fact, the transition to fossil-free steel is one of the main pillars of KeyPlants’ sustainability initiative. Krona explains that as availability of these special forms increases, he aims to incorporate fossil-free steel into the company’s production processes, contributing to a more sustainable supply chain.

The reason this hinges on the availability increasing is that Krona needs to ensure that suppliers can deliver the full capacity to maintain project schedules and production rates of KeyPlants modular solutions. “Decisions linked to this must be integrated with the end customer,” he says.

Ordering customised steel profiles directly from the factory minimises waste

It is this specific focus on suppliers that Krona and KeyPlants are putting at the forefront of every operation decision. As a whole, they are aiming to slowly but steadily incorporate more sustainability requirements for suppliers, while balancing the need to meet the growing demands of customers.

Interestingly, Krona reveals that many of KeyPlant’s larger customers have come “further down their own sustainability journey”.

As a result, he explains that they are often driving sustainability measures upstream through their own supply chains. “We intend to promote supplier sustainability through our own supply chain in a similar way,” he says. “We will increase our evaluation efforts regarding supplier sustainability and include sustainability criteria when identifying our preferred suppliers.”

There are many ways to improve this for customers. Krona explains that one of the ways is through environmental consulting services, such as LEED or Breeam Miljöbyggnad.

Transportation costs 

For sustainability on a global scale, Krona explains that KeyPlants actively collaborate with environmental organisations that address climate change and safeguard vulnerable ecosystems.

They are often driving sustainability measures upstream through their own supply chains

This includes participation in initiatives such as SBTi CDP, and the UN Global Compact, supporting our commitment to driving positive environmental change.

As a company in the small and medium sized enterprise category, KeyPlants was able to take advantage of SBTi’s streamlined process for SMEs.

Krona explained that this allowed him to set near term targets for Scope 1 and Scope 2 emissions with the assistance of the SBTi process. “The targets were reviewed and validated by SBTi, then published on the SBTi target dashboard,” he explains. “The next steps for KeyPlants will be integrating sustainability measures in our company operations to achieve the targeted greenhouse gas emissions reductions.”

Krona is keen to talk about the exact plans in place for these Scope 1 and Scope 2 near term targets. These focus on transitioning company cars to fully electric, with this electricity derived from renewable sources. Looking at energy sources, Krona explains that the company has also already replaced a fossil fuel oil heating system with a ground-source heat pump at its workshop in Sweden.

Scope 3 will then take on the longer term projects of sourcing sustainable steel and concrete, as well as more accurately quantifying emissions to find other inefficiencies.

The transition to fossil-free steel is one of the main pillars of KeyPlants’ sustainability initiative

“Our sustainability journey has just begun,” Krona explains. “In the coming months we will update KeyPlants’ materiality analysis from single to double materiality and undertake a CSRD readiness analysis to prepare us for future sustainability reporting requirements.”

Modular construction goes hand in hand

It is well known that modern methods of construction (MMC) are looking to be more efficient and less wasteful. Modular construction, as a huge trend in MMC looks to allow this as materials can be optimised and reused in a controlled factory setting.

Krona explains that this is definitely the case in the KeyPlants’ production facility. He explains that the company minimise waste by "ordering customised steel profiles directly from the factory”.

He says that the goal is to decrease waste and improve the efficient use of resources. In lieu of more sustainable materials, using less of the less sustainable ones is the key.

However, it is not just optimised production that needs to be achieved to unlock modular construction’s sustainability benefits.

The transportation also needs to be looked out. Krona says: “We develop transport efficiency to KeyPlants facilities by using flat-pack methods, stacking three modules per load instead of one, and implementing solutions to minimise environmental impact.”

The next steps for KeyPlants will be integrating sustainability measures in our company operations

It is in this way that Krona says they can turn three trips into one, with a real impact on emissions.

A build to last

For a cleanroom facility, being able to state that the construction materials are sustainable is just one step in their journey. An important step, but still just a part of the wider puzzle. 

Krona refers to the “lifetime emissions and impacts, not just those directly associated with the construction process”.

The cleanroom user needs the actual design needs to consider the energy usage at the earliest stage possible. “Smaller footprint facilities, reduced HVAC and water consumption,” are some of the major design techniques used for lower energy and utilities use. Another avenue that cleanroom design firms can implement for sustainable facilities is innovative technologies and digitalisation that enhance efficiencies and therefore sustainability.

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