Interview with Sustainability Specialist Ana Raquel Fernandes
Ana Raquel Fernandes's Biography
Ana Raquel is a Sustainability Specialist, who is 27 years old based in Portugal and has a Master’s Degree in Chemical Engineering with Specialization in Environment, Process and Energy from the University of Coimbra – Portugal. Following her University degree, she completed a post-graduate degree in Economic and Industrial Management.
Ana Raquel has practical experience from working for many years as laboratory manager at LECA’s manufacturing facility in Avelar, Portugal. During this period Ana Raquel has gained substantial insight and knowledge in the industrial manufacturing process from inception to completion.
Ana Raquel Fernandes's Interview
- What does sustainability mean to you?
For me sustainability is more than a concept or a new market driver. For many years, I have been conscious about living my personal life for a better future without compromising the resources that I am using. When I was actively searching for my first job, I searched for an organization that mirrored my mind-set; creating resource efficiency and consistently searching for improving their sustainability targets day-by-day – these were the reasons why I started my professional journey with Leca Portugal.
All activities we are proceeding during the day are ultimately processes. If these processes are efficiently optimized, we will consume less resources - using less energy to produce the same goal without compromising the environment or our social communities – for me this is sustainability.
I believe sustainability is one way of living – one-way of growth.
- Why did you decide to go into the field of sustainability? What makes it interesting for you?
My first job at Leca Portugal was as laboratory manager where I first encountered sustainability within LECA, although on a small scale. The responsibilities were, amongst other things the analysis of raw materials and combustibles to optimize production. Our goal was to improve the efficiency of the kiln process through the analysis of the economic and environmental pillars of sustainability.
At college I was focused on sustainability taking a Master degree in Chemical Engineering with a Specialization in Environment, Process and Energy from the University of Coimbra – Portugal. So you might say that I have been working with sustainability ever since.
But why does sustainability raise my interest? Well, today the majority of the population in the Western world has access to education and information; to health care; improved living and working conditions. For example, you can travel from Lisbon to Paris in two hours, while the same trip would take several day’s generations ago. So, the wheel was already in motion a long time ago? So now we must improve and optimize “the wheel”. Of course the accessibility and comfort we have today – like travelling from Lisbon to Paris in two hours, creates its own problems that we witness today; pollution, emissions of CO2, more traffic, increased industry and unfortunately more inequalities. This is the interesting part of the sustainability issue and is what makes me happy in my work - to be part of the optimizing processes and creating sustainability. Sustainability is a way of thinking which makes sense in all processes.
- What most excites you in your new role as Sustainability Specialist for Leca International?
That I will be part of the new opening sustainability chapter for the business, taking an integral part in new ways of optimizing resources to create efficient processes and to demonstrate this to our community and customers.
- Are you familiar with the company’s strategy on sustainability and do you feel it is in line with the vision of the company?
The company’s strategy and vision needs to be aligned to achieve the fundamental target to improve the company’s sustainability targets. Our vision is to improve living conditions and to protect the environment, this is a clear statement of sustainability. Sustainability needs to be the heart of the company, supported fully by the top management, which is the case for both LECA and the parent company Saint Gobain.
- Can you mention any sustainability projects that Leca is already working on?
Yes, LECA is already working on sustainability for a number of years. For example, in our manufacturing plant in Kuusankoski, Finland, the plant developed in 2004 a heat recovery installation that allows the residual heat from the kilns to be used in the district heating network for the region (not in operation today). In Hinge, Denmark we have the SPIR project running (Sustainable Production & Innovative Recycling) which will reduce the use of fossil combustibles in our manufacturing process, through using biomass. In Avelar, Portugal we will start the installation of a solar plant to produce electricity, that will be functional in august 2021.
- What do you see as the main challenges in the scope of sustainability within the construction market and within the company?
First, we need to understand the market requirements which shows different needs and requirements even down to country specific levels. An example of this includes the Nordic region, where it is necessary to have materials with a lower CO2 footprint or/and a high component of recycled material already today. So the principal challenge is to achieve these product standards now and to continue to work on new innovative investments and provide continuous and necessary changes in the production proves. The main challenge will be the time frames of requirements.
- Have you already defined the activities how to lower the company environmental footprint?
We are already aware of the environmental impacts of our products; the high energy in transforming 1 m3 of clay into 5 m3 of lightweight expanded clay. Right now, our focus is to establish the roadmaps for all the manufacturing plants to decrease excess emissions within the scope set by Saint Gobain.
- What will be your main tasks / focus in the near future?
The main focus is to evaluate all our manufacturing facilities and to establish the roadmaps to define how we can decrease our environmental footprint. At the same time, I’m working on the input data to Saint Gobain – defining and decreasing our direct and indirect emissions, as well the emissions that are released during the supply chain. This is a huge work – but importantly, to evaluate all aspects of our sustainable impact on the full value chain - we are using the GHG protocol approach together with all companies within Saint Gobain.
Furthermore, my tasks will be to develop and maintain our sustainability section in our new internet site, which I invite everyone to access and to understand the work we are doing to achieve our mission and vision on sustainability.
- Saint Gobain have set their sustainable goals as Net Zero Carbon by 2050 – Has Leca International the same goals and how to achieve them?
The goals of Saint Gobain are filtered to all the companies, so the global goals for Leca International are the same. In this moment we need to translate that to goals per country and per plant and see how they can be applied and “fit to us” because we need to adapt them into our daily reality. The Saint Gobain mid-term goals are reducing the CO2 emissions by 33% within 2030 - Our goals are to go beyond these goals and present even more aggressive targets.
Our strategy is to evaluate the past regarding raw materials, recycling materials in the process, energies and combustibles, to see what we need to change and how we’ll do it. These changes will be step by step, aligning to the needs from the markets. And we must not forget that this type of change will require investment and change