“We need to have the whole value chain working together,” argued Veidekke Chief Sustainability Officer, Hege Schøyen Dillner, right at the start of our conversation. The European Green Capital Business Ambassador explained that the term sustainability is recent for the industry. “I now think businesses understand their role in sustainability but it was not like this until a couple of years ago,” she concluded.
“Today, many understand that it is the right thing to do, it is good for business and it’s good because it gives us a competitive edge,” says Dillner. Keeping new solutions in mind, every year, Veidekke holds the Scandinavian Environmental Day. It is one day entirely focused on debating sustainability and an opportunity to invite other people from other areas and hear what clients think about the subject. The event also showcases all sustainability candidates nominated for the prize to come and share their knowledge.
“Back in 2016, Global Opportunity Report UN-DNV said that businesses were the new activists. I felt I could relate to that.”
Dillner remembers when the company decided to drive in accordance to the green targets. Veidekke announced that the company would do its part, by reducing its own greenhouse gas emissions by 50 percent by 2030 and by 90 percent by 2050- one month before the Paris Agreement in 2015. “That was a main milestone for us, the trigger of how we could deliver and the new direction,” she stated.
The decision led to the idea of working towards creating emission free and fossil free construction sites. Today, the company is leading a transition to an electric fleet. Veidekke is already in possession of a large fleet of electric cars and vans for the transport of work site supplies and equipment. In addition, they became a pioneer in the use of electric powered heavy equipment. As a result, Veidekke is now using or is in the process of purchasing everything from electric powered concrete spraying rigs to battery-powered excavators. They’re also the first European company to purchase a 25-ton electric caterpillar.
Veidekke is also responsible for the world’s first fossil-free tunnel project. The cable tunnel built in the TGB Sogn-Smestad project will connect power cables between the transformer stations Smestad and Sogn in Oslo. Passenger car transport takes place mainly with electric cars, and trucks and other machines run on renewable diesel without palm oil. Thus, reduced greenhouse gas emissions by 2,500 tons of CO2. That represents a 90 percent savings compared to conventional operations.
“The construction industry has to make sure to deliver quality. Things need to last, that goes back to quality. You have to look at the whole life circle, how to maintain the whole building through over the years. To think how can we make flexible buildings: move walls, make the building change. It’s very interesting to bring the term quality to sustainability. Sometimes people don’t understand clearly the concept of sustainability but people can relate to quality”.
“People say I’ve always been pushing for change. I’ve been building competence through the years. This is the right to the business and it’s important to showcase the good examples. It is good for the environment, for people and for the business.
She went onto explain that the company has clients already demanding sustainable solutions. “Now the financing sector is onboard and they will not invest money on projects which are not sustainable. We might not get loans, so that will certainly help drive this shift,” Dillner said optimistically.
“Oslo being European Green Capital 2019 is a sign that things are moving forward. It is stimulating. Building the competence is very crucial to know how to solve this. This brings a spotlight to Oslo which creates a lot of engagement and dedication. Being EGC is not simply talking about green solutions, but also about taking action.” – Hege Dillner
Dillner agrees that sustainable consumption has always been present in her life. “I have always had this in my heart,” she said. There are many examples to prove that. Her whole house is heated with hot water from the ground since 1999, she’s been a vegetarian for 22 years, recently trying out veganism and she hasn’t bought new clothing for the past 11 months. “I have everything I need so I want to test myself,” she says. Plus, she is committed to reducing plastic in her daily life, for example, by wrapping food with beeswax cloth.
When questioned about role models, she explains that some of her heroes are people who have been working for a long time with a cause. “Jane Goodall has persistently worked for the environment for so many years,” she pointed out. But Dillner has also been taken by the passion of youthful activists; for example, 16-year-old Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg.
“We need both the wise, experienced voices and the young, impatient voices to bring us forward.”