Connecting SMEs for a green economy

Structural sustainability approach by Helvert Metals

Erwin Hofman's picture

Helvert Metals in Rotterdam uses the Envirometer in order to gain insights in their environmental impact, and to work continuously on environmental savings and sustainability.

Since 1998, Helvert Metals has used the Envirometer, a tool to make the carbon footprint of a company visible. Helvert joined the pilot phase, and was therefore one of the first companies to use the Envirometer. The tool (in Dutch called ‘Milieubarometer’) shows the CO2 emissions for several aspects of the company, such as industrial waste, electricity consumption, and the commuter traffic by the employees.

Since 1998, Helvert Metals updates the Envirometer annually. In addition, every year a short report is published with information about the main savings and sustainable measures. On the basis of these annual summaries, Helvert works continuously on further energy savings. Because of rising energy prices, there is not much saving on energy costs. However, the price increases are compensated by the reduced energy use.

The image above shows how the environmental impact of Helvert Metals especially decreased sharply until 2007. Between 1998 and 2006, the environmental impact decreased by 50% per euro of revenue. In addition, the company saved thousands of euros by conscious treatment of waste, energy and transport.

Examples of measures that have reduced the company’s environmental impact include separation of waste, halving the impact of industrial waste, and the use of an energy efficient truck. A simple measure was to purchase a waste container. Previously, waste was picked up every two weeks, but now the waste can be accumulated and only has to be picked up once a year. This leads to considerable costs saving, and it minimises the environmental impact of the garbage trucks.

Another sustainable solution applied by Helvert is the installation of a new heating system. The new boiler has led to energy savings of 30%, and therewith the payback period of the investment is just approximately five years.

A possible next step in the sustainability approach of Helvert Metals is the purchase of solar panels. The roof of the company’s building is large enough for a number of solar panels that could generate sufficient electricity for Helvert’s own use, and in addition to deliver electricity to the public grid. Helvert is currently is the exploratory phase. Because the company has good insights and understanding of the development of electricity use and costs, through the Envirometer, a well-balanced decision on the solar panels can be taken.

Helvert Metals is certified with the MRF quality mark of the Dutch Metal Recycling Federation. In addition to quality assurance in the fields of safety and labour conditions, also environmental aspects are secured through this quality mark. The good administration and monitoring by Helvert Metals for the Envirometer means that inspections for the MRF mark are easier, and the same goes for ISO certifications and inspections by local authorities. For customers, the Envirometer is no direct reason to do business with Helvert Metals, but indirectly it is, because of the smoother certification for ISO 9001 and the MRF quality mark.

The advantage of the Envirometer and the continous monitoring by Helvert Metals is that abnormalities in the energy consumption are noticed quickly. It was found that the energy use actually increased after the installation of the new boiler. A small installation error turned out to be the basis for this, and after solving this issue, the boiler now leads to significant saving. Also excessive energy use by one of the billboards was traced through the usage of energy monitoring.

Further details

Cost savings description: 
The company saved thousands of euros by conscious treatment of waste, energy and transport.
Regulatory framework prerequisites and constraints?: 

Helvert Metals did not receive any assistance from the government for the sustainability approach. Government regulations are often inaccessible and too complicated for SMEs. This is a huge barrier to for example subsidy grant applications. For the solar panels it might be slightly easier to access government assistance, especially if the supplier of the solar panels can provide clear information on this.