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Journeying towards carbon neutral technology and products

As industries across the world transform to reduce emissions, one Australian water company has hit the accelerator on its carbon neutral certification efforts in a bid to bolster the uptake of more sustainable and climate-friendly practices – both internally, and along the value chain.  

After becoming Australia’s first water treatment and technology company to achieve Climate Active carbon neutral certification in 2022, Hydroflux is now on a mission to achieve certification for every last one of its services, products and technologies. 

Hydroflux CEO Julia Seddon said the work the company has done over the past few years in pursuit of certification for the organisation has revealed the importance of ensuring its products and services become carbon neutral too. 

“Our business understands the biggest impact it can have is through partnering with customers and clients. And that extends to being able to provide those customers and clients with certified carbon neutral products, technology and services,” she said. 

“It’s really important for our business to be in a position to do that. Increasingly, we are seeing our clients and customers looking for carbon emission information, or a commitment around greenhouse gas emissions and taking action on climate change. 

“And offering carbon neutral products and services is one of the best ways to meet that need. But it also assists some of our customers and clients in their own journey towards becoming carbon neutral or reducing emissions.”

Being the first to achieve carbon-neutral certification gives Hydroflux a competitive edge, Seddon said, but carbon neutrality is something all industries and companies should be striving for as the economy shifts towards net-zero emissions.

“Carbon neutral should really become the new normal in a short period of time, if we are serious about doing what we can about climate change,” she said. 

Hydroflux Director John Koumoukelis agrees, and said being first comes second to encouraging everyone to do the same. 

“While we are happy to be the first, we would rather see everyone doing it – competitors and all,” he said. 

Accounting for carbon

While working towards carbon neutral practices is certainly the way forward, Seddon said the process of achieving this certification for Hydroflux’s complex array of technologies, products and services is no easy feat.

“The first step is doing a detailed life cycle analysis on each and every different product. We took a cradle-to-grave approach, where we look at everything, from raw material extraction and pre-processing, to transport, manufacturing, distribution and end of life,” she said. 

“Essentially, it’s about identifying every single place where greenhouse gas is generated at every stage in the entire life cycle of the product or technology, and calculating carbon accurately to come up with a carbon inventory for each of those individual products.

“We have quite a large product range and they are each different. We supply a lot of water treatment chemicals into markets that we operate in, as well, but the same approach has been taken there.”

The same has been done for Hydroflux’s equipment manufacturing and sourcing – with one of the company’s key manufacturers located in Germany – which has involved factoring in international transportation to a typical client or customer in Australia.

Following detailed and meticulous carbon accounting, Hydroflux then moved to assessing all of the different ways those carbon emissions could be reduced at every turn, Seddon said. 

“Energy is obviously a big one, and the planet is now in a massive energy transition phase. So energy is one of the first areas we check. But there are other opportunities, as well,” she said. 

“There may be more efficient ways of getting from A to B. Or different materials that could be used in products. 

“The emissions reduction commitment is probably the most challenging, as Hydroflux itself has a reasonably limited ability to change that directly. It’s a case of working with our suppliers and all of the different parties along our value chain, to try to influence the reduction of emissions.”

In these instances, Seddon said the aim is to reduce emissions as far as possible, and then achieve carbon neutrality by investing in offsets. 

“We purchase carbon credits to offset the remainder, but we are very careful in our selection of carbon credits. We choose credits produced through projects that resonate with our values, but also the values of the communities we work in,” she said. 

“We are always looking for the ones with co-benefits, that not only reduce emissions, but also provide a community or environmental benefit, as well.”

Benefits for all

Seddon said there is a huge amount of work involved in thorough carbon accounting, but the process has produced quite a few valuable benefits for the business. 

“The upside for our business is that we understand a lot more about our own value chain. The process has helped us identify where there might be some weak links in the chain, in terms of supply. It also helps us identify other business risks that may be there,” she said. 

“But it also informs us of some of the other great things that our suppliers and partners are doing that we were not aware of, highlighting further opportunities for Hydroflux.

“It also provides a fantastic opportunity to talk to our key suppliers and technology partners about our goals and see where there is alignment, and where there might be further improvement, and has helped with sharing information, as well.”

While Hydroflux has discovered these add-on benefits, Seddon said carbon neutral certification is an excellent way of supporting clients and customers, too. 

“We work with a really broad range of customers across different markets. Our carbon neutral certification means that our customers, the ones that are completing detailed carbon accounting of their own, can put a zero next to Hydroflux,” she said. 

“Whatever we are doing for that customer – whether it’s providing a service, building and installing a treatment plant, or supplying chemicals or servicing – they can mark us as carbon neutral on their inventory.

“This is a big benefit. One of the biggest challenges with this carbon-neutral journey is how to influence the value chain to lower emissions, essentially. But we have removed that issue where Hydroflux is involved. 

“Our carbon neutral stance also encourages our customers to have conversations with their other suppliers about offering carbon-neutral services and products, too.”

Koumoukelis said this positive influence is also carried abroad, with some of Hydroflux’s international partners showing significant interest in the carbon-neutral certification process with the mind to pursue their own.

“We have partnerships with some of the world’s largest technology groups. A lot of them are really fascinated by this journey. Although we can’t translate much of this into their domestic market, it has made them think about their pledge towards climate change and how they can manage it,” he said. 

“We have had a particularly good response from one of our partners in Austria that has done their own carbon counts. But they were also really interested in the whole process, and they are keen to explore it further and what it means in their market.”

Seddon said it was great to be the first, but Hydroflux’s efforts are about more than that: “The idea is that this makes a change, that there is some ripple effect across the whole value chain”.

“We all need to do this work now. Everybody needs to know where their emissions are, how to reduce them and how to promote that with their partners,” she said. 

“Our efforts in this space are a way of getting people thinking about what they can do, but it’s also a business opportunity. It’s not altruism, it's what everyone needs to do because it's the way the economy will be operating very soon. We all need to be in it.”