Planet

We recognise the ever-increasing expectations of our stakeholders, and our primary future challenge is the decarbonisation of our products to support the wider built environment aspirations of delivering zero carbon buildings.

Our business and sector plays a crucial role in the defence against climate change. Today, our products are “climate ready”, offering flood resilience, high levels of thermal performance reducing the amount of energy required to heat and cool homes and assured durability in use spanning generations.

Greenhouse gas emmisions

We manufacture two broad categories of products: those made from clay and those made from concrete. These products are supplied hand in hand to our customers and are used together in building high quality homes and buildings. However, the manufacturing processes are very different and their carbon footprints, whilst similar overall, are built in different ways.

Clay products

Clay is the primary raw material used to make bricks. The clay is typically sourced locally from our own quarries, limiting the environmental impacts of transportation to factories. The clay is ground and then formed into a brick shape using a variety of methods. The grinding and forming process uses electrical energy. At this stage bricks contain significant amounts of moisture which must be removed before they can be fired. This drying process utilises recycled heat from our kilns.

The next stage is the firing of the brick which transforms the relatively weak dried clay into strong durable bricks that will last for generations. During the firing process, the bricks are heated to temperatures of over 1,000 °C, triggering chemical reactions in the clay. Our kilns are fired by burning natural gas and the clay itself also emits carbon dioxide, which we refer to as process emissions during the chemical reaction. Once cooled, the bricks are packaged ready for despatch to our customers. As a result of the emissions created by the burning of gas, as well as the embodied carbon released from the clay during the firing process, the majority of emissions from our clay brick manufacture fall into scope 1.

Concrete products

We make a range of concrete products, from aerated concrete blocks to precast concrete floor beams, using a number of different manufacturing techniques. Traditional concrete is made by mixing aggregates, cement, and water. It is then left to undergo a chemical reaction known as curing which can be accelerated by adding additional heat.

We purchase all of the raw materials, with cement having by far the largest carbon footprint. As such, the majority of the emissions from manufacturing concrete fall into scope 3.

Clay vs. Concrete emissions

Clay is the primary raw material used to make bricks. The clay is typically sourced locally from our own quarries, limiting the environmental impacts of transportation to factories. The clay is ground and then formed into a brick shape using a variety of methods. The grinding and forming process uses electrical energy. At this stage bricks contain significant amounts of moisture which must be removed before they can be fired. This drying process utilises recycled heat from our kilns.

The next stage is the firing of the brick which transforms the relatively weak dried clay into strong durable bricks that will last for generations. During the firing process, the bricks are heated to temperatures of over 1,000 °C, triggering chemical reactions in the clay. Our kilns are fired by burning natural gas and the clay itself also emits carbon dioxide, which we refer to as process emissions during the chemical reaction. Once cooled, the bricks are packaged ready for despatch to our customers. As a result of the emissions created by the burning of gas, as well as the embodied carbon released from the clay during the firing process, the majority of emissions from our clay brick manufacture fall into scope 1.

Our carbon reduction performance over the last 10 years can be summarised as follows

The table above summarises both our progress over the last decade, showing a significant reduction in our carbon per tonne of our clay and concrete output of 28% and 23% respectively. A combination of increased manufacturing efficiency, electricity grid decarbonisation and the closure of older, inefficient factories have all contributed to this significant achievement.

OUR NEW 2030 CARBON REDUCTION TARGETS

To build upon our substantial achievements over the past decade and in support of the UK’s Net Zero Carbon ambition with the Government committing the UK to achieving net zero carbon emissions in 2050, we have set ourselves the following challenging reduction targets for 2030, covering our direct (scope 1 and 2) emissions:

  • Group CO2e intensity (CO2e / tonne) – 32% reduction versus 2019 baseline (assuming 2019 product mix)
  • Clay products intensity (CO2e / tonne) – 33% reduction versus 2019 baseline
  • Concrete products intensity (CO2e / tonne) – 80% reduction versus 2019 baseline

Our targets are ambitious. We will deploy both existing and new technologies over the next decade to achieve our goals, as well as closely controlling how we manage our existing operations. Aside from the new Desford brick factory investment we expect to require only modest levels of capital investment contained within our existing guidance of £12m of annual maintenance capital expenditure though this will be kept under review. We will deliver our 2030 target in a number of ways. We have already switched to procuring 100% of our electricity requirement from renewable sources removing all of our scope 2 emissions in 2020. In addition to this, we will continue to investigate the possibility of investing in our own renewable electricity generation capacity which whilst not reducing our emissions relative to purchasing green electricity from the grid, would allow us to contribute to increasing the UK’s capacity, to generate renewable electricity as well as potentially reducing our cost of electricity.

KINGS DYKE NATURE RESERVE

Kings Dyke Nature Reserve, near Peterborough, was established in 1999 on the site of an old London Brick clay quarry that was exhausted in the 1970s. Developed as an educational nature reserve for schools and the local community, the site benefits from a wide range of habitats, from open water and ponds to grasslands and bare open spaces. In 2018, Kings Dyke was named the most bio-diverse site in naturalist Chris Packham’s BioBlitz, recording 1,139 different species of wildlife in just 24 hours.

While often regarded as a blot on the landscape, at the end of their working lives quarries can make great nature reserves thanks to the diverse ground conditions and unique opportunity they present to create wonderfully diverse habitats for wildlife.

Today, the reserve is an important habitat for the Wall Brown butterfly whose numbers have declined in many areas. It’s testament to the role of nature reserves such as Kings Dyke in enabling species such as this to not only survive but to thrive.