Clarity on carbon footprint seals the deal in Finland
Finland’s commitment to the environment is no secret: the “land of a thousand lakes” is a world leader in sustainability, ranking among the top ten countries in the Environmental Performance Index developed by Columbia and Yale universities. This nationwide commitment is reflected in the business approach of organizations like the Helsinki Region Environmental Services Authority HSY, which signed a new agreement with GF Piping Systems in 2020.
HSY has set an array of environmental goals on issues such as recycling rate and carbon-neutral operations as part of its vision to make Helsinki the world’s most sustainable urban region. The municipal body supplies drinking water as well as wastewater treatment and waste management services for the Finnish capital, and maintains the area’s water piping network.
With its focus on eco-optimized design across its entire product range, GF Piping Systems also has sustainability in its DNA. This shared grasp of the importance of environmental responsibility underpins the relationship of mutual trust that has flourished since GF Piping Systems began supplying piping products and services to HSY in 2008.
This was just the start of an extensive collaboration, encompassing workshops, intensive meetings, as well as technical support and training in PE piping installation for HSY personnel and subcontractors. This period of active cooperation culminated in the three-year “preferred partner” agreement signed in June 2020, under which GF Piping Systems will supply HSY with polyethylene (PE) piping fittings for its water network maintenance and upgrade program.
“GF’s products are of high quality, and their ease of installation has proven to be excellent.”Hannu Toivonen, Procurement Specialist at HSY
The HSY in brief
Helsinki Region Environmental Services Authority HSY, the largest public environmental body in Finland, produces waste management and water services for over one million residents throughout the Helsinki Metropolitan Area. HSY’s responsibilities include treatment of wastewater generated by households and businesses, ongoing maintenance and upgrading of the region’s 3’000 kilometers of water supply piping, and 4’900 kilometers of sewers, as well as waste management for residents and local government. The company is also responsible for air quality information and provides geographic information about regional development and promotes climate work. In the past few years, tens of kilometers of water and sewage networks across the Helsinki region have been renovated, and sewer re-lining works have been carried out. Notable innovations that directly benefit local residents and businesses include displaying the latest air quality data on screens in local trams and metro trains. A pioneering commitment to environmental responsibility and the efficient use of resources underpins every aspect of HSY’s operations. Purified water is returned to the natural cycle after treatment, while organic matter and nutrients separated from wastewater are converted into soil or soil conditioner. The authority’s sustainability goals include achieving carbon-neutral operations by 2030, saving energy by boosting energy efficiency and heat recovery, protecting the Baltic Sea waters, and raising its recycling rate to 60%.
Unique transparency on emissions
GF Piping Systems was the only bidder to meet HSY’s challenging requirement to provide a comprehensive breakdown of CO2 emissions generated during the entire manufacturing and supply process, from the production of raw materials to delivery of finished products.
HSY Procurement Specialist Hannu Toivonen – the lead contact for bidders, and responsible for drawing up HSY’s invitations to tender – highlights how pivotal GF’s ability to meet this challenge was in winning the bid, while also outlining the importance of the existing relationship: “GF’s support for HSY so far has been fast and of high quality. We chose GF’s products because of their ease of installation, and because of GF’s ability to reliably document its carbon footprint.” Following the partners’ first meeting on the carbon issue 18 months previously, GF Finland looked carefully at the best way to utilize its technical advantages to gain an edge in the tender process.
GF Piping Systems’ Finland sales company cooperated extensively with other GF teams (Global Quality & Sustainability, Global Sales Support, and Global Product Management Utility) to win against fierce local competition. GF Piping Systems’ Head of Sales (Finland), Hannu Vihervaara, puts this into context: “Finland has three big pipe manufacturing companies who import PE pipes and fittings from different suppliers, so the competition is quite tough. But our technical support and training for installers, and the quality of our products helped us to win.”
The successful bid, which the GF Piping Systems’ team worked on between February and June 2020, will boost sales volumes and make GF Piping Systems the number one supplier in the Finnish market.
GF Piping Systems will supply HSY with fittings from the ELGEF Plus system, specially designed for water, gas, and some industrial piping networks. The lightweight polyethylene components (including pipes and different fittings) enable customers to build flexible solutions that meet their practical needs. Even large-diameter piping joints are reliably leak-proof, ensuring the security of supply for customers and minimizing repair costs.
GF faced stiff competition during the bid process. However, a combination of technical quality, ease of installation (thanks to “pipe-in-pipe” construction of the ELGEF couplers), and active technical support helped secure the business win. The broad, locally available product portfolio also enabled GF Piping Systems to cope with the potential challenge to stocks arising from the sheer volume of products required.
Both HSY and GF Piping Systems see scope for increased collaboration in the future, especially in large dimension PE fittings, an area in which HSY’s requirements are growing, and non-destructive testing (NDT), offered as part of the service package. GF’s Hannu Vihervaara welcomes the ongoing relationship: “It’s great to work with professionals who are always interested in new solutions.” HSY’s Hannu Toivonen – who has ten years of experience in his role – shares that confidence: “I see the cooperation with GF Piping Systems continuing at the same good level in future. In fact, I hope it will even increase.”
“Overall, GF’s activities are inspiring.”
Procurement Specialist, HSY
What is your personal assessment of GF Piping Systems’ products?
They are of high quality, and their ease of installation has proven to be excellent. Components to be installed underground must have this level of quality because any problems they exhibit are difficult to detect and may give rise to costly inspection and repair measures. HSY has had very good experiences with the durability and the quality of GF’s products.
Were there any challenging moments?
I met Hannu Vihervaara, GF Piping Systems’ Head of Sales (Finland), about a year and a half ago, and we discussed how GF takes its carbon footprint into account in its operations. CO2 emissions had become an increasingly important issue for HSY in recent years, and we were keen to test suppliers’ capabilities in terms of carbon footprint certification as part of the tender process. I wasn’t sure whether GF would be able to show the carbon footprint of its operations with reliable calculations. However, GF’s staff did great work and demonstrated the carbon footprint in their bid.
How would you describe your experience with GF Piping Systems and the level of cooperation?
Overall, GF’s activities are inspiring, and GF’s support for HSY has been fast and of high quality. I see the cooperation with GF continuing at the same good level in the future.
How environmentally friendly is PE piping?
Product lifecycle assessments are performed for polyethylene piping systems to determine their environmental impact, notably in terms of “cradle-to-grave” CO2 emissions. Polyethylene piping has a lower carbon footprint than metal and is 100% recyclable, in addition to its long lifetime.