Fiacre O’Donnell

Sustainability Director, Vidrala Ltd (Parent company of Encirc)

Fiacre joined Encirc in 1998. He was appointed strategic development director in 2015 and sustainability director of Encirc in 2019. In 2020 this role was expanded to sustainability director for the Vidrala group. An MBA graduate from the Ulster business school and alumni of the Timoney Institute, he is a past holder of the Drinks Business ‘Green personality of the year’ for the work undertaken to improve sustainability throughout the business. He is a member of the environmental leadership team and the climate champions team at Business In The Community NI and is a member of the Northern Ireland chamber of commerce infrastructure committee.

Five minutes with...Fiacre O'Donnell

How are you currently involved in industrial decarbonisation processes/practice?

We’ve recently launched our sustainable business strategy, Glass Made Good which is built upon four key pillars: People, Place, Planet and Prosperity. As part of this we are pledging to reduce our carbon emissions in line with Science Based Targets by 2030, focusing on these four areas.

As we grow, we continually invest in better equipment and technology that helps reduce our operational impact on the world around us. Our business has focused on both economic and environmental sustainability for the last 20 years, and we know that planet-first first production is key to our success.

One of our latest breakthroughs in this area was the creation of the world’s most sustainable bottle at a ground-breaking trial in our Derrylin plant. Our team worked with a variety of Government and industry groups, including Glass Futures and BEIS to create the first ever glass bottle made from 100% cullet, using the power generated only from ultra-low-carbon biofuels, reducing the carbon impact of the bottles produced by almost 90%.

The key to moving away from fossil fuels lies in this trial and we’re hoping we can inspire an industry-wide reduction in carbon emissions off the back of its success.

What are your main areas of concern that you think SIM should address?

We need to focus on the ‘how.’ We understand the ‘why’, but we need to come together to explore the technology and training that is out there and what changes we can make to develop solutions end-to-end.

Where do you see the biggest challenges for industry when it comes to decarbonisation?

Championing our methods and bringing people together to share knowledge and best practice. We may face bodies of people who struggle to see the true capabilities of glass as the low-carbon trailblazer it can be, but that’s why we value innovation and improvement. In the past five years at Encirc, we’ve reduced our carbon output by 150kg of carbon per tonne of product produced. That’s just by making reductions in energy consumption and altering our methods of production to be more efficient.

Imagine what we can achieve when we come together as an industry to create more environmentally friendly practices? Our focus right now is on promoting collaboration and improvement throughout our sector.

Do you think sectors should be more open to sharing best practice and sustainable technologies?

Absolutely. The solutions are out there. June will see us launch our new expert-led content series, Transparent Thinking. This initiative will outline and confront the biggest issues facing the global manufacturing and beverages sectors, with topical, industry-focused think-pieces written by leading specialists in the world of glass, sustainability, manufacturing, food and drink and beyond.

Transparent Thinking will cover three key areas: Manufacturing for All, Planet-First Production, and The Race to the Smart Bottle. Our aim is to provide a comprehensive go-to resource, sharing knowledge and addressing issues that are shaping our industry, such as digitisation, sustainability, and inclusivity.

Everyone brings different knowledge, skills and experiences to the table. It’s going to take a large-scale team effort from leading thinkers and doers in all sectors to achieve the end goal of becoming a carbon neutral sector.

Where are we making the greatest strides towards achieving Net Zero?

Awareness and education are playing a big part. We’ve been working closely with Carbon Intelligence to set an emissions reduction’s target by 2030 in line with science-based targets initiative and further develop plans to get to net zero. The existence of and support from organisations such as this one, and Glass Futures, GTS, FEVE, IPGR, is so beneficial to the journey our industry is on.

Working with Glass Futures has seen us start exploring new fuel options, such as hydrogen, anaerobic digestion and electric melting.

As an industry, we’re learning that creating solutions and efficiencies can stem from simple changes. For example, we’ve acquired three new biodiesel trucks, coming later in 2021, which have the potential to reduce fuel transport emissions by 90%.

Do you have a message/any advice for industrial manufacturers?

Sustainability doesn’t just make sense ethically; it makes complete business sense and will help you grow while futureproofing your organisation. Becoming more energy efficient as an industry is not a cost, it’s an investment, and now is the time to innovate.


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