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The exceptional year did not hinder Ylva’s sustainability work: carbon neutral real estate properties in record time

The second year of the COVID-19 pandemic had a significant impact on Ylva’s business, but it did not slow down the implementation of the sustainability targets. Owing to the pilot projects implemented in 2021, Ylva’s real estate properties achieved carbon neutrality ahead of time, and the carbon footprint for each UniCafe lunch will be calculated by the end of 2022. Ylva compiled the results of its sustainability work into its second-ever sustainability report.

Ylva is progressing according to plan in its goal of achieving carbon neutrality by 2025, at a rate that is noticeably faster than that of other operators in the sector. In 2021, Ylva’s total carbon emissions were reduced by a record 25 per cent.

“The results are a testament to our commitment to our sustainability targets even when the times are hard. Our next big challenge is to maintain the downward trajectory of our carbon footprint as our restaurant business sales return to the levels that preceded the pandemic,” says Ylva’s Chief Sustainability Officer, Antti Ruuska.

The ambitious sustainability work also shows in real estate project funding

In 2021, emissions from Ylva’s real estate operations decreased by 22 per cent. The development was particularly accelerated by the decision to transition to zero-emission heating energy. From the start of 2022, all of the energy used in Ylva’s properties has been fully emission-free.

“Our carbon neutrality target was set for 2025. However, we decided to go for zero emissions already through our energy purchases. Even so, this does not mean that our work is finished – on the contrary. Our next step will be to elevate the energy efficiency of our old properties to match that of the newer ones and invest in the production and recycling of energy. As a whole, the sector should be more ambitious with regard to sustainability work. There are opportunities, even profitable ones, available to that end,” Ruuska says.

Ylva’s ambitious sustainability work also attracted investor interest. For example, the pension insurance company Varma joined the Lyyra project as an investor partner. In addition, a green financing agreement totalling EUR 65 million was signed for the Lyyra project. The rest of Ylva’s funding is also tied to sustainability targets through a debt facility of EUR 205 million agreed in 2021.

Carbon footprint calculation extended to cover all UniCafe meals in 2022

In 2021, several pilot projects were implemented in Ylva’s restaurant business, and the lessons learned will be put to use in 2022. At the UniCafe Kaivopiha restaurant, carbon footprint calculation was piloted as part of the Climate Meal campaign in 2021. The goal is to calculate the carbon footprint of each meal available at UniCafe restaurants by the end of 2022.

“The easy solutions to reduce the carbon footprint of our meals have already been implemented. From here, our goal is to reduce emissions within groups of raw materials and in our recipes. For this, we need more information on the emissions created by different ingredients. For the time being, this information is not publicly available, so we have decided to calculate them by ourselves,” Ruuska explains.

In 2021, Ylva also agreed on starting a local food project, Yhteispelto, with Perho Culinary, Tourism & Business College. The goal of the project is to be able to produce some of the raw materials used at UniCafe’s restaurants through local farming using Ylva’s own crop in 2022.

The war in Ukraine highlights the importance of inclusivity efforts

Since 2019, Ylva’s construction sites have been implementing the Inclusive Site (Inklusiivinen työmaa) project, whose goal is to improve the equality of employees on construction sites. In 2021, the project’s success was evaluated for the first time. The results were promising: the respondents to the interview survey rated Ylva’s construction sites significantly higher than the sector averages on the equal treatment of employees, the realisation of basic rights and the appreciation of their work.

“The importance of social responsibility is further highlighted in the present world situation, which has been changed by the war in Ukraine. We have employees of both Russian and Ukrainian origin working at the construction sites of both of our two major projects. We want equal treatment for each and every one of them and to ensure that our construction sites are safe and discrimination-free at all times,” Ruuska says.

In 2021, the work towards improving the satisfaction and equality of Ylva’s own employees also bore fruit. Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, Ylva’s Great Place to Work score increased by eight per cent. Ylva is able to retain its employees for a long time: in 2021, the average time of employment of the personnel was 13 years.

Ylva seeks to improve the state of the environment in all its operations. Through corporate activism, we are building an equal, non-discriminatory and inclusive society. We compile the results of our sustainability work in an annual sustainability report. In our 2021 report, we are applying the reporting model recommended by the TNFD (Taskforce on Nature-related Financial Disclosures) for the first time. We also report on our taxonomic compliance and eligibility and analyse the actualisation of all the taxonomy criteria, including social taxonomy, in our operations.

Read the report here

For further information, please contact:

Antti Ruuska
Chief Sustainability Officer
+358 40 176 3142